Falling to Harvard unacceptable for ’06 football program

Watching the Princeton game on Saturday, I watched my own predictions and assessments unfold before my eyes. Running the ball on first and second down. Complete lack of offensive or defensive adjustment. Worst coaching I may have ever seen.

And I couldn’t have been less happy about being right.

Yeah, I know, I said no sucking up or fluff in these columns. I write this with my left foot placed squarely in my pie hole. But the bottom line is this: I want to win this Saturday.

I saw the Yankees lose the World Series to the Marlins in 2003 in person. I’ve seen enough Jets blow-ups to make lesser men cry. But the two most jarring, heartbreaking, shell-shocking sports events I’ve ever endured were the last two Yale-Harvard matchups.

Two years ago, I sat in the stands of Harvard Stadium and watched a half-decent Yale football team get destroyed, 35-3. I still remember Harvard standout Brian Edwards fielding a punt and running it back nearly untouched for a score. And if you’ve never seen it before, nothing shuts up a cheering section quite like seeing your quarterback throw an interception in the end zone that’s returned more than 100 yards for a touchdown.

I couldn’t speak for about an hour after the game. I just shook my head and got pale. My friend Zack thought I’d gotten sick, but really he’d just never seen me that mad.

The next day, Chris Berman aired the punt return and the pick in his Top Plays of the Week segment on SportsCenter. I wanted to die.

Last year was just as forgettable. A 21-10 lead going into the fourth quarter? We can blow that. And in record triple-overtime fashion, no less. A missed Harvard field goal saved us in the first overtime, following a Jordan Spence fumble. An Andrew Butler interception was squandered when DJ Shooter lost his grip on the ball. But the third Yale turnover, a Jeff Mroz interception, was the nail in our blue-and-white coffin.

I will never forget what happened when Harvard tailback Clifton Dawson ran in from the 2-yard-line to win the game. The Yale stands were completely drained. Thousands of us stood there, cold and unbelieving. The lasting image burned into my mind is of a Harvard student running onto our field, bumbling along in an ugly red pea coat and with her oversized purse banging awkwardly against her leg.

I never want to see that again. I never want to feel that way again. I want to win.

I hate Harvard. I know you hear that a lot on this campus, but I really do. One of my happiest memories is of walking through Harvard Yard wearing my “EHGK POCR Harvard” shirt (the one where you fold along the dots; if you’ve never seen it, think about what happens when the top word goes over the bottom word). Bottom line, folks: Harvard sucks. We’re smarter, we’re more attractive, we actually have lives. Now, before I graduate, I want to see us play better football.

And those seniors on the football team must want this more than any of us. The Classes of 2005 and 2006 never beat Harvard, and we’re in the midst of the worst Yale losing streak in series history — we had never lost five in a row until last year. The seniors can play saviors on Saturday; they are the ones who right the ship on their final try.

We can win this game. I’ll be brief, because I’m repeating myself here, but Mike McLeod is for real. So is that offensive line. And we still have the most talented set of wide receivers in the league, even if they don’t get thrown the ball enough. Harvard can run the ball, and Clifton Dawson never has been fun for our defense, but we’ve proven that we can stop a ground attack this season. And Harvard has played more sloppily in recent weeks, with five turnovers over its last two games.

Still, winning this game won’t be easy. Harvard’s rush defense allows an unbelievably low 58.2 yards per game. We have the best rush offense in the league, but the second half of the Princeton game showed us that it’s quite stoppable. We could take to the air against a pass defense that allows an Ivy second-worst 239.4 yards per game (we’re the worst, at 242.3), but again, last Saturday showed our unwillingness to leave our tried-and-true “run, run … and then run” approach.

Speaking of an inability to change approaches, I almost wrote this column about how losing The Game might be a good thing. After his meltdown — and I stress “his” — in front of 40,000 people at home last weekend, Jack Siedlecki may finally be looking at the end of his tenure at Yale if he doesn’t leave Cambridge with a win. And we can talk about all the other reasons why The Game doesn’t matter: Harvard has eliminated fun, it’s not at home, Harvard sucks anyway.

But I don’t want to give Harvard kids a reason to gloat. We can win this game, and I and every other true-blue Eli will be yelling ourselves hoarse in butt-ugly Harvard Stadium this Saturday. This game matters to me, and every sports fan knows that good things happen when you scream as loudly as possible (when the other team is on offense, of course).

It’s only November. I’ve got six more months to be bitter and critical. For now, Boola Boola.

Dan Adler is a senior in Pierson College and a former Sports Editor for the News. His column appears on Thursdays.

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