THE GAME 2010: Crimson pull off close victory — again

Patrick Witt and the Yale Offense walk off the field after turning the ball over with just under a minute to go, eliminating Yale's hopes for last minute heroics.
Patrick Witt and the Yale Offense walk off the field after turning the ball over with just under a minute to go, eliminating Yale's hopes for last minute heroics. Photo by Charlie Croom.

UPDATED: November 21 6:20 p.m. CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Yale expected to win the football game. It dominated every statistical aspect of the game except the scoreboard. But it did things that lose football games. It allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown. It gave up a blocked punt. It gave Harvard short fields. Then Harvard made the plays it had to. And Yale didn’t.

Coach Tom Williams shares a moment with one of Yale's Seniors after the loss.
Coach Tom Williams shares a moment with one of Yale's Seniors after the loss.
Tight End Chris Blohm fends off Harvard defenders in the 4th quarter
Tight End Chris Blohm fends off Harvard defenders in the 4th quarter
Receiver Chris Smith hauls in a pass over a Cantab defender
Receiver Chris Smith hauls in a pass over a Cantab defender

That was the diagnosis of Yale head coach Tom Williams after the Bulldogs (7–3, 5-2 Ivy) fell 28–21 to the Crimson (7–3, 5-2) for the fourth consecutive year and ninth time in ten years.

The 127th incarnation of the Yale-Harvard football rivalry was one marked by storylines both uplifting and sobering.

Two of the biggest plays of the game for the Crimson came from senior wide receiver Marco Iannuzzi, a married 24-year old father who did not get into Harvard until his third try. Iannuzzi did let a broken collarbone or the fact that he had not been cleared to play until Thursday stop him. He set up Harvard’s first score with a 46-yard reception off a Crimson flea-flicker play. He then changed the momentum of the game with a kickoff return for a touchdown on the first play of the second half.

But not all of the game was a feel good story, especially on the Yale side of the stands. Midway through the fourth quarter, Harvard running back Gino Gordon was reeling in a pass when Yale linebacker Jesse Reising ’11 plowed into him at full speed. The two collided helmet to helmet. Both were knocked out and lay motionless on the field as trainers converged and players from both teams removed their helmets and knelt out of concern and respect.

Gordon regained consciousness and walked woozily off the field a few minutes later. Reising did not. Although he was alert and could feel all his extremities ten minutes after the hit, according to Yale head coach Tom Williams, trainers deemed it safest to cart him off the field, strapped immobile to a stretcher. Reising was promptly taken in an ambulance to the Beth Israel Medical Center Trauma Center, where he remained as of Sunday afternoon, according to the Patient Information Office at the hospital.

Gordon walked over to Reising’s stretcher and said a few words to the linebacker on the way to the ambulance.

“When he was being carted off, I went over to say ‘Hey,’ because this is just a game, Gordon said. “Just because we’re big doesn’t mean we don’t care for each other.”

Play resumed 13 minutes after the players went down. Williams gathered the team to inform that that Reising was responsive, but the Bulldog defense still faced the tough task of shaking off the sight of medics wheeling one of their leaders off the field.

“Jesse’s one of my close friends, and I hate to see that happen to one of my close friends,” said linebacker Jordan Haynes ’12, who was announced Sunday as the next year’s football captain. “You have to rally around that and keep playing.”

Harvard did not miss a beat. They had started the drive off with a short field when punter Greg Carlsen ’14 shanked a kick from the Yale 32. Reising was called for a personal foul on his hit, which moved the Crimson up to the Yale 13. Five plays later, Crimson receiver Alex Sarkisian caught a 12-yard touchdown pass to give the home team a 28–14 lead.

It looked like the Elis would be unable to make up the deficit when they turned the ball over on downs on their next drive. (Quarterback Patrick Witt ’12 threw an interception from deep in Harvard territory with less than five minutes remaining, but the interception was erased because of a penalty against Harvard for roughing the passer.)

It took captain Tom McCarthy ’11 a single play to restore hope.

The defensive lineman, who thanks to a fifth year of eligibility was the only Yale starter on Saturday to have seen the Bulldogs beat Harvard, stripped the ball from Crimson running back Treavor Scales and then jumped on the fumble himself.

“I was just able to get on it at the bottom of the pile,” McCarthy said. “We knew we had to get the ball back in three plays or fewer, and we did that.”

The captain’s efforts breathed life into the Yale attack, which had struggled to turn success moving the ball into points all game. Less than three minutes later, running back Alex Thomas ’12 scored his third touchdown of the game on a one-yard dive.

But time was running out. Although the Bulldogs defense came up strong once again and forced the Crimson to go three and out, Yale got the ball back on their own 17-yard line with only 2:02 to go.

They could not make the miracle happen. Heavy pressure on Witt and a questionable offensive pass interference call against Chris Smith ’13 — who led the Bulldogs with 63 yards receiving — killed the drive.

“They started bringing some more pressure and getting some looks on third down,” said the quarterback, who was sacked six times. “I imagine that was a factor of facing some third and long situations. Some of those are on me as well.”

Four of those six sacks came in the second half.

Minutes after the Harvard stopped Gio Christodoulou ’11 well short of the first down marker on a desperate Yale 4th and 17, the Bulldogs were walking somberly to their locker room as Harvard students and players raced onto the field.

“We let it all out there,” McCarthy said. “We gave it everything we had. Sometimes it just doesn’t go your way. There are definitely no regrets from the players and coaching staff.”

It takes just a glance at the statistics summary to show how hard the Bulldogs played. They had 19 first downs to the Crimson’s 10 and 337 yards of offense to their opponents’ 178.

The difference, according to Williams, was taking advantage of opportunities. Yale took the ball inside the Harvard 20-yard line seven times, but scored on only three of those opportunities. Once, a penalty pushed them back, and Philippe Panico ’13 missed the ensuing field goal. Yale also failed to convert two fourth down conversion attempts in the red zone — Mordecai Cargill ’13 was stopped behind the line on fourth and one in the first half, and Chris Smith ’13 came two yards short of the first down marker on fourth and nine in the second.

Harvard, on the other hand, had a fraction as many opportunities.

“We’ve been a team that’s done a great job moving the ball this year,” said Crimson head coach Tim Murphy. “But today was tough sledding the whole way. We had to jump on opportunities today because we weren’t getting many.”

Jump is just what they did. They gained only 71 yards on offense in the first half, but concentrated 59 of them on their only scoring drive.

They then sprinted out of the gates in the second half thanks to Iannuzzi’s return. Their final two offensive touchdowns came from solid field position. They took the lead on a 23-yard drive following a blocked punt, and scored their final touchdown after Carlsen’s shank gave them the ball on the Yale 36.

“The kickoff return and the blocked kick, those were the two plays,” Williams said. “When you ask about what we did differently, that’s it. One’s a touchdown, one sets up a touchdown.”

The Bulldogs lived on the edge of close margins all season. They weathered Brown’s statistical advantage in week eight and came away with a victory thanks to Smith’s kick return success. They squeaked by Princeton the next Saturday thanks to a fumble return for a touchdown by Geoff Dunham ’12. This time, they came out on the other end.

“It’s frustrating,” Witt said. “We felt like we played a very good game. We won in pretty much every area but the scoreboard. It’s frustrating. There was just one more play in their favor than us.”

Correction: November 21, 2010

An earlier version of this article mistakenly said that Patrick Witt threw an interception against Harvard. In fact, his interception was erased because of a penalty against Harvard for roughing the passer.

Comments

  • Bjarni

    Lousy reporting. I liked the part where the poor Yale people were chanting Harvard Sucks in the 4th quarter when Yale was behind. What losers. How does it feel to have lost 9 out of the last 10 ???

  • Cantankerous

    Retire Tom Beckett. His sports program has been mediocre at best and losing nine out of ten years to Harvard in football is unprecedented. Time for some intelligent leadership.

  • Ahmed

    My friends and I had a wonderful time at “The Game” and both teams played well and tried very hard. It was fun to watch “American Football” in such an historic setting played between two of your country’s most august institutions. Too bad for Yale to come up short but there is always next year! Most importantly, we hope the Yale player is OK.
    Sincerely,
    Ahmed (from Cambridge via Dubai)

  • HP11

    I am a Harvard parent who was at The Game today. I checked in here to see if Jessie Reising is OK. Unfortunately, you have not updated the story, and I had to check the New Haven Register to confirm that Jessie was released from the hospital earlier today. The Crimson at least reported that your coach said Jessie is expected to recover.

    Oh, @ Bjarni…I agree with you. Actually, though, the Harvard Sucks cheer (jeer?) started in the 1st quarter and Yalies came up with nothing new for the rest of the game, save for a few half-hearted “school on Monday” taunts during halftime.

    “Harvard Sucks”? That’s the best you can come up with? Really? Wow …

  • PC09

    Well, at least this wasn’t as depressing as last year. However, I still can’t believe how many fairly average students have been given the privilege of going to one of the best schools in the world just so they can lose the only important game of their season nine out of the past ten years.

  • Sarah

    I’m a Yale alum, ’08, who watched the game from afar. Also looking for an update of Jesse’s status. Not only because you said (on the live blog) that you would update the site re: his status, but because this is a community that cares for each other. WTF, YDN?

  • ohno

    @HP11: We wouldn’t have to keep repeating it if it weren’t so true.

    “What’s your mas-cot” is also a really good cheer if you chant it rhythmically.

  • nativebelle

    Well said, PC09.

  • ns

    @Sarah and HP11, I’m not sure if Jesse was in fact released from the hospital. The YDN made an update earlier today:
    http://www.yaledailynews.com/news/2010/nov/21/boola-boola-reising-11-still-hospital/

  • yalie13

    @HP11

    yup, that’s the best we can come up with. thanks for the insightful commentary!

  • HP11

    @yalie13 … what are we to do? You seek commentary on your trite taunts? Well, when you take Readings in American Literature, take note, perhaps, of the essay on Self Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson (Harvard 1821), where he observes that “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

  • PA3

    @PC09

    “fairly average students”? Is that the best you can come up with?

    Yale might have lost 9/10 games in the last years, but it has won 65 games games over the Game’s history compared to Harvard’s 54. That is 11 games more.

  • aluminterviewer

    In football, Yale won the 19th century (when Walter Camp was writing the rules) but Harvard has won the 20th and 21st centuries, since teams were limited to 11 player on a side, you had to go 10 yards for a first down, and the forward pass was legalized. (Walter Camp thought the forward pass would ruin the game!)

  • aluminterviewer

    The 1912 college football season was the first of the modern era, as the NCAA implemented changes to increase scoring:
    Teams were given 4 downs instead of 3 downs to gain ten yards
    The value of a touchdown was increased from 5 points to 6 points
    The field was reduced from 110 yards to 100 yards, and end zones of ten yards were added
    The 15-yard penalty for an incomplete pass was eliminated, and passes longer than 20 yards allowed
    Kickoff was made from the 40 yard line rather than midfield.

  • PC09

    @PA3
    I thought “fairly average students” was a generous and realistic appraisal of the state of affairs with regards to Yale’s athletes — I did not intend my comment as an insult, even though you clearly perceived it as such because you ask if it was the “best [I] can come up with.” Whereas some might unjustly characterize all athletes as being “dumb,” I merely state that they tend to be average to above-average students and don’t really compare academically to the students not in privileged admissions groups (which includes athletes among others). I also tried not to lump all the athletes together because one of the five smartest students I encountered in college was an athlete, so any categorical statement about the academic quality of Yale’s athletes is clearly false. With that being said, your comments aren’t really valid for a couple of reasons. First of all, as noted in the comments of alumni interviewer, you are appealing to the success Yale enjoyed over a century ago, which has little or nothing to do with the athletes of the past ten years. Furthermore, given the rate at which Yale has been losing the Game, it will only take a little more than a decade for Harvard to gain the upper hand — the schools are clearly on very different trajectories from a football standpoint, so that the present relative positions are immaterial. Finally, I am given to understand that the academic disparity between Ivy-league athletes and non-athletes has increased dramatically since the mid- to early-90s. Thus, my comments about the academic quality of the athletes has more relevance in the recent past (when the football program has struggled mightily against Harvard) than in the distant past (during which time the historical advantage to which you appeal was established). I think Player Piano by Vonnegut offers a very good commentary on the role of collegiate athletics in American society — you might want to check it out.

  • River Tam

    Haha Ned, is that you?

  • yalie13

    @HP11 who says you’re to do anything?

    and by the way, that’s the most pretentious, bizarre way I’ve seen anyone try to make an insult. It’s pretty funny actually.

  • eli1143770312

    @alumninterviewer:

    Your history isn’t quite right. Yale certainly won the 19th century but also won the 20th. What is indisputable is that Yale has a miserable record in the current century.

    I believe this is the record (and I’ll use 1800s, 1900s, 2000s to eliminate any confusion as to where to place 1900 and 2000, both Yale victories):

    Period Harvard Yale Tie

    1800s 3 14 3

    1900s 42 49 5

    2000s 9 2 0

    Here’s the breakdown of the 1900s, by decade:

    Period Harvard Yale Tie

    ’00s 2 8 0

    ’10s 5 1 2

    ’20s 5 4 1

    ’30s 4 6 0

    ’40s 3 5 0

    ’50s 4 5 1

    ’60s 5 4 1

    ’70s 5 5 0

    ’80s 5 5 0

    ’90s 4 6 0

    Yale dominated the first decade of the 1900s and Harvard the WWI-shortened second. What is remarkable is the parity that prevailed thereafter, until recent years. Indeed that parity contributed to the continuing significance of The Game at a time when Ivy football has faded in the national consciousness.

    Two more things. Here’s the record in the Rick Levin era:

    Harvard Yale

    12 6

    And here’s the Tom Beckett subset of the Levin record:

    Harvard Yale

    12 5

    The first two Levin years were Yale victories (the first of Beckett’s years as well); the record is all the more miserable in the period they could truly affect.

    Rick Levin has been a very good President of Yale in most ways. He has been remarkable in working towards his goals for Yale. Yale’s record against Harvard in football is evidence that he is indifferent to athletic success. And it isn’t an outlier: Yale has shared two Ivy football championships in the 18-year Levin (and 17-year Beckett) era, compared with 12 in the 37 years of formal Ivy play that preceded it. That record mirrors a similarly poor record of achieving championships for Yale sports generally in that era.

    Is this acceptable?

  • SY10

    eli1153770312: Yes, it is acceptable, because football is decidedly not the most important part of the university, or even a particularly important part. It’s fun to beat Harvard, but it has no bearing on how I judge Levin’s performance.

  • aluminterviewer

    Harvard has won the “modern era” as identified above: ie, since 1912.

  • eli1143770312

    @alumninterviewer: yes, Harvard took the lead in your ‘modern era’ in 2003 (and if you want to start in 1920 instead, then in 2009), in the midst of this recent streak. What is your point?

    @ SY10: I care about Yale sports and consider myself a Rick Levin fan, so I guess I don’t disagree with you that football and athletics in general are not the point of the University. But Yale spends tens of millions of dollars annually on intercollegiate sports and reserves 20+% of its student body for athletes. While we can’t aspire to beat national football powers any more, shouldn’t we hold our own with our closest peer? It is fun to beat Harvard; today’s undergraduates can only imagine that.

  • YDNAlum

    Oh my, let’s please not turn this into a referendum on whether to include recruited athletes among Yale undergraduates. The Ivy League’s (yes, that’s all it is, an athletics conference) Academic Index forces all varsity teams to mirror academically the student bodies of the institutions the teams represent. The AI constraints have been in place since the early 1980s. Those are the facts. If you can’t read articles about Yale football without attacking the intellectual abilities of the football players, and without displaying how misinformed you are in your pedantic, pronoun-heavy attack, I would suggest selecting other articles to read. If you can’t stomach the idea that Yale as an institution values athletics among other non-academic pursuits, and that Yale’s past athletic achievements have significantly contributed to its current prestige, then I would suggest attending another institution with less mainstream values: Oberlin and MIT would have gladly had you, I’m sure.

  • RexMottram08

    I prefer to dislike Levin for his slobbering over “sustainability”

  • River Tam

    > The Ivy League’s (yes, that’s all it is, an athletics conference) Academic Index forces all varsity teams to mirror academically the student bodies of the institutions the teams represent.

    This is completely false.

    http://home.comcast.net/~charles517/ivyai.html

    The Yale average (mean) on the Ivy League AI is 220+. The average AI for a football player in the Ivy League is somewhere around 175. 45 points correspond to 450 points on the SAT (out of 1600), or, split more evenly, 200 points on the SAT and a quartile in class rank.

  • RexMottram08

    RiverTam,

    To make your statement clearer:

    The Yale Football team average (mean) on the Ivy League AI is 220+. The average overall Ivy League AI for a football player is somewhere around 175. 45 points correspond to 450 points on the SAT (out of 1600), or, split more evenly, 200 points on the SAT and a quartile in class rank.

  • XanderCrews

    @RexMottramo8,

    No, the article says that the mean academic index of the entire student body is ~220. It then goes on to state that 8 out of the 30 annual football recruits are at or above one standard deviation below the school average, while 9 out of 30 are at least two standard deviations below the school average (putting them in the bottom 5% of the class, assuming a normal distribution for the academic index).

  • YaleMom

    FOOTBALL

  • River Tam

    > The Yale Football team average (mean) on the Ivy League AI is 220+. The average overall Ivy League AI for a football player is somewhere around 175. 45 points correspond to 450 points on the SAT (out of 1600), or, split more evenly, 200 points on the SAT and a quartile in class rank.

    No – the mean for the student body is 220. The “High Band” is one standard deviation below the mean.

  • Yale12

    RexMottram08: No. That’s not making RiverTam’s point clearer, that’s just lying.

  • RexMottram08

    Apologies. Mis-typed and didn’t look back until now.

    Meant to clarify:

    The Yale College student body (including the football players) average (mean) on the Ivy League AI is 220+. The average overall Ivy League AI for a football player is somewhere around 175 (although Yale football skews higher). 45 points correspond to 450 points on the SAT (out of 1600), or, split more evenly, 200 points on the SAT and a quartile in class rank.

  • JohnnyE

    Is this Ivy AI a joke? Barely 50th percentile in your graduating class combined with 1250/1600 on the SAT (~1875/2400) qualifies as a 175 on this index, and those numbers are barely average at your local state school.

  • silliwinnot01

    The state school average is around 1100/1600

  • townieexprof

    I cant really disguise the identity well, but in conversations a few years ago with a now retired varsity Yale coach, told me each year his team would get a couple of recruits from admissions. Often (obv) going after the same ones as Harvard. Because: basically a small group of kids wanting to compete at varsity level with “getting in the range of but not exactly-Ivy SAT and GPA credentials”, whose objective athletic achievements could be tracked and monitored for years online. No fudge factor here.

    They would have basically the same economic data to offer an admissions/financial aid package as the other Ivies.

    Each year after recruiting the Ivy coaches would get together and compare. Each year Harvard would, with the same economic data, be able to offer significantly more financial aid than Yale, making the choice not even close. Not within the range of probable error or variance in how schools compute their aid packages. offering 20,000 a year in financial aid versus 24,5000 X 4 years may not initially look like a lot, but if you have done your sport for 10-13 years and this is your payoff, and your family needs the aid, and you are getting to compete in college whereas you wouldnt if you stayed in your state college system, and your sports are getting you in to a school you couldnt dream of attending based on grades and SATs, it adds up to a lot.

    So , after several years of getting better recruits, then that particular (Harvard, say) team gets a winning edge, playing with better and better individual athletes, thus eliminating another incentive for players to choose Yale. Why come for four years and play for a losing team? Even if other things are equal-which they are not. New Haven has a losing edge for many people in terms of convenience of travel, city amenities, general cultural life etc etc–even for us New Haven fans. Wanna come watch your kid compete in their varsity sport in Boston or New Haven? Not even close, sorry. What hotel will the family stay at? What things will they see while in town? What restaurants will they eat at?

    I guess what I am saying is the way financial aid packages are given is not a level playing field, and even if it happens here and there and not systemically, it adds up.