One of football’s most enduring traditions, the Yale-Harvard game has been played for nearly as long as the sport has been in existence. Since Yale won its first game in 1876, the Bulldogs have historically dominated the series with a 65–55–8 record against the Crimson. In its 128 previous iterations, the Game has spawned the forward pass, the onside kick and several historic games.
In the face of six Yale All-Americans, Harvard managed to score points for the first time in three Games. But Yale’s 12–4 victory made history with its brutality, leading to a two-year hiatus for the Game.
Known as “The Bloodbath in Hampden Park,” the Game of 1894 left one Yalie, Fred Murphy 1897, in a coma while also delivering a broken collarbone, a broken nose and various other injuries to other players.
“The game was remarkable for the number of casualties. Players on both sides were consistently disabled,” the Harvard Crimson wrote in its game recap.
The public outcry was loud enough to nearly halt the infant game in its tracks, but after a two-year break, The Game was back.
In arguably the most famous matchup in a historic rivalry, both teams entered The Game undefeated and hoping to win the Ivy League championship. Yale, led by star quarterback Brian Dowling ’69 — the inspiration for B.D. in Doonesbury — was on a 16-game winning streak, while Harvard possessed the best scoring defense in the country at 7.6 points per game. The Bulldogs took an early 22–0 lead in the second quarter, and with 10:44 left in the game, they held onto a seemingly insurmountable 29–13 lead.
But the Crimson came roaring back. Back-up quarterback Frank Champi threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to cut the deficit to one score with 0:42 left on the clock, and the Cantabs recovered the ensuing onside kick. After a miracle touchdown lob as time expired, quickly followed by a two-point conversion slant pass, Harvard tied the game at 29–29, where it ended.
“No words can describe the dejection in Yale’s camp — the locker room was like a morgue,” the News wrote at the time.
The Harvard Crimson ran a headline the next morning that read “HARVARD BEATS YALE 29–29.” The Elis reminded the Cambridge faithful of what constitutes a victory the next year with a 7–0 shutout.
Yale entered the matchup with a chance to clinch a share of the Ivy title, and Harvard, with a 3–3 Ivy record, hoped to play the role of spoiler. But in front of the largest crowd at the Yale Bowl in 10 years, the Elis were able to pull away as quarterback Joe Walland ’00 threw for 437 yards, setting a record for most passing yards allowed by the Crimson. Receiver Eric Johnson ’01 was responsible for 244 yards on 21 catches. His final catch, a 4-yard pluck from the grass, gave Yale a 24–21 lead with 29 seconds remaining.
Johnson parlayed the catch, as well as a solid senior season the next year, into a seven-year career in the NFL. His current engagement to Jessica Simpson only proves what we all know: Elis have better career prospects than Cantabs.