In the words of Harvard coach Tim Murphy, it was “a perfect ending to a perfect season.”
For Yale, it was another disappointing loss to end a disappointing season.
One of Yale’s (3-5, 1-6 Ivy) better efforts of the 2001 campaign was not enough to stop the unbeaten Crimson (9-0, 7-0). The loss left the Elis tied with Dartmouth for last place in the league, their worst finish since 1997, when they went winless in conference play. The win gave Harvard its first undefeated, untied season since 1913 and first Ancient Eight crown since 1997.
“We lost to a better team,” said Eli captain Tim Penna ’02, at the same time lamenting his last game in Yale Blue. “For us seniors, we are not going to be able to strap on pads together again.”
Trailing 22-10 at the half, the Bulldogs received the kickoff to start the third quarter and put together a 73-yard touchdown drive to get back in the game. A 26-yard T.J. Hyland ’02 pass over the middle to Nate Lawrie ’04 and three Hyland rushes for 23 yards got the Elis into scoring position. Jay Schulze ’03 then barreled into the end zone for a touchdown to narrow the deficit to 22-17.
Still trailing by 5 points, the Eli defense came up with a seemingly key stop, as Harvard brought on its punt team for the first time of the afternoon with fourth-and-five from the 50-yard line. But the snap went to Crimson linebacker Dante Balestracci who broke up the right side for 6 yards before pitching the ball to punter Adam Kingston. Kingston turned on the jets before the Eli defense finally brought him down at the Yale 8-yard line. Three plays later, Harvard had a touchdown and a 28-17 lead. The two-point conversion failed.
“We did what we thought we had to do,” head coach Jack Siedlecki said. “The big thing was when we got back within a score, they answered.”
The Crimson also answered on the defensive side. On Yale’s ensuing drive, it looked like the Bulldogs were ready to strike back. On first down from the Yale 48-yard line, Hyland ran down the left side to get to the Harvard 42-yard line, but Crimson defender Kyle Sims hit Hyland from behind, jarring the ball loose. Harvard defensive back Willie Alford was there to pounce on the ball and squash another Yale opportunity.
The final blow came midway through the fourth quarter. After the Bulldogs again pulled within 5 with a 15-yard touchdown from Hyland to P.J. Collins ’04, the Crimson responded with nine-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. The Harvard record-setting duo of quarterback Neil Rose and wide receiver Carl Morris hooked up on a 16-yard touchdown with 6:55 to play and gave Harvard a 35-23 lead that put the game out of reach.
“I don’t think it’s really set in,” Harvard defender Andy Fried said after he and his fellow seniors beat Yale for the first time in their four tries to wind up the Crimson’s first perfect campaign in 89 years. “Maybe at our 20-year reunion, we’ll understand it then.”
Hyland completed 24 passes out of 37 attempts for 273 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 171 yards on 32 carries. Collins caught both of Hyland’s scoring strikes for the first two touchdowns of his career.
Rose finished the day 20 for 36 for 277 yards passing while accounting for all of Harvard’s scoring — four passing touchdowns and one rushing score. Running back Josh Staph gained 100 yards on 20 carries for the Crimson.