Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Championship Quality

Harvard Stadium, as it appeared in 1961

Game of the Day (Day 32)

October 21, 1961

Columbia 26 Harvard 14

After the dinner with the coaches event last night, I stopped by one of the trophy cases at Chrystie Field House and saw the game ball from the 1961 contest at Harvard that essentially proved that those Lions were the best in the league.

I knew then that this game would have to be my next "Game of the Day."

The Lions roared into Cambridge with a 2-1 record, coming off an 11-0 shutout at the Yale Bowl that stunned the league. Columbia's offense expected a boost in this game as halfback Tom Haggerty was back from injury after missing the Yale game.

Harvard was 1-2, but 1-0 in the Ivies and the two losses had been extremely close. The Crimson's defense was considered top notch.

The first quarter was scoreless, but Columbia's varied running attack filled with reverses and sweeps finally broke through for a long drive capped off by Tom O'Connor's six-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion try was no good.

On Harvard's next possession, the Crimson had a bad snap on a punt and were forced to eat the ball at their own 19. Haggerty scored on a nine-yard TD moments later to make it 12-0 as the ensuing two-point try was again no good.

Columbia's kickoff was returned 66 yards to the Lion 22, but that still didn't make scoring easy for the Crimson. Harvard did finally score on a 4th down pass and the PAT was good to make it 12-7.

But the Lions responded well with a 69-yard drive that ended with a short TD run by runner-kicker Russ Warren. QB Tom Vassell had a mostly tough day, but he was sharp on this drive, completing key passes of 13 yards to Warren and 20 yards to Walt Congram. This time, Columbia finally converted a two-pointer when O'Connor lofted a pass to Warren in the end zone. It was 20-7 Lions at the half.

Harvard came out looking possessed in the third quarter, going on a 70-yard TD drive on 12 plays that narrowed the score to 20-14.

With the wind and rain chilling the crowd of about 11,000 fans, both teams then started to play the field position game. The Lions and the Crimson traded a number of punts, but neither could get total control of the game.

Late in the fourth, Columbia looked like it would ice the game with a slow-moving drive that got the Lions as close at the Harvard 10. But a fourth down pass was incomplete and Harvard had one more chance.

On third and four from the 19, Warren broke up and recovered a Harvard lateral and the Lions scored quickly thereafter on another short Haggerty run.

Columbia put the exclamation point on the win with an interception on the final play by Len DiFiore.


At Wed Aug 20, 05:36:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom O'Connor still attends most home games. He is a terrific person and a real gentleman. His wife founded an extremely successful real estate company and Tom had a successful career as the executive director of a major law firm.


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