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The Game Relived

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Courtesy: Josh Centor, The NCAA News

During his 12-year career in the National Football League, Calvin Hill played in two Super Bowls and four Pro Bowls. He gained nearly 9,000 yards, scored 65 touchdowns and played 156 games with Dallas, Washington and Cleveland. None of those games, including the two Super Bowls, was as important to Hill as "The Game."???

In 1875, the football teams at Harvard and Yale Universities began what has evolved into one of the country's storied rivalries. Each November, the programs finish their season in Cambridge or New Haven, and without exception, "The Game" always plays to a packed house.

"Tad Jones (former Yale coach) once said, "Gentlemen, you are about to play Harvard, Nothing you do for the rest of your life will be as important," Hill said. "It didn't matter what your records were or how well you had played -- beating the other school made your season."

Although the significance of "The Game" is huge every year, perhaps the stakes were highest in 1968.

That year, Hill and the Yale Bulldogs entered the game as one of the top teams in the nation, having won 16 in a row dating back to the previous season. Harvard had been picked to finish last in the Ivy Group preseason poll, but had overcome the odds to enter the finale with a 7-0 record. For the first time in their illustrious football history, Harvard and Yale would play "The Game" with perfect records and the Ivy title on the line.

The first 58 minutes were fairly predictable. Not only was Yale nationally ranked, but quarterback Brian Dowling hadn't lost a game since he was in grade school. Less-touted Harvard quarterback Frank Lalich had led the Crimson all season, but he struggled in the first half against Yale, completing just two passes before being pulled for reserve Frank Champi.

Known more for his skills tossing the javelin than for his prowess on the gridiron, Champi had attempted just 12 passes during his career before stepping on the field against Yale.

The Bulldogs led at halftime, 22-6, but Champi led the Crimson down the field in the third quarter and fullback Gus Crim scored from the 1-yard line to make it a two-possession game. Dowling and the Bulldogs answered in the fourth and Yale had the ball with a 29-13 lead and less than two minutes remaining.

"We were on their side of the field and we fumbled the football," Hill said. "They scored with 42 seconds left and went for the two-point conversion and made it." Yale was set to receive the ensuing kickoff and run out the clock, but then Hill and his teammates saw something they weren't prepared for -- an onside kick.

To read Josh Centor's piece on 'The Game' in its entirety, as seen in The NCAA News, please click here.