Nov. 22, 2003
Harvard got a game-turning 79-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter after stopping Yale at the goalline, and went on to win The Game 37-19. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick thew four touchdown passes, tying a record for the series. The victory is Harvard's third straight over the Bulldogs and snapped the Crimson's three-game losing streak.
The Bulldogs moved down the field with ease on their first drive until a false start penalty knocked them off schedule at the Harvard 12. The Bulldogs tried a 34-yard field goal but missed, and Harvard then drove down to the Yale 13 for a 30-yard field goal by Jim Morocco at 7:20 of the first. The Elis responded with another effective drive, this one featuring a 37-yard pass from WR Ralph Plumb to TE Nate Lawrie. Yale could once again get no further than the 12-yard line, however, and settled for a 29-yard field goal by K John Troost to tie the score.
Next it was Harvard's turn to benefit from some trickery. On a fourth-and-three at the Harvard 49 to start the second quarter, the Cantabs lined up to punt but snapped the ball to LB Dante Balestracci, who barreled through the line for eight yards. Six plays later, on a fourth-and-four at the Eli 26, Crimson QB Ryan Fitzpatrick tossed one into the endzone for WR Corey Mazza.
Yale ate up 7:41 with its next drive, going 17 yards in 71 plays, but was stopped at the one-yard line twice. Once again, Troost came on to boot a field goal, this one a 21-yarder. DB Steve Ehikian brought Harvard's next drive to a dramatic conclusion, stretching to knock away a pass deep down the middle of the field intended for TB Rodney Byrnes. But the Yale offense got just five yards, and punted from its own 43 with 1:31 left. A 39-yard return by Brian Edwards set Harvard up at the Eli 40, and it took just five plays to get another touchdown. Fitzpatrick hit Byrnes from 10 yards out, leaving just 25 seconds on the clock before halftime. The Crimson went in up 17-6.
Harvard got the ball to start the second half and extended the lead with a 66-yard drive that ended with an 11-yard play-action pass to TE Kelly Widman for a touchdown. The Bulldogs answered with their first touchdown of the day, keyed by a 33-yard pass from QB Alvin Cowan to WR Chandler Henley that converted a third-and-nine and got the ball to the Crimson 27. Two plays later, Cowan found TE Nate Lawrie on a short pass and Lawrie raced to the endzone for the score. Troost's extra point gave him 84 points for the year, breaking the Ivy League record for scoring by a kicker.
The Elis had a chance to pull closer late in the third, but CB Benny Butler broke up a pass for Lawrie in the endzone on fourth-and-goal from the three. The Crimson then got a game-breaking play when Fitzpatrick found WR Brian Edwards down the left sideline, with a Yale defender falling down just before the ball got to Edwards. He took off for a 79-yard touchdown that made the score 31-13. To add to Yale's frustration, on the very next play from scrimmage Cowan found Benigno on the left sideline, but after making the catch with a wide-open field in front of him Benigno lost his balance and fell after a 21-yard gain. After three incompletions, Yale had to punt.
The Bulldogs turned an interception by S Matt Handlon into a scoring drive, going 54 yards midway through the fourth quarter. Cowan hit Benigno on a post pattern in the endzone from 15 yards out, but Harvard blocked the extra point so Yale trailed by 12. Harvard's Gary Sonkur returned an interception for a touchdown and the Bulldogs blocked the extra point for the 37-19 final. Cowan, a Payton Award candidate, finished with a school record 438 passing yards -- one more than Joe Walland '00 had in The Game in 1999, a 24-21 Yale win for the Ivy title. Cowan also finished with 3,445 yards of total offense for the season, breaking the Ivy mark of 3,308 set by Dartmouth's Brian Mann last season. As a team, Yale's 555 yards of total offense gives Yale a total of 4,797 for the year, breaking the Ivy League record of 4,743 set by Brown in 1997.
A crowd of 53,136 was on hand at the Yale Bowl for The Game, the largest crowd since 1989. Yale ends the year 6-4 overall and 4-3 in the Ivy League, while Harvard finishes 7-3, 4-3.
report by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity Department