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"The first half was dying, and so was Harvard. The offense was going backward; the defense was going out of its mind playing Chinese tag with Brian Dowling, that crazy-legged quarterback from Yale who throws balloons for touchdowns. The plan had been to keep Dowling in a pocket, but Harvard was having trouble keeping him in Cambridge. Yale led 22-0, and what was supposed to be a classic in the annals of The Game and an epic battle of unbeatens for the Ivy League championship was a laugh-in, an embarrassment, a Harvard humiliation.
Finally, desperately, John Yovicsin, the Harvard coach, turned to Frank Champi, his second-string quarterback, and said, "O.K., you try it for a while." The 10,000 Men of Harvard paled. Frank Champi? Frank Champi? Why all season he's completed exactly five passes. Please, not Frank Champi. Even out on the field the Harvard men were saying Frank Champi?
"We knew Frank had the arm," said Tom Jones, a 200-pound actor who plays left guard, "but we felt he was a little inexperienced for the job. He's a junior and he's sort of been nervous all year."
"Frankly, we were surprised to see him," admitted Harvard Captain Vic Gatto. "He hasn't played a whole lot this year, and confidence is something you get by playing, not by sitting on the bench. But we needed to be shaken up and he did it."
For an opening shake, with 39 seconds left in the half, Champi flipped a pretty 15-yard touchdown pass to Bruce Freeman, a sophomore split end. A poor snap from center betrayed the attempted conversion, but six points is better than none, and 22-6 is not quite as depressing as 22-0.
"At halftime I knew we could win," Yovicsin was to say late that afternoon. "I told our boys that all we had to do was shut out Yale while getting two touchdowns and a field goal. I was sure we could do it."
"Oh, sure he was sure," said one of the Harvard team's 22 seniors with surprising emotion when he heard of the quote that evening. "Listen. Yovicsin had given up on us. All he wanted us to do was go out there and get the rest of the afternoon over as quickly as possible. But we weren't playing for him and we weren't playing for the school, we were playing for ourselves. We were the ones who knew we could still win.
"Before this season the majority of seniors on this team almost walked out. We'd been the forgotten guys on this club. Ever since our freshman year we'd been ignored. We changed our minds about walking out after Gatto was elected captain. We held a meeting in January and decided to rally around Vic, to play for ourselves. We wanted to show the school, the coaches and the experts that we were a lot better than any of them gave us credit for. And we have."
When the second half opened, George Lalich, Harvard's regular quarterback, returned for three plays. He had been as instrumental as anyone in bringing Harvard into the game with an 8-0 record, but his passing had soured at mid-season and it was not improving against Yale. The three plays gained nothing, and Harvard punted.
But Yale was now struck by a series of fumbles. It began with the punt, which Harvard recovered on the Yale 25. Once more in came Champi, a balding 20-year-old history major who can throw a football 85 yards with his right arm and 50 yards with his left and who was the best javelin man in Harvard history until he strained a muscle last spring. Harvard scored in three plays, with Fullback Gus Crim getting the touchdown.