It is testimony to their, shall we say, sangfroid that Ivy Leaguers are not the least defensive about the mutually exclusive brand of football they play. While pigskin Philistines may protest that the Ivies are merely bush, the cloistered scholar-athletes of the northeastern seaboard will suggest in rebuttal that it is not so much how you play the game as how it comes out. Or something like that.
There is, in fact, a perfectly reasonable argument that Ivy League football right now is the most consistently entertaining, amateur or professional, played anywhere in the country. Indeed, the matches in those Edwardian stadiums on those Colonial campuses are all that a fan could ask for—unpredictable, frequently high-scoring, nearly always close and rare manifestations of that tired adage that "on any given Saturday...."
The three teams currently tied for the league lead have muddled their aspirations by taking turns beating each other. First, Pennsylvania beat Dartmouth 22-16, then Dartmouth beat Harvard 24-18 and last weekend Harvard beat Penn 34-30, in one of the most thrilling games yet played this season. And since Yale, Brown and Cornell are only one game in arrears, the league championship is far, far from settled.
What then is more exciting than a close race run by fierce competitors, no matter how swift they may be? "Fierce," incidentally, is not an ill-advised adjective, nor does it any longer ring of satire as it once did in the old Tom Lehrer ditty, Fight Fiercely, Harvard!
Take an Ivy League boy out of the library or the laboratory and he will prove as testy an antagonist as any brute from the wheatfields. "We take the game as seriously as anyone," emphasized Harvard Captain Dave St. Pierre. "We practice just as hard when we're out there and we play just as hard. We don't come here to escape competition."
The difference may be that the Ivy Leaguer will actually enjoy the game more, and for the simple reason that he is playing it for fun, not necessarily to fulfill the provisions of an athletic scholarship or to serve an apprenticeship before being called up to the National Football League.
"The time we give to the game is our own," says Harvard Quarterback Jim Stoeckel, a potential Rhodes scholar who is nearly as brilliant on the field as in the classroom.
"I think there is more genuine dedication in the Ivy League because the boys are on the field by choice," says Penn Coach Harry Gamble, himself a doctor of education. "They don't have to play football for fear of losing a scholarship. They just want to play. I'm not saying that isn't true elsewhere, but whereas you might get 90% dedication out of a squad in a big-time football school, here you get 100%."
There was enough dedication and, yes, ferocity Saturday at Franklin Field, where Harvard defeated Penn, to impel a cavalry charge at Balaklava. Granted, there were nine fumbles, two interceptions and one blocked punt; at least three of the scores came as a direct result of grievous turnovers; and in one sequence deep in Penn territory the two teams exchanged fumbles on successive plays before Harvard cut off the largesse by scoring. But consider also that Harvard and Penn, which had ranked one-three in the league on defense, gained 989 yards between them, setting seven team and league offensive records, and that the winning touchdown came with but a minute and 26 seconds remaining in the game on a sprawling, grappling goal-line catch of a Stoeckel pass by Harvard End Pat McInally that would not have embarrassed Paul Warfield.
The rival quarterbacks, Stoeckel and Penn's dauntless Marty Vaughn, enjoyed truly remarkable success, Stoeckel connecting on a Harvard record 27 of 48 passes for 291 yards and a touchdown and Vaughn hitting on 18 of 31 for 303 yards and a touchdown. McInally caught 10 of Stoeckel's passes for 117 yards, and Penn's Don Clune, a legitimate professional prospect, caught 10 for 163 yards. Stoeckel's tight end, Pete Curtin, whose brown hair flows to his shoulders, had seven catches, an extraordinarily productive day for a college man playing his position. And Penn's swift little halfback, Adolph (Beep Beep) Bellizeare, gained 138 yards on only 15 carries, including one electrifying, tackle-breaking touchdown run of 67 yards. Harvard's Neal Miller, a sophomore, had 130 yards and two touchdowns.