The field had to be cleared for the final second of Joe Restic's 23-year career as Harvard's coach. A few thousand spectators from the crowd of 33,776 had run onto the grass at the Yale Bowl to celebrate Yale's apparent 33-31 win in the 110th edition of The Game, but wait...hold on.... The Bulldogs had surrendered the ball on downs at the 50-yard line, and one second remained on the clock. Joe Restic had one more chance.
"I've always said you play right to the end in this game," said the 67-year-old Restic later. "You never know what's going to happen."
Restic had announced his retirement at the beginning of this season and had gone through a series of emotional goodbyes. In a halftime ceremony during his last home game at Harvard Stadium, a week earlier, a player from each of his 23 teams, stretched in a straight time line, had autographed a football, passing it one to another. The ball was then presented to the man at the end of the line—Restic. The game, alas, was a 27-20 loss to Ivy champion Pennsylvania, part of a sad Harvard season that included only three wins.
But a last-gasp victory over Yale would redeem the season. Wouldn't it be a fitting tribute to a man who had said he wanted most to be remembered for "how well I've served my players"? The Crimson had already come back from a 33-17 deficit in the last 5:25. The stage was set.
The field was cleared. Harvard senior quarterback Mike Giardi took the snap. Three receivers ran down the left side of the field, and Giardi planted his feet to throw into the end zone. However, the right side of the Eli defensive line smothered him, the ball rolling from his hand. End of game. End of Restic's career. He finished with 117 wins, 97 losses, six ties. "I was watching the clock tick to the end," Restic said. "The end of an era."
"What next?" Restic was asked.
"I have no agenda," he said. "I don't believe in five-year, 10-year plans; that's why communism failed. I believe in living for the day. That is what I always have told my players. Enjoy today. Enjoy this practice. Enjoy being with your friends. So many people go through college worried about their future, worried about everything. They miss the moment."
BACK AND BLUE
Heading into the last three games of the season, Michigan was 4-4 and challenging Syracuse for the dishonor of being the nation's most disappointing team. But then the Wolverines woke up and defeated Purdue, Minnesota and Ohio State by a combined score of 111-17. The 28-0 rout of the Buckeyes last Saturday was especially sweet for the Wolverines because it put Ohio State's Rose Bowl plans in jeopardy. "We salvaged our season," said Michigan cornerback Alfie Burch. "We're a totally different team now."
He's right, and the main reason is that the defense finally began fulfilling its potential. In their first eight games the Wolverines came up with a total of four interceptions and 11 sacks; in the last three they had nine interceptions and 12 sacks. On Saturday, Michigan had four interceptions and four sacks and held the Buckeyes to 58 yards on the ground. "At midseason we were not able to mix it up with teams like Ohio State because we had so many injuries and a lot of young guys," said Wolverine defensive coordinator Lloyd Carr, whose unit had five first-year players starting on Saturday. "The beauty here is that we hung together. That's what makes this so rewarding."