Yale came up with somebody to shout about as Quarterback Brian Dowling (above) climaxed a heady season by beating rambunctious Harvard with a long, long last-chance pass that was The Play of The Game
December 04, 1967

There, now, stood Brian Dowling in the gangrened old Yale Bowl, his arm outstretched, upraised, a ball attached to the end of it, looking for all the world like the cover of the 1936 Illustrated Football Annual. Down the sidelines, meanwhile, this big end was lumbering, head lowered, limbs rotating, as if he actually had faith that Dowling would throw the pass 50 yards over the clouds in these last minutes to beat Harvard. So, with a beautiful grunt, Dowling heaved the football. And as it soared and soared, loyal Bulldogs in the thoroughly wrung-out crowd had visions of Bill Mallory and Bruce Caldwell and Albie Booth and Clint Frank go dancing through their heads. And, finally, when it came down, Yale won a thing called The Game 24-20, and suddenly something was more important on Wall Street than Britain's devaluation.

Brian Dowling is what is more important. He is daring and cool and wonderful. He is, as they say at the tail-gate picnics before Ivy League games, simply mawvelous. He is a junior quarterback who runs just fast enough to get away from people, who throws just well enough to complete the big ones and who has this winning electricity about him. Dowling has made Yale an eastern power again, and already he makes the collegiate football fan eager for 1968.

Although he has another season of eligibility, there is no assurance that Dowling will be around for next year. He is a football hero who, during his career, has bruised a kidney, chipped his backbone, torn a knee, broken a collarbone, broken his nose and broken a hand. Because of these inconveniences, he missed 7½ games last season and Yale was pretty ordinary. He also missed the first three games this year, and Yale was no better. Ah, but then.

In the past six games Dowling led Yale past Columbia, Cornell, Dart-mouth, Penn, Princeton and Harvard to its first Ivy League championship since 1960. He did it by running and passing for more than 900 yards and for 13 touchdowns. Dowling's big plays resulted in Yale averaging 35.5 points per game, which is a lot of points against Vassar or anybody, and posting an 8-1 season record. Without a great amount of exaggeration, he can be called the most exciting back in the Ivies since Princeton's Dick Kazmaier. And if he stays whole next year, the fun conference will have an authentic All-America candidate, because Brian Dowling could play for almost anybody.

Despite his build of 6'2" and 190 pounds, Dowling does not present a football player's image. He has the smooth muscles and relaxed carriage of a country club athlete, the dark eyes and black, slightly curly hair of a choirboy, the poise and affable manner of a ship's purser. He grins a lot. And he says of something as stimulating as his winning touchdown pass against Harvard: "The law of averages was with me because I'd thrown so many bad ones earlier."

Dowling had offers from at least 60 colleges after becoming a high school star at Cleveland's St. Ignatius. He seriously considered USC, Michigan, Ohio State and Northwestern, and Notre Dame wanted him as badly as it wanted Terry Hanratty. But Dowling's father proved a persuasive force in dispatching him to Yale. His father, who died a year ago, was the president of a steel-door company in Youngstown, and he insisted on paying his son's way to Yale because, as he said to Brian at the time, "Why not go first class?"

"I wasn't sure I'd made the right choice for a while," Dowling says. "I really wanted to play big-time football. But now I'm happy."

Not as happy as Yale, however. Dowling's unpretty but effective passing and his free-lance scampering around, which is remindful of Navy's Roger Staubach, the rover boy of the early 1960s, resurrected a Bulldog spirit these past few weeks that has surprised the students themselves. All of a sudden they were holding rallies, parading, serenading, waving banners and wearing buttons just like the folks at Berkeley, but for an altogether different reason. As Yale Publicity Director Charley Loftus said, "Brian Dowling is our hippie."

Dowling was primarily responsible for the fact that even though the Bulldogs had already won the Ivy championship, the Yale Bowl creaked with 68,000 last Saturday for the Harvard game.

There are those, of course, who insist that every Yale-Harvard game has been a classic since the first one in 1875 when the Crimson won by a score listed in the records as "4g 4t to 0g 0t." It is doubtful, however, if many have been more dramatic than last week's. Though Ivy teams do not have the depth of most major colleges, they have a commendable amount of skill on the starting units, and in games such as Yale-Harvard there is enough fundamental hitting to please even a Bear Bryant. This enthusiasm was more than evident as the Yales and Harvards swarmed after one another in the mud and cold air of New Haven.

But it cannot be suggested that Ivy games have lost their humor. For example, with so much expected of him, Dowling threw two interceptions and no completions in his first five tries. Yale managed its first touchdown drive only after Dowling finally hit on a pass to End Bruce Weinstein in the middle of a mudhole. Encouraged, Yale kept moving until Halfback Jim Fisher fumbled as he crossed the goal line—plop—right into the arms of Yale End Del Marting for a touchdown.

The hilarity continued in the second quarter when Dowling faded back to pass from his own 47 and got trapped. He ran left and escaped a tackier. He ran backwards and pulled away from another. He ran to the right and got away from still another. Players were scattered everywhere now, a mosaic of blue, white and red dots, bodies twisting and heads spinning. It looked like a massive gymnastics exhibition. Still running but calm—ever calm—Dowling threw the ball to Halfback Calvin Hill, who took it 53 yards for a touchdown. "We do that a lot," Hill explained later. "It's kind of a play. Dowling gets in trouble and I wave my hand and he throws it to me."

Soon Yale was ahead 17-0, but for the next 20 minutes or so the game was all Harvard's as the likes of Ric Zimmerman, Vic Gatto and Ray Hornblower combined their splendid abilities to drive 80 yards, 80 more, 88 and 40, getting three touchdowns and taking the lead in a game that had been a Yale rout. There were less than three minutes left when Yale, trailing 17-20, took the kick-off and had the ball on its own 23-yard line. But that was plenty of time for Dowling, who said later, "I knew we would score," even though at that point he had thrown more completions to Harvard than he had to Yale. Like four.

Dowling trotted lazily onto the field and moved his team in two plays to the 34 and a first down. Then, in the huddle, he said, "Sprint Right on two." That was the name of the play, Sprint Right. He also told his end, Marting, to run as far as he could down the sideline. Dowling took the snap and sprinted right, but he stopped. He waited. He looked back to his left. Then he reared and threw that long pass right into Marting's hands, a 66-yard strike for the winning touchdown. Up in the press box Charley Loftus ran down the aisle saying, "He got mixed up on his timing. Frank Merriwell would have waited until there were only seven seconds left."

But even at that Harvard would not subside. Back came the Crimson up the field for one last, epic try. It ended on the Yale 10-yard line when Harvard Fullback Ken O'Connell fumbled, but with less finesse than Yale's Fisher had displayed. Instead of a touchdown, Harvard lost the ball and The Game.

Later on, in the Yale locker room, where Coach Carmen Cozza's team was celebrating with champagne and cigars, Dowling talked to a cluster of journalists. He had had a very poor day, he thought. And he wouldn't get to revel in whatever glory there was for long, he said, seeing as how he was going out for basketball on Tuesday.

As Dowling spoke, another Yale player intruded. It was Ed Franklin, the safety. He surveyed the reporters and said, "Now, gentlemen, I know you've been waiting for my views on Vietnam."

Basketball on Tuesday? A crack about Vietnam? This after such a rousing victory? Sure. Where do you think this was? Tuscaloosa?

PHOTO PHOTOO'Connell fumbled away Harvard's last hope.

Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)