Seldom in recent years had there been so much genuine cause for excitement about an Ivy League football game, and before noon the parking areas around the Yale Bowl were already full of station wagons with tailgates let down and jugs of martinis set out on plaid blankets beside plates of chicken and deviled eggs. Like a convention of John O'Hara characters, the Old Grads assembled in turtlenecks and blazers, the glow of their cheeks illuminating the candy-striped tents where the Dartmouth Class of '46, among others, hoarsely sang good old songs the way they used to be done, with banjo backing and harmony on the favorite lines and nothing that needed plugging into an electrical socket except perhaps the fingers of one Yale alum, well into his gin, who kept gloomily muttering, "Two Ivy teams ranked in the top 20, what the hell is going on here, it must be the apocalypse...."
With both Dartmouth and Yale unbeaten and rated nationally not only in both of the wire-service polls but also in the NCAA statistics, the largest crowd to see a non-Harvard game at Yale Bowl since Army was there in 1954 assembled on one of those crackling red-and-gold New England afternoons that helped to make football popular in the first place. A large part of the conversation was somewhat defensive, with people assuring one another that this whole thing was really great, that Dartmouth and Yale could certainly perform respectably against Ohio State or Texas or anybody else, and that Ivy League football, after all, is played by students. So without question in the minds of the 60,820 people who had come to watch it, this Yale-Dartmouth match was going to settle at least the amateur college football championship of the season.
That is probably an accurate enough estimation of the view carried into the game by the students themselves, including most of the players. Although the New Haven newspaper had a Saturday headline that said ELIS BRACE FOR BIG GREEN, the Yale Daily News kept the pre-game stories on the sports page and put instead on its front page an account of the Bladderball Classic, an annual pig-pile involving a huge canvas ball and dozens of bodies. As a further example of the perspective in which the game was seen, Dartmouth's best field-goal kicker, Wayne Pirmann, had to remain up in Hanover, N.H. on Saturday morning to play soccer, for God's sake. Clearly, such behavior would never be tolerated at Columbus or Austin. It fell to an eager Dartmouth grad, Class of '33, to volunteer to fly Pirmann to New Haven. When at last Pirmann arrived at the stadium, no doubt sped there from the airport by Jack Oakie in a roadster, he trotted onto the field near the end of the halftime show to try a few warmup kicks and was promptly pushed aside by the band. Later, however, Pirmann proved himself to have been worth the trouble by kicking a 30-yard field goal the only time he was allowed to swing his leg.
Up on the Dartmouth campus during the week before the game, the atmosphere was quite relaxed. Several players missed afternoon practices because of labs. "I know coaches who complain about not having had all their boys together for all the practices before a big game," said Dartmouth Coach Bob Blackman. "Well, ours are never together." This coaching disadvantage is not restricted to Dartmouth, of couse. Yale Coach Carm Cozza said this about Tackle Matt Jordan: "He's a farm boy from out in Minnesota, one of 11 kids, and there were nights he didn't climb off the tractor until 10 o'clock, so believe me when I tell you he is immensely strong. It's a good thing he is. The other night after a hard workout Matt studied until 1 a.m., got up again at 4 a.m. to check his lab experiments on the mating of fruit flies, came to my office to study game films until after 9 a.m., then went off to class and practice again." In the Ivy League there are no athletic scholarships, there is-no spring practice, schedules are made two years in advance, and a season is limited to nine games. "The athletes are as good here as anywhere, but they're interested in more things," said Blackman.
A few Ivy League athletes have gone on to play professional sports—Bill Bradley of Princeton in basketball is one, and Calvin Hill of Yale is an outstanding NFL runner. Among current Ivy players being watched by pro scouts is Willie Bogan, a tall, fast safetyman for Dartmouth who in some ways prefers track to football. "I get frustrated playing football," he said, "being told to do this and do that, not being really on my own. In track, if I'm running and don't win, well, that's my problem, I feel free. The football program here is secondary. We're not forced to play, or stay on the team. It's a matter of your own choice. Of course, I haven't tried to quit yet, either."
When it comes to outside interests, few could equal those of Yale Quarterback Joe Massey. As a freshman, Massey chose to sing in the glee club rather than play football. But as a senior Massey had guided the Yale offense through five straight victories coming into the big game against Dartmouth. There is a saying at Yale that the alumni would rather beat Harvard, the players would rather beat Princeton and the coaches would rather beat Dartmouth, which meant that last year the Yale coaches must have been especially disappointed. Dartmouth won 42-21, and appeared headed for another Ivy League championship before being upset by Princeton. This year the Indians (if it is permissible still to use that nickname since their erstwhile Indian mascot, who was getting rather potbellied, has been banned from the field as being an "ethnic insult") had already knocked Princeton out of the way. With Pitt on the verge of being defeated by Syracuse, the winner of the Dartmouth-Yale game figured to wind up with the Lambert Trophy, awarded the best team in the East.
Unfortunately for the Yale crowd, it didn't take long to establish which was the better team. Massey stuck to a plan that stubbornly insisted his two fast running backs—Dick Jauron and Don Martin—could break through between the Dartmouth tackles, despite evidence to the contrary. Meanwhile, Dartmouth Quarterback Jim Chasey demonstrated great faith in his arm by continually completing deep and difficult passes at a cross-field angle, and once he rolled to his left and laid a long pass deftly over a defensive back and into the hands of a racing receiver. Dartmouth had an early touchdown called back and five times moved inside the Yale 20 without scoring—a circumstance that might have been different had Pirmann not been playing soccer.
Three of Chasey's passes were intercepted, two of them in the end zone, but Dartmouth kept rolling up yards and finally scored on a three-yard run by Brendan O'Neill just before the half. Although there was a feeling that Dartmouth could have been leading by 40 points, Yale was in the game until the last three minutes when an interception stopped a drive to give Dartmouth the game 10-0.
Back to the tailgates and the striped tents went the crowd, and into a monster traffic jam lightened by the sound of singing voices. In the locker room Jauron, who had been fifth in the nation in rushing before Dartmouth smothered him, said, "It's only a game, right?" For the Ivies, one of the biggest.