Yale takes down Harvard for share of Ivy League title
BOSTON (AP) -- Mike McLeod and Steve Santoro both came to Yale planning to play the same position. Coach Jack Siedlecki found a spot for them both.
McLeod ran for three touchdowns and Santoro scored on a 38-yard fumble return on Saturday to help the Bulldogs beat Harvard 34-13, earning a share of the Ivy League title and snapping their longest losing streak in the history of The Game.
Yale (8-2, 6-1) beat Harvard (7-3, 4-3) for the first time since 2000 and finished atop the conference for the first time since 1999. Princeton beat Dartmouth 27-17 later Saturday to share the league title.
"We got a share; that's what I cared about. We got our piece," Yale receiver Chandler Henley said a week after the Bulldogs blew a 14-point halftime lead to Princeton at home with a chance to win the title outright. "We had to win to win a championship. It makes it that much sweeter that it is Harvard."
In its 123rd matchup with Harvard, Yale posted its biggest victory since winning 28-0 in 1981; the Bulldogs hadn't won so big at Harvard since a 39-6 victory in 1960.
A running back who converted to free safety when he saw what McLeod could do, Santoro also ran back an interception for 41 yards. The Yale defense held Harvard to 68 yards while opening a 20-7 first-half lead and limited career Ivy rushing leader Clifton Dawson to 60 yards overall.
"This is just a great defensive performance," Siedlecki said. "Santoro, here's a guy who's probably made as many big plays for us this year as anybody."
Dawson scored Harvard's first touchdown on a 1-yard dive, but he also fumbled early in the fourth quarter. Santoro picked it up on a bounce and ran it in for a touchdown, giving Yale 20 points in a span of 2:18 to turn a 17-7 game into a 37-7 blowout.
"Steve's big plays, that just lifted the team up," McLeod said.
The final 29 seconds were delayed when two streakers with M.I.T. painted on their backs ran onto the Harvard field. But after the game, it was the Yale fans streaming over the sides of the vast concrete bowl to celebrate their share of the league crown.
"We got our butts kicked. Maybe not physically, but we didn't make enough plays and the end result is what you get for a score," Harvard coach Tim Murphy said. "It's like a guy's been on a deserted island almost six years and he's starving to get off. We can't let him off."
McLeod ran for 87 yards on 34 carries and led the Ivies this season with 1,364 rushing yards. He has two more years to aim at the career record set last week by Dawson, whose four-year total of 4,861, eclipsed the 4,715 by Ed Marinaro at Cornell before he went on to star in "Hill Street Blues."
"I still don't think of it as my record," said Dawson, who has been drafted by Toronto of the CFL. "It's something that's going to bring me a lot of pride for the rest of my life. It's difficult to go out this way, but I've had so many remarkable memories here."
Matt Polhemus completed 9-of-19 passes for 125 yards for Yale, hitting Henley five times for 67 yards.
Harvard quarterback Liam O'Hagan was pulled after fumbling the ball away on the first series of the second half. O'Hagan, who was suspended for the first five games this season for an unspecified violation of team rules, went 7-for-15 for 53 yards and an interception.
O'Hagan was just one of five Harvard players disciplined this season for reasons ranging from domestic assault to a scuffle with a shuttle bus driver to a skit night performance that Murphy called "disgusting."
Backup Chris Pizzotti completed 6-of-17 passes for 101 yards and an interception.
McLeod ran for 1- and 4-yard touchdowns in the first half, and Alan Kimball hit two field goals to give Yale a 20-7 lead. It stayed that way through the third quarter, which ended when Pizzotti was sacked on his own 3, leaving the Crimson with a fourth-and-17.
An illegal procedure penalty put punter Neil Sherlock's heels on the end line and he responded with an 8-yard kick. On Yale's first play, McLeod scampered to the right and almost untouched into the end zone to make it 27-7.
Santoro picked up Dawson's fumble on Harvard's next possession and ran it in 38 yards for a touchdown with 13:27 to play. Only then did Harvard muster any offense, mounting a five-play, 56-yard drive that ended with Pizzotti's 26-yard touchdown pass to Corey Mazza.
Harvard's five-game winning streak was its longest in the history of The Game. The Bulldogs' last win came in 2000 as Yale's George W. Bush and Harvard's Al Gore were waiting to find out who would be president; Yale won that one, but it hadn't won on the football field since.