Harvard vs. Cornell | A Series of Many Bounces

By Jim Hanchett '53 | Cornell Football Association Historian

The first time Cornell and Harvard footballers met — in 1890, before the Ithacans had a regular coach — Harvard prevailed in the land of the bean and the cod — 77-0. That was a 7-4 year for C.U., the year after its first Michigan game, in which Cornell was victorious, 66-0, in Buffalo, a high point of a 7-2 season. Incidentally, touchdowns and field goals were worth five points apiece in 1890. PATs got you one point. Field goals became good for four in ’04, and in ’09, three. The six-point TD arrived in 1912.

In the ensuing nine years, none of them in Ithaca, the Big Red never conquered the Crimson, never until the famous 1915 game, which ended a three-year unbeaten streak for the ‘Vard and turned its national championship over to Cornell. It was C.U.’s first of five.

Early in that October 23 showdown, Eddie Mahan, the pride of the ‘Vard yard, fumbled at the Red 20. End Murray Shelton recovered at the 25, from whence Charley Barrett ran it in and added the PAT. Not long later, he bumped heads with Mahan and was kayoed out of business for the day. Fritz Shiverick kicked a 38-yard field goal in the third period and throttled H with power punting. Final, Cornell, 10-0. Barrett and Shelton are in the National Football Hall of Fame. Barrett so impressed his Penn player rivals that they donated a plaque in his honor that you see today at Schoellkopf’s front door.

Cornell and Harvard did not play each other from 1917 to 1938. Cornell went 12-3 against the Crimson between ’38 and ’62. From ’63 to ’85, Cornell went 5-16-2. They met only once between 1941 and 1948.

C.U. kicked off 1948 with surprises over NYU (47-6) (Were we that good or they that bad?), and Navy (13-7. A MAJOR upset.) Harvard humbled the pride of Columbia Lions (33-24) on opening day .The Lefty James Boys got to Harvard early in Ithaca when end Harry Cassel blocked a punt and Sophomore fullback Jeff Fleischmann caught a picture pass from QB Pete Dorset, an ex-PW in Germany, for a quick six. Bob Dean kicked the first of his 4×6 PATs. Later in the day he punted 76 yards out of bounds at the coffin corner 6. Later, end Walt Bruska, a B-29 crew member over Japan, picked up an H fumble. All-America all-around back Hillary Chollet blasted through the H line for anther six and later caught another Dorset TD pass. All-American Paul Girolamo added a first-period TD. In the second half, Chollet passed to Girolamo for six more. Near the end, Chollet went over a third time. The Red defense held Harvard to 15 yards. The final: 40-6 and an unofficial Ivy title for a mixture of war vets and youngsters like backs Moose Miller, vets Frank Bradley and Bernie Babula, tackles Divk Loynd, Hank Drost and Dick Clark, supercenter John Pierik, and guards Joe Quinn, Jack Jaso and plucky Bucky Ellis, end Jack Rogers plus backers smallish Bobby (Shoot the Gap) Gaige and Chuck Taylor, among others of James’ two tough, talented platoons.

Harvard struck early at Cambridge in ’49 but the Cornellians struck back with a long drive to the 10, from whence halfback little Lindy Hull, listed at 170 lbs, lugged the leather over tackle to TD-ville. Before long, Cornell had the ball again and drove it 80 yards for another TD. Near the end of the half, the Cayugans shook Moose Miller loose for 37 yards forward and many more from sideline to sideline as the ever-dodging Moose shed 15 tacklers in 45 seconds on the clock. It set up Dorset’s TD toss to Chollet. In the third quarter, Rip Haley seized a Harvard aerial and ran it over the last white line. Dorset passed to Bruska in the end zone. Cornell prevailed, 33-24, en route to another 8-1 year and a second Ivy title in a row.

It was 7-7 at halftime of the ’50 Harvard game at the Crescent. That was all for the visitors. Late in the third quarter, Jarrin’ Jeff Fleischmann ran a 33-yard draw into the end zone. It was a delayed buck trap first seen when Army ran it in the ’48 game. It was Jeff’s second TD of the day. As the end neared, Bob Engel ran 17 yards for a TD and then 36 into the end zone. That one was called for offside. The Red offense was so finely tuned that it sometimes fooled officials who thought they saw illegal motion that wasn’t there and called infractions, game film revealed. Stu Merz went over from three yards out for the tally that added up to a final 28-7. The year ended at 7-2. No Ivy title this time.

The carnelian crew upset the maize and blue of Rose Bowl winner Michigan, 20-7 at Ithaca but fell 53-15 to Heisman winner Dick Kazmaier and Princeton, and 21-20 to Columbia in the Schoellkopf snow of ’51. Cornell marched 79 yards in seven plays after the opening kickoff vs. the ‘Vard. Merz took it over from the one. The next time it got the ball, fullback Hal Seidenberg pounded in from the five. Tackle Jim Jerome recovered a Harvard bobble and Seidenberg scored from the nine. In the third quarter. Bill Scazzero and Seidenberg put six-pointers on the board. Reserve QB Herb Bool passed to Frank Hummel for the TD that nailed it down at 42-6.

There was no Harvard game in ’52 and ’53 but in ’54 Harvard was one of the four that halted the James Gang (13-12) to open a season in which it won the last five and an unofficial Ivy title for captain/fullback/backer Guy Bedrossian, QB Bill DeGraaf, halfbacks Richard Jackson and Dick Meade and, up front, Len Oniskey, Stan Trapis, Poe Fratt, Jim Van Buren, Stan Intihar, Bruce Brenner and John Morris.

And then, from 1986-1996, H made just once over 17 points while Cornell was winning 11. From 1986 to 2000, it was mostly Red, 15-2. The dominators in that 80s-90s streak were guys like Scott Malaga, Mitch Lee, Chris Cochrane, John McNiff, Scott Oliaro, Bill Lazor, Chris Zingo, Jay Bloedorn, Greg Bloedorn, Anthony, John and Ron Vitullo, Chad Levitt, Seth Payne, Paul Tully, Rob Ryder, Tom McHale, Jim Knowles and many, many others.

Coach Maxie Baughan’s Ivy co-champ Big Redders lost only to Princeton among the venerable vines in ’88. They went into the fourth quarter behind, 17-7, in the fourth quarter at Harvard. A fired up crew downed a Crimson kicker in the end zone for two points — 17-9. Malaga topped a stirring drive to pound the pigskin over. Cochrane passed to Sam Brickley for a two-point conversion and it was 17 all. When Cornell kicked the ball out of the end zone for a second safety it was 19-17 over the defending champs and so it stood.

Joe Splendorio, a 6-foot-5 wide receiver, was voted to an All-Time Cornell football team by Cornell Football Association members. A superb pass snagger, he caught 165 for 2,337 yards and 20 TDs between 1997 and 2000 In 1999 and again in 2000, he blocked last-ditch Harvard field goal attempts, preserving 24-23 (’99) and 28-29 (’00) triumphs. C.U. had been down 28-0 at halftime In ’00.

The Big Red was numero uno among Ivies W-Ls in 1914, ’15, ’21, ’22, ’23, ’38, ’39, ’48, ’49, ’53, ’54, ’71, ’88 and ’90.

The Harvard band, which once spelled out APATHY on the field, has been known to play Harvardian Tom Lehrer’s “Fight Fiercely, Harvard” during games. We may be hearing it today. It was part of a satirical repetoire which delighted undergraduates of many institutes of higher leaning, including, of course, Harvard. A similar composition was “Be Prepared” (That’s the Boy Scouts’ Marching Song), which cited its very own variations on the theme. Likewise, Fight Fiercely: “Fight Fiercely, Harvard, Fight, fight, fight! Demonstrate to them our skill. Albeit they possess the might, Nontheless we have the will.” That led the possibility of conquest and we shall “invite the whole team up for tea.” Which one? But “Let’s try not to injure them.” A veteran observer, viewing from near the Harvard Band in the West Stand, heard the leader of “The Ivy League’s only REAL marching band” invite the leader of the Harvards to join the Big Red Band together in a rendition of Fight Fiercely for the Schoellkopf crowd. The refusal was a polite because “If we do that, we get scolded,” approximately.

Harvard has won its last 13 Cornell games. Cornell has won just once, in 2005, in those days, since 2001. All time: Harvard 46, Cornell 32, two ties.