CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — A fake field goal. A surprise onside kick. Even some naked revelers in the Yale student section attempting to distract archrival Harvard.
And the biggest trick of all from Yale in the 133rd edition of The Game: A 21-14 upset over the Crimson on Saturday to end a nine-year losing streak in one of the oldest rivalries in sports and spoil Harvard's chances of an unprecedented fourth straight Ivy League title.
"There's been a long streak. We don't like to talk about it," said Yale quarterback Kurt Rawlings, a freshman who threw for two touchdowns and ran for 74 yards. "But it's over. Now it's our streak."
Harvard (7-3, 5-2 Ivy) needed a victory to clinch a share of the conference championship . The Bulldogs (3-7, 3-4) had little to play for except a chance to spoil Harvard's season.
That's exactly what they did.
After setting up their first touchdown with a fake field goal, Yale opened the second half with an onside kick and scored to take its first lead. The Bulldogs went ahead for good with 4:14 left on a 3-yard touchdown pass from Rawlings to Reed Klubnik, who had the ball knocked out of his hands just after he reached across the goal line.
Harvard coaches protested along the sideline. (There is no replay in the Ivy League.)
The Crimson had two possessions in the final minutes, but couldn't score. Harvard players walked glumly back to their field house after blowing the chance to become the first class ever to win four straight conference championships.
The nine straight Crimson victories in The Game was the longest winning streak in the history of a rivalry that was first played in 1875.
"Something we haven't experienced in a long time is you can put it all out there, you can work as hard as you can, you can believe. And when you do that you still risk getting your heart broken," Harvard coach Tim Murphy said. "That's certainly what happened today."
Yale: Tony Reno picked up his first win against Harvard as head coach. He had also worked in both Cambridge and New Haven as an assistant.
"You grow as a season goes on. This team grew every week," Reno said. "Sometimes it wasn't easy to see in the score, but what you saw today was the work we put in all year."
Harvard: The Crimson could have clinched a share of the conference title either last week, against Penn, or in the finale. Instead, they end with two straight losses.
Penn and Princeton both won on Saturday and will share the Ivy title.
LET THE DANCING BEGIN
After the final kneel-down, Yale students poured out of the stands to celebrate with the team at midfield. Others danced in the form of a giant "Y'' in the corner of Harvard Stadium that was the full height of the seating bowl.
"I was overjoyed, obviously," linebacker Darius Manora said, noting that he had played his last Game but would not stop rooting for the team: "As an alum, I'm excited for the future."
Other Yale fans didn't wait for the end of the game to let it all out in support of their team.
Although the traditional mid-November matchup has seen some days so frigid that fans head home with frostbite, this one was played under sunny skies and temperatures in the 50s.
That was warm enough for a dozen or so students in the Yale student section to strip off their clothes and dance naked on the concrete wall of the century-old stadium. Police were seen escorting some from the stands, but a Harvard spokeswoman said there were no arrests.
It took some time for the teams to get their bearings, playing 25 scoreless minutes and punting a combined 11 times to start the game before Charlie Booker bounced around the right end for a 27-yard touchdown to give Harvard a 7-0 lead late in the second quarter.
Rawlings started Yale's next drive with a 28-yard run and then the Bulldogs kept it going with a 16-yard jump pass on a fake field goal that put the ball on the 3. Alan Lamar ran it in from the 1.
To start the second, Yale pulled off an onside kick that led to a 28-yard pass to Klubnik that gave the Bulldogs a 14-7 lead.
Harvard tied it, picking up 34 yards to the Yale 2 on a fourth-and-3. Three plays later, Joe Viviano found Ryan Halvorson in the end zone to make it 14-all.