Without question, the most exciting football game I’ve ever seen was the 1981 Princeton-Yale game in Palmer Stadium.
Princeton had gone 14 years without a gridiron victory over its historic rival. Yale was undefeated, coached by the almost mythical Carm Cozza, and had (another) All-American running back in Rich Diana, who was amassing more than 100 yards a game.
Princeton had had only partial success during its season, but had some offensive weapons in quarterback Bob Holly ’82 and two or three capable receivers.
Against Yale, Princeton fell behind in the first half by 21 points. A few faint-hearted Princetonians among the 25,000 in attendance headed out.
As the game wore on, Holly and his receivers became stronger and stronger. Magic seemed in play as they caught pass after pass, converted on third downs, and gamely took the field when Princeton’s defense held down the score, even if failing to contain Diana, God of the Tiger Hunt, who ran for 222 yards.
But Holly was unstoppable. With less than a minute remaining, Yale drew a pass-interference call, and the ball was spotted at Yale’s 4-yard line. Four seconds remained as the Tiger runner “crashed through that line o’ blue” ... to dump the Bulldog!
What an explosion from the Princeton fans — an ocean of white hankies to “salute” the “guests” and send them packing: Princeton 34, Guests 31.
In my memory, Air Holly’s feat of 501 yards passing in that game is still a Princeton record. And I’ve carried my 1981 game program (with yellowing newspaper clippings) to every football game I’ve attended since.