Out of Reach

The Crimson football team ran into a dominant Penn squad and watched a second straight Ivy League title slip through its fingers.

Slipping through their fingers
Noor M.R. Beckwith

Harvard lost to Penn, 34-14, at Franklin Field on Saturday, losing its chance at the Ivy League title.

PHILADELPHIA—In the second quarter, freshman kicker David Mothander lined up for a potential game-tying field goal, and it looked as though the Harvard-Penn football game would live up to its billing as a close battle. But as Quaker linebacker Erik Rask burst up the middle, blocking Mothander’s kick, it became clear that Penn would continue to do what it does best—shut the door.

The No. 18 Quakers (8-1, 6-0 Ivy) posted 27 straight points in a dominant 34-14 victory at Franklin Field, clinching at least a share of the Ancient Eight crown and sending the Crimson (6-3, 4-2) to its second Ivy loss.

“Well, Penn’s a tremendous football team...and today they were completely in sync, special teams, defensively, and offensively,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy said. “And it made us look bad, no question about it. I didn’t feel like we played great.”

But the Crimson didn’t always look outmatched on the field. Throughout the first half, it appeared that Harvard would give the reigning conference champions all they could handle, as the visitors outgained Penn, 137 yards to 119. But the only stat that mattered was up on the scoreboard, where Penn led, 10-0, at the break after taking advantage of a couple of Crimson miscues.

The game was scoreless after the first quarter, with the top two scoring defenses in the league staying true to form. Harvard opened the second period in much the same way, forcing a seemingly harmless Quaker punt, but Scott Lopano’s kick hit junior Dan Minamide in the back and a group of Penn players fell on the ball at the nine-yard line.

Although the Crimson defense held strong, limiting the hosts to a field goal, the Quakers were finally on the board, and they didn’t look back.

After blocking Mothander’s kick five minutes later, Penn drove 62 yards in six plays and Brandon Colavita burst into the endzone from two yards out for the first of two touchdown runs on the day.

And with the start of the second half, an entirely different Quaker team seemed to take control.

“They made some changes with what they were doing, some good things that were beating our scheme,” said captain and safety Collin Zych. “And also, we were out of position a couple of times, and they took advantage of it.”

While Harvard’s offense continued to struggle against the second-ranked rush defense in the FCS, Penn found a rhythm behind its corps of running backs, scoring on all three of its third-quarter drives.

Although the Quakers completed just four passes for 56 yards on the day, Colavita and fellow bruisers Jeff Jack and Luke DeLuca rumbled for 165 yards on the ground—part of Penn’s 222 rushing yards overall—and pushed the lead to 27-0 after three periods.

The kicking game also held strong for the Quakers, as senior placekicker Andrew Samson followed up his first-quarter chip shot with a booming field goal from 45 yards out in the third. With the pair of scores, Samson moved into first place on the school’s all-time list for field goals made.

As Penn’s offense began to click in all phases, the Crimson was constantly forced to play catch-up, and the visitors weren’t up to the task. Harvard put up just 77 yards in the third quarter, and when it finally seemed to get something going, the Quakers always managed a response.

Junior quarterback Collier Winters orchestrated an 11-play drive at the end of the third that reached the Penn 35, but his deep throw to junior Levi Richards hung up in the air too long, and Quaker safety Josh Powers caught up to the streaking wide receiver in time to pull down an interception in the endzone.

“We don’t really have one star player on the defense,” Rask said. “Each week we’ve had someone come up big, and we’ve made the plays when we need to make them, and we just never really quit.”