For two seasons in a row, Penn had thwarted Harvard’s shot at an Ivy League title.
Not in 2011.
Going into the year, the Quakers were picked to take the Ancient Eight title for the third straight season. But with Harvard racking up victory after victory, and with Penn losing against Brown two weeks ago, the dynamic of the Ivy League looked like it was changing. Saturday’s game completed the transfer of power, as a matchup that was meant to be close turned out to be anything but.
Harvard fell behind in the first quarter, 7-0, but Penn failed to score again until the final minutes of the game. The Crimson scored 17 in the second quarter to take a 10-point lead and didn’t look back en route to a 37-20 win.
Several costly miscues gave the Crimson scoring chances throughout the game, and Harvard capitalized, scoring twice on drives set up by Penn fumbles and again on a series made possible by a sloppy turnover on downs from the Quakers.
And with Dartmouth’s 21-16 upset over Brown, Harvard clinched the Ivy League championship outright. The title is the Crimson’s 14th in program history and the first since 2008.
“I think the conviction and intensity our kids played with was impressive,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy said. “I’m just tremendously proud of everybody in the Harvard football family.”
Down by seven at the start of the second quarter, senior defensive tackle Josue Ortiz forced and recovered a fumble on the Quaker 24. On the next play, senior quarterback Collier Winters fired a pass over the middle to sophomore tight end Cameron Brate, who bobbled the catch but held on for Harvard’s first score of the day.
Highlighted by the fumble recovery—a turning point in the Saturday game—Ortiz’s performance was one of his best of the season. The red-shirt senior registered two sacks in the first quarter and led the team with 10 tackles, 3.5 of which were tackles for losses.
“What I’ve been blessed with, I feel like the coaches have been able to squeeze out every bit of potential I have,” Ortiz said. “That goes out to the coaches.”
The defense effectively shut down the Penn run game all afternoon. The Quakers managed only 24 net rushing yards, including a net loss of eight rushing yards in the first two quarters.
Penn’s troubles continued at the end of the half. With just seconds left, Quaker punter Scott Loprano could not grab a low snap, and a turnover on downs gave Harvard a chance to add three more on a field goal going into intermission. Sophomore kicker David Mothander did just that, hitting the 35-yarder to give the Crimson a 17-7 lead with two seconds left in the frame.
“For us to come here, we knew we had to play a very, very solid game with a minimal amount of mistakes, turnovers, penalties, kick game errors, and obviously we didn’t do that today,” Penn coach Al Bagnoli said.
After a quick three-and-out from Penn to start the second half, Winters led an efficient drive in his first chance of the third quarter, scoring on a four-yard run on a series that lasted under four minutes. The Crimson held that 24-7 lead for the rest of the quarter.
In the final play of the third quarter, junior running back Treavor Scales broke free from the Penn defense, and was just barely caught, falling at the five yard line.