Two years ago, it came to an end in a torrential downpour at Harvard Stadium, with a 17-7 defeat.
One year later, it was over at Franklin Field, where four Harvard turnovers gave Penn its second straight title.
But on Saturday, things were different.
After its title dreams were shattered by the Quakers in the year’s penultimate contest for two consecutive seasons, the Crimson was not to be denied this time around.
This time, it was Harvard’s year.
This time, the Crimson were champions.
With a 37-20 thrashing of Penn (5-4, 4-2 Ivy) on its home turf, No. 14 Harvard (8-1, 6-0) remained unscathed in 2011 Ivy play, won its eighth straight game, and, most importantly, clinched the Ivy League title outright with one game—The Game—still to go.
With a little help from Dartmouth—whose 21-16 victory over Brown earlier in the afternoon eliminated the Bears from contention—Harvard won its first title since 2008 and its 14th all-time.
“It never gets old, I guarantee you that,” said Harvard coach Tim Murphy, who won his sixth championship in 18 years at the helm of the Crimson. “When you don’t win one, it honestly feels very hard to get back there. It’s the culmination of so much hard work. ... This is what makes it worthwhile.”
Facing its first real test since Brown seven weeks ago, Harvard looked as dominant as ever, scoring 30-plus points for the seventh straight game—the first time since 1890 a Crimson squad has accomplished that feat—and, most impressively, doing so against the top-ranked defense in the conference.
To win, Harvard did two things—it ran the ball effectively, and it stopped the run even more so.
Freshman Zach Boden and junior Treavor Scales combined for 151 yards on the ground on just 21 carries, good for 7.2 yards per attempt. In comparison, the Crimson averaged just 3.3 yards per carry against the Quakers in their past two meetings.
Both Boden and Scales each also scored touchdowns, the rookie on a 14-yard scamper to put Harvard up, 14-7, with just over a minute left in the first half, and the veteran on a two-yard score to put the Crimson ahead, 30-7, early in the fourth.
Defensively, Harvard limited the Quakers to just 24 yards on the ground on 30 attempts. Last year, Penn rushed for 206 yards against Harvard in its championship-clinching win.
“I think the line of scrimmage was strictly won by their kids,” Penn coach Al Bagnoli said. “We struggled more than any time this year to run the football. We became one-dimensional.”