THE BOOK OF SAMUELS: Harvard Takes Title
After watching Crimson football’s sloppy 30-22 loss to Holy Cross in Week 1, you never would’ve expected this.
You never would’ve expected the offense to blossom into one of the most prolific in Harvard history. You never would’ve expected the backup quarterback to step in and have the greatest two-game stretch any Crimson quarterback has ever had. And you never would’ve expected the Crimson to reel off win after win after win in dominant, unequivocal fashion.
And yet eight weeks later—eight decisive wins later—the Harvard Crimson stands alone atop the world of Ivy League football.
Saturday’s 37-20 win over Penn—coupled with Dartmouth’s shocking upset against Brown—gave Harvard the outright league title.
All season long, other than that first game, the Crimson had everyone’s number. No one could stop Harvard. Down went the Lions, the Tigers, and the Bears—oh my! Bucknell and Dartmouth looked like deer in headlights against the Mack Truck that was the Crimson, combining for just 13 points against Harvard while surrendering 83.
And while the Big Red came closest to an upset, the multi-faceted Harvard attack proved too much to handle in that 41-31 victory.
But in the end, all roads to the Ivy title travel through the Penn Quakers. The Crimson learned this the hard way over the past two seasons, with title hopes dashed in both 2009 and 2010 in the years’ penultimate games.
Coming into the season, critics thought the crown would stay in the tight grasp of Penn quarterback Billy Ragone and co. Two-time defending champions, the Quakers were the logical choice to three-peat. Deemed a juggernaut before the first kickoff of the year, the only question, it seemed, was whether anyone would come close.
In those same polls, critics chose Harvard to place second, likely envisioning a familiar scene. Both the Crimson and the Quakers would come into Harvard Stadium on Nov. 12 largely unscathed in league play. And Penn would come out on top, sealing its fate as the Ancient Eight king once more.
This year, the two actors switched roles. Don Corleone was given the offer he couldn’t refuse. Jack Nicholson couldn’t handle the truth.
Because on Saturday, it was Penn whose championship hopes were dashed. And it was Harvard which came out on top.
The Crimson left no doubt as to which team would be crowned. Playing like an Ivy League champion, Harvard opened up a resounding 37-7 lead—scoring 37 unanswered points before stepping on the brakes, allowing the visitors to claw back to within 17 points.
After a rocky first quarter, the game quickly became a coronation ceremony for the Crimson, a peaceful transfer of power.
But victory didn’t look assured in that first quarter, after the Quakers built a 7-0 lead and managed to hold Harvard scoreless. No other team had shut down the Crimson attack so effectively in an opening period.
More than that, for those first 15 minutes, the Quakers penetrated the Harvard offensive line with more success than any of the Crimson’s eight previous foes, and senior quarterback Collier Winters barely had time to blink before the Penn D-line had him surrounded.