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PHILADFLPHIA-Last spring, a lot of people thought this game should be played in Japan A group of American businessmen living in Tokyo offered to fly the Harvard and Penn teams to the Orient for a showdown in the Mirage Bowl. But this scheme did not appeal to the Ivy League presidents, who vetoed the idea on the grounds that it violated the schools academic principles.
So credit the Ivy presidents with keeping what has become the league's championship game on turf no more exotic than the artificial surface at Penn's Franklin Field.
They did it unwittingly, of course. At the opening of the season, no one could have predicted that today's confrontation would make one of the two teams at least a partial holder of the 1982 Ivy title.
Coming off a 1-9 record in 1981, the Quakers were marked at the league's doormat. A 21.0 season opening win over Dartmouth changed a few minds, but most passed it off as a fluke. The Philadelphians followed it, however, with a 20-17 victory over Lehigh, a team that handled them 58-0 last year.
The Quakers now have respect, a 4-1 Ivy record (6.2 overall) and a chance to become the Ivy League champions--by beating Harvard (also 4-1 and 6-2 overall).
Whichever team wins today will have at least a share of the title, and it this afternoon's winner beats its final opponent of the season--Harvard takes on Yale and Penn meets Cornell next weekend--it will claim sole possession of the Ivy crown.
The two teams have considerably more in common than their identical season records. Both enter this game after surprising wins over vaunted NCAA Division I-AA teams last Saturday. Penn upended Colgate, 21-13, while Harvard stunned Holy Cross, 24-17.
In addition, both teams rely heavily on their quarterbacks. Harvard's Don Allard has thrown for 11 TDs and has rushed for six more. Meanwhile, Penn's Gary Vura has 12 TD passes to his credit and has completed 118 of 221 attempts for 1394 yards.
Harvard and Penn also like to use several different running backs to pick up yardage on the ground. For Penn. Steve Flacco (374 yards, three TDs) and Steve Rubin (297 yards, four TDs) are the big threats.
But despite the similarities, there is one major difference. Statistically, the Crimson has outplayed nearly every opponent this season, whereas Penn's opponents lead the Quakers in every category but points scored and interceptions.
"Their offense is built around the big play Penn has been able to take advantage of every mistake teams have made against them and that's how they matured and turned themselves into winners." Harvard Defensive Coordinator George Clemens said.
And for what it's worth, Harvard also has history on its side. The Crimson embarrassed Penn last fall, taking a 45-7 decision at Soldiers Field. Overall, the Quakers have not beaten Harvard since 1972, and they have not outdone the Crimson in Philly since 1963.
THE NOTEBOOK: Harvard has played on an artificial surface only once this season (against Army) and so the team spent some of its Thursday afternoon workout time on the phony turf floor in the new Briggs Cage facility... Defensive End Pat Fleming, who fractured a bone in his left hand last weekend, will wear a soft cast made of silicone and he intends to play this afternoon... Harvard's win over Holy Cross last Saturday earned the Crimson 14th place in this week's Division I-AA national poll.
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