Football Clinches Share of Ivy Title

Sarah P Reid

Junior running back Paul Stanton, shown here in earlier action, spearheaded the Crimson's offensive production with 235 rushing yards and three scores.

PHILADELPHIA, Penn.— The last time that the Harvard football team came to Franklin Field, Penn upset the Crimson to clinch a share of the Ivy title, which it would eventually win outright.

This year’s Quakers team entered Saturday’s contest with just one win—over Ivy League bottom-feeder Columbia—and was tabbed as having an even longer shot of beating Harvard. But playing for 23-year coach Al Bagnoli in his final home game, Penn almost found enough to upset Harvard. Almost.   

Penn (1-8, 1-5 Ivy) didn’t make it easy for the Crimson (9-0, 6-0) on Saturday, but junior running back Paul Stanton came through time and time again for the visitors, and Harvard left Franklin Field with a 34-24 win.

The victory secured at least a share of the eighth Ivy League title for coach Tim Murphy’s squad in the last 20 years, and a win over Yale next weekend at Harvard Stadium would give the Crimson the outright title.

“To say that Penn gave us all we could handle is an understatement,” Murphy said. “We’re lucky to get out of here alive…. It’s a tremendous compliment to [Bagnoli’s] leadership and what he’s done for this program. They played like an outstanding football team today.... Today they played like a team that expected to win.”


As the Crimson struggled to get anything going offensively in the third quarter—failing to get a single first down until the final 90 seconds of the quarter—Penn made the top-ranked secondary of the league look downright ordinary.

Quakers quarterback Alek Torgersen burned the Crimson all day with his dual-threat ability, recording 39 rushing yards on top of his 211 passing yards, as well as a touchdown on the ground and through the air. Torgersen moved the squad efficiently down the field on Penn’s opening drive of the half, finding wide receiver Mitchell King wide open in the end zone to knot the score at 17-all.

Botched snaps on the next drive forced another three-and-out for the Crimson, and senior punter David Bicknell kicked it away from the back of the end zone. The Quakers got the ball at Harvard’s 38 and capitalized on the opportunity, as Torgersen capped off the drive with his own four-yard scoring run to put Penn up for the second time of the day, 24-17.


“That’s where you really find out what kind of football team you have,” Murphy said. “We had every opportunity to fold today. And it wasn’t coaching. It wasn’t anything other than our kids’ will to just somehow get this thing into the win column.”

Then, 12 minutes from watching a title opportunity slip away yet again, the Crimson came to life on both sides of the ball. The defense blocked a Penn field goal—its second deflected kick on the day—and kicker Andrew Flesher tacked on a field goal of his own. It was Torgersen’s turn to fumble the snap, and this led to a Penn three-and-out.

The Crimson’s offense finally clicked when it needed to. Junior quarterback Scott Hosch found Stanton on a screen that turned into a 19-yard gain, and then senior receiver Ty Hamblin took a couple of Penn defenders with him into the end zone to take the advantage back for good, 27-24.

A shanked punt gave Harvard the ball in Penn territory, and Stanton padded the lead, gaining 34 rushing yards on the drive en route to barreling into the end zone. His third score of the day, the touchdown gave the Crimson the decisive 34-24 lead.

“We’re used to adversity. We knew it would be a tough game going in,” Stanton said. “We just knew we had the ability to finish. We just had to go out there and play the play.”

Stanton ended the day with 235 yards on the ground, as well as 41 receiving, surpassing his previous career rushing high of 180 yards.


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