After handing Harvard its first conference loss of the year last weekend, Penn needed one more win to clinch the Ivy League football championship. The Quakers rose to the occasion, recording an emphatic 34-0 victory for their defense’s second shutout of the year. The lopsided win negated Harvard’s valiant comeback against Yale to win the game 14-10. Had the Quakers lost, Crimson quarterback Collier Winters’ 32-yard touchdown strike with 1:32 left would have meant not only a win for his team but also a share of its third straight Ivy League crown.
Penn was not interested in such heroics, however, as they capped off their rise to league supremacy in convincing fashion. Going into the weekend, Penn won seven straight games after a disappointing 0-2 start. Their opponent, the Cornell Big Red, had little chance—Penn was favored by over four touchdowns. Indeed, the Quakers beat the other Ivy heavyweight, Harvard, in their last game to claim their spot as sole leader of the league and establish themselves as the team to beat. The impressive win came with the defense halting a late Harvard comeback with a goal line stand.
The stand was representative of the stout play of Penn’s defense that has become a trademark of this year’s squad. Despite its strong effort against the Crimson, the Quaker defense may have saved its best for last. Playing on Senior Day at Franklin Field last Saturday and following the lead of senior co-captain Chris Wynn, Penn’s defense allowed zero points, four first downs, and 110 total yards. Cornell amassed 61 of those yards on its last drive of the game, with Penn’s starters on the sideline and ready to celebrate. In addition, Cornell was forced to punt eight times.
As has been the case this year for the Quakers, the Penn special teams and offensive units ensured the defense’s dominance proved decisive. The special teams chipped in early, blocking a Cornell punt with 10:41 remaining in the opening quarter and setting up an easy score for the Red and Blue offense. From there, Quaker quarterbacks Kyle Olson and Keiffer Garton would combine to direct a methodical attack that logged four scoring drives of eight plays or more en route to amassing 26 first downs.
The steady offensive production relied heavily on a balanced running game. Nine Quakers got carries on the day, with Garton’s 76 yards on 11 carries highlighting the list. Overall, Penn tallied 251 yards on the ground on 49 carries. With the win, Penn finishes the year 8-2 overall and 7-0 in Ivy League competition. The conference crown was the program’s record 11th outright championship and the 14th overall. The trophy represents Coach Al Bagnoli’s seventh outright title, the most in Ivy League history.
In clinching the title, Penn ensured that Harvard and Yale’s rivalry contest, dubbed “The Game”, would have no championship implications. The turnout indicated the matchup still carried weight with both players and fans—52,692 spectators showed up to watch the Crimson topple the Bulldogs at the Yale Bowl behind two fourth-quarter scores.
The massive crowd was treated to a sluggish defensive struggle for the first three quarters, with Yale holding a 10-0 lead going into the last 15 minutes of play. Crimson quarterback Winters had other plans, however, and the Bulldogs’ designs on an upset went awry as Winters drove the field twice.
Harvard found itself in a second-half hole due to two failed fourth down tries in Yale territory in the first half. Despite the first half difficulties, Winters only needed 1:50 to find the end zone when handed the ball midway through the fourth. Following a crucial conversion on fourth-and-four from the Harvard 30-yard line, he connected with Matt Luft on a 41-yard touchdown bomb that cut the deficit to 10-7 with 6:46 to play.
Yale’s next possession ended abruptly with 2:25 to play after the Yale coach called an inextricable fake punt reverse on fourth-and-22 from their own 25-yard line—despite the fact that the Bulldogs had the best punter in the league, Tom Mante, waiting on the sideline. The turnover on downs gave the Crimson a short field, and Winters only needed three plays to etch his name in the lore of The Game with his game-winning touchdown toss with less than two minutes to play. The win left Harvard’s final season record at 7-3 overall and 6-1 in Ivy play, while Yale finishes at 4-6, 2-5 Ivy.
In other Ancient Eight action, Dartmouth found itself in an 18-point second-half deficit it could not overcome against Princeton in Hanover, N.H. The Big Green (2-8, 2-5) fell 23-11 on the day as the Tigers (4-6, 3-4) finished their 2009 campaign on a high note.