BOSTON — At practice last week, Penn football coach Al Bagnoli compared the style and dominance of Harvard to that of the New England Patriots.
In most other years, I would call that an exaggerated analogy. But this year, the Patriots are vulnerable.
Following my theory that the Quakers are the Pittsburgh Steelers of the Ivy League — a defense-first, blue collar football team — I really gave Penn a chance against the Crimson Patriots.
When the Quakers marched down the field in the first quarter to score the first touchdown, it began to seem like fate for the Red and Blue.
Then the second quarter rolled around, and I remembered all those times the Patriots kept the Steelers out of the Super Bowl, picking apart Ben Roethlisberger and shutting down Pittsburgh’s strong points.
In the first quarter, I saw two championship teams. In the second quarter — and third and fourth, as well — I only saw one. One team wanted the championship, one team played like a champion and one team became a champion.
Not to take too much away from the Quakers — they certainly did what they needed to do throughout the season to compete for a third consecutive title — but Harvard made something out of every opportunity Penn handed its way.
Down 7-0, Harvard’s Josue Ortiz stripped the ball out of Jeff Jack’s hands and recovered the fumble at the Penn 24. One play later, Collier Winters’ pass was in the end zone.
When long snapper Ed Kispert and punter Scott Lopano erred for a loss of 20 yards, Harvard took over at Penn’s 18 and kicked a field goal as time expired in the first half.
“It’s all about short fields,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy said. “Short fields for the offense, and long fields for the defense.”
Harvard continued to operate with a short field, so much so that even Penn’s Ivy-best bend-don’t-break defense couldn’t make enough stops.
The Crimson did not have to dominate the play clock in order to run away with this game. Rather, they made use of quick plays for short yardage. Harvard scored all 37 points on drives totaling just over seven-and-a-half minutes.
Harvard’s sixth score came off a Billy Ragone interception at the beginning of the fourth quarter, when the Quakers still had a shot at a comeback.
But that’s what champions do. They don’t give opponents a chance to come back. They don’t even give opponents an inkling of an idea they can come back.
Once the 2011 Ivy champions entered the locker room leading 10-7 at halftime, Penn had a Goliath task on its hands.
The Quakers certainly went down with class, fighting to the end. But, in a turn of events from the beginning of the season, the Red and Blue were a one-dimensional passing team. The Crimson stuffed Brandon Colavita and the rest of the ground game for just 24 total yards.
Bagnoli was right. Saturday was like playing the Patriots. Harvard did all the right things to stay in control of the game.
“Harvard outplayed us today,” senior co-captain Erik Rask said.
That’s what champions do.
MEGAN SOISSON is a junior health and societies major from Mechanicsburg, Pa., and is Sports Editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. Her email address is soisson@theDP.com.