ITHACA, N.Y. — Penn’s title teams of 2009 and 2010 may have run the Ivy League table, but the 2012 version is the most impressive of the current — dare I say — dynasty.
This squad didn’t go into the year as the preseason favorite. It wasn’t going to overwhelm opponents with an awesome aerial attack or a devastatingly good ground game. It did have The Stable, but that didn’t last long.
What the 2012 team had was grit, leadership and a lot of solid individual parts, which together made for one great team.
Oh yeah, and don’t forget about an incredible will to win.
Down 20-10 to Columbia with less than eight minutes to go, facing a late 17-14 deficit against Brown on Homecoming weekend, down a touchdown heading into the final frame on the road at Princeton, tied at 28 with two minutes remaining after blowing a 15-point fourth-quarter lead at Cornell … the Quakers won them all.
That’s what will separate this championship from the rest for senior captain Brandon Copeland.
“It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t perfect or pretty at all,” said Copeland, who played in all but one game during his four-year Penn career. “We all stayed together. There weren’t too many easy wins. We weren’t blowing teams out this year.”
In fact, the Quakers’ biggest “blowout” of the season came in their 30-21 victory over Harvard. It was their only win of the season by more than one possession, and their six Ivy wins came by an average of just 6.2 points.
If anything epitomized Penn’s season, it was the fourth quarter Saturday against the Big Red. Holding a 28-13 lead with 15 minutes to play, the Red and Blue could have — or should have — coasted to victory. But of course it wouldn’t come that easy.
Cornell pulled within 28-20 at the 12:13 mark, got the ball back with 7:18 to go and tied the game with 2:57 remaining. In less than 10 minutes of play, the Quakers’ victory lap had become a sprint to the finish.
Still, the offense led by Andrew Holland, starting his first career collegiate game in place of Billy Ragone, was confident heading onto the field.
“With the short kickoff we had pretty good field position, so we were actually pretty calm in the huddle,” Holland said.
And why shouldn’t they have been? Time and time again the Quakers had come through in the clutch, and Saturday was no different.
Holland promptly marched the Quakers down the field like a seasoned field general, leading a six-play, 63-yard drive for the go-ahead touchdown.
After Cornell’s final drive stalled dramatically at Penn’s 8-yard line,the Quakers were outright Ivy League champions.
And an unpredictable season ended predictably.
MIKE WISNIEWSKI is a senior classical studies major from Philadelphia and is Sports Editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be reached at wisniewski@theDP.com.