BOSTON — There were no celebratory cigar puffs filling Harvard Stadium, no fans storming the field, and no trophy presentations after the Crimson secured the Ivy football championship.
That’s the way Harvard coach Tim Murphy wanted it: shake hands with the Quakers and sprint off the field after a 37-20 victory that brought the Ancient Eight title back to Boston for the first time since 2008.
The Crimson ran through Penn’s defense, scoring 37 unanswered points to remain undefeated on the Ivy season. Coupled with Dartmouth’s win over Brown, Harvard sealed its 14th outright championship.
“We had to play perfect here at Harvard and we didn’t,” Penn senior wide receiver Ryan Calvert said.
Penn struck first, as junior quarterback Billy Ragone found Calvert for a 21-yard touchdown pass at the end of the first quarter.
Then Harvard shut it down.
When the Quakers took over at their own 24 early in the second quarter, junior running back Jeff Jack was stood up at the line of scrimmage on the first play, and Harvard defensive tackle Josue Ortiz ripped the ball free for a turnover. Harvard wasted no time, as quarterback Collier Winters hit Cameron Brate for a 24-yard touchdown.
With the first half winding down, Harvard running back Zack Boden, splitting duty with Treavor Scales, took a handoff for 14 yards to give the Crimson a 14-7 lead.
If the momentum was shifting in the Crimson’s favor, it would be solidly in their hands by halftime.
Penn was forced to punt with six seconds remaining in the half. Senior long snapper Ed Kispert — who had trouble locating his snaps all day — sent the ball wide, forcing punter Scott Lopano to fall on it at the Penn 18. Harvard’s kicker David Mothander put in a field goal to take a 17-7 lead at the break.
“We lost a lot of momentum there, and it goes back to turnovers,” Penn coach Al Bagnoli said. “You can’t go against good teams, especially on the road, and put yourself in a scenario where you’re going to turn the ball over three or four times and make a lot of mistakes.”
The second half was more of the same as Winters and Scales both ran in touchdowns, and Ragone threw a pick-six to junior Alexander Norman, as Penn spun its wheels offensively.
The Red and Blue’s typically-bruising running game was held to 24 total yards. With the rush failing to pull its weight, Bagnoli was forced to pass, but this “one-dimensional” offense was easy for Harvard to defend, he said.
In the second half, the Crimson forced five three-and-outs on Penn’s first seven drives. The other two ended in turnovers.
Bagnoli attributed some of the mistakes to the team’s youth.
“We have 62 kids traveling, 12 kids who are graduating of that 62,” he said. “This is a really young football team that’s been somewhat erratic but … I think the foundation is there.”
The late-season Penn-Harvard matchup has been the de-facto Ivy championship game for three years — one of these two teams has won the last five titles. Looking to next year, Bagnoli doesn’t see that changing, at least on his end.
“The program is not going away.”
But after two years sitting on 33rd Street, the Ivy trophy will be collected this week and taken to New Haven, Conn., where — regardless of whether Harvard beats Yale — the Crimson will take it home.
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