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Entering his last game, Penn senior Travis Belden (above against Harvard) has 57 tackles, but he still is in pursuit of his first college TD. [Mary Kinosian/The Daily Pennsylvanian]

The Penn football team couldn't wait to face Harvard all season long. A 44-9 win showed just how anxious the Quakers were.

But now the Quakers must play a game of even greater statistical importance, a game that may decide if they get just a piece of the Ivy title -- or if they get it all to themselves.

Penn (8-1, 6-0 Ivy League) travels to Ithaca, N.Y. to take on Cornell (4-5, 3-3) tomorrow. The Ivy League championship lies in the balance.

"We don't want to let down because we don't want to lose what we think we rightfully deserve," Penn senior captain and defensive lineman Chris Pennington said. "We just want to finish what we started."

One might be quick to think that the Big Red's record speaks for itself. After all, they did lose to Harvard on Oct. 12, 53-23, and they have only beaten three teams in the Ancient Eight this season.

Penn, on the other hand, has yet to drop a single Ivy contest and is ranked No. 16 in Division I-AA. By demolishing the Harvard squad last weekend, the Quakers assured themselves at least a share of the Ivy League title.

But Penn cannot overlook what appears to be an inferior Big Red squad. A loss tomorrow, coupled with a Harvard win, would create a tie for the league title, between the Quakers and the Crimson.

And don't think that Cornell is going to roll over for the Quakers. Earning a win against the league's top team in the final game of what's been a turnaround season, Cornell could think of nothing better.

So this week's Penn practices have been focused on what Quakers' coach Al Bagnoli calls "the million-dollar question" -- how you forget about last week's big win and convince yourself that this one could mean even more.

Having to share the Ivy crown "would be devastating," Bagnoli said. "The kids hopefully understand the ramifications."

And from what the players are saying, it appears that they do.

"I think going into this game we have to regain our focus," Pennington said.

But mental preparation isn't the only thing on the minds of Penn's coaching staff.

Cornell's running game has been its strength all season long. Having to ease into a new quarterback at the beginning of the season, the Big Red were slow to come into their new offensive scheme. However, in recent weeks, the offense' production has hit its peak.

Cornell running back Marcus Blanks, a sophomore, has the league's third best statistics with 539 yards on 119 attempts and five touchdowns. Penn's Stephen Faulk is tenth on the same list.

However, Cornell's team statistics aren't comparable to those of the Quakers. Penn leads the Ancient Eight in virtually every category, or at least rank in the top three.

Just to add one more stake to this all-important contest, it is also the seniors' last game in a Penn uniform.

Since Ivy League football teams are prohibited from competing in the Division I-AA playoffs, this will be the last chance for seniors like Rob Milanese, Travis Belden, Pennington, Vince Alexander and Erik Bolinder to make their mark.

And what better way to do it than with an undefeated run to the Ivy title?

"Most of all the leaders on this team are seniors," Mitchell said. "They want to have a great memory for their last game, and the rest of us aren't going to let them have any bad memories."

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