With time running down in the first half of Saturday's football game at Franklin Field, fans started a star-crossed chant.
"You have two points!" they shouted toward the Harvard sideline. The score at that point was 34-2, in Penn's favor.
Three years ago, the Penn men's basketball team was beating Princeton, 29-3, when fans shouted "You have three points!" Princeton stormed back in the second half to win, 50-49, in what is now known as "Black Tuesday."
The day was indeed dark on Saturday, as a cold and heavy rain fell steadily onto the turf, but there would be no great debacle. Only a second half that was nearly as dominating as the first -- and sweet, sweet revenge.
This is the stuff made for movies.
It's almost too perfect that Penn and Harvard met under the exact same circumstances this year as last, both undefeated, both vying for that coveted ring.
Travis Belden said before the start of this season that last year's loss to Harvard was the worst feeling he had ever experienced.
It only makes sense, then, that Saturday's victory was his best.
"You couldn't have painted a better picture," the senior said after the game, dressed in a fresh-out-of-the-box Ivy League Champions shirt. "Ending my career like this, it's such a sweet scene. It's the best feeling in my football life."
Belden thinks about it some more before adding with a priceless smile, "It's the best feeling in my life."
It really was a perfect Franklin Field season finale for the Quakers, and an even more perfect home finale for the Quakers' seniors.
You must remember, it was last year's Penn team that looked invincible and was predicted to win the Ivy League with ease. It was last year's team that featured 17 All-Ivy players, including the most prolific passer in school history. And it was last year's team that had the Ivy title snatched from its seemingly firm grasp on a brisk Boston afternoon.
This year's team, with a somewhat different cast of characters but the same run-stuffing defense and air-it-out offense, obliterated its Ivy competition. Harvard did its part too, winning all of its league games to set up the much-anticipated rematch.
The stage was set on Saturday. The ESPN crew was there.The fans came out, despite the nasty weather.
The anticipation built leading up to kickoff, and then, almost anti-climactically, it was over, as the Quakers flat-out hammered a Harvard team that was predicted, at the start of the season, to repeat as Ivy champs.
Sweet revenge indeed.
"Last year's game, we were thinking about it all year," said fifth-year senior Rob Milanese, who caught nine passes for 139 yards and a touchdown on Saturday. In last year's game in Boston, a Milanese fumble set up a Harvard touchdown that put the Crimson up for good.
"This was definitely good payback."
What makes it even sweeter is that almost nobody originally thought the 2002 Quakers could topple Harvard, much less be in this position to topple Harvard for the Ivy title.
One year later, the Quakers can erase the painful memories of the Harvard fans charging the field last November and replace them with memories of Penn fans doing the same --a sea of Red and Blue amidst a bunch of padded men exchanging victory cigars and joyous hugs.
For Travis Belden, Rob Milanese and the rest of the squad's seniors, this is likely the last hurrah.
For most players who pass through this program, there is no post-Penn football career.
"I think the great thing about playing here is you do it for all the right reasons," said senior linebacker Steve Lhotak, who had eight tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery in his final game at Franklin Field. "The majority of us play because we love to do it. We're not in it for potential contracts. We strap it up every day because we enjoy it.
"I think it's a great chance to show everyone what football really means."
There will be no multi-million contracts or shoe deals or television exposure for the participants in Saturday's game.
Heck, the winner of the Ivy League doesn't even get to be represented in the Division I-AA playoffs.
The only thing to play for, as cheesy as it might sound, is the joy of winning -- that is what Lhotak and the rest of the Quakers hoped to get across to the national audience that was suddenly exposed to a game without any sort of postseason implications.
And as the goal posts swayed and the players gathered in one final Franklin Field huddle, that sheer ecstacy of winning at least a share of a league championship was revealed, something that was stripped from them last season.
To quote Steve Lhotak, that's what football really means.Comments powered by Disqus
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