ITHACA N.Y. -- Two years ago, the Penn football team traveled to Ithaca for the final game of the 2000 season -- and came home with a 30-point victory over Cornell and the Ivy League championship.
On Saturday, the Quakers did it again. But this time, they won by 31.
Fighting through a bitter cold, a wind chill in the low teens and a team that wouldn't seem to go away, Penn capped off a perfect Ivy season with a 31-0 thumping of the Big Red at Schoellkopf Field.
Using a 24-point fourth quarter that turned a tight contest into a blowout, the Quakers (9-1) finished the 2002 season with the outright Ivy title, an unblemished 7-0 league mark and a place in Penn lore as one of the greatest football teams ever.
Or at least in the Al Bagnoli era.
"It's [the 2002 team] got to be right up there when you combine defense, offense and kicking game," the Quakers' head coach said.
"As I told them, 'It's going to take a heck of a football team to beat you.' And [Saturday] was no exception. Our kids have played very, very well."
The game began auspiciously for Penn. After senior Stephen Faulk intercepted a pass deep in Penn territory, the Quakers drove 84 yards for a touchdown on their first possession.
The star of that 16-play drive was Rob Milanese, who hauled in five receptions for 52 yards, including a TD catch over two defenders.
The senior wide receiver was also the star of the game. Already the holder of virtually every Penn receiving record, Milanese put a double-exclamation mark on his extraordinary career, catching 15 passes for 172 yards.
The 15 catches was a school record for single-game receptions. The former record-holder? Milanese, of course.
"I think it was a fun game to be my last game," Milanese said. "[It was] a good way to go out."
With Milanese and fellow senior wideout Erik Bolinder (who chipped in with six receptions for 64 yards) catching everything thrown their way and quarterback Mike Mitchell fueling the high-powered offense (he was 28-for-39 for 269 yards), the Quakers dominated the entire game. But for the first three quarters, they had trouble putting points on the scoreboard.
And then, the fourth quarter.
In that stanza, the Quakers scored 24 points. Cornell had 13 yards.
"Our defense in the first half and into the third quarter played their hearts out," Cornell coach Tim Pendergast said. "But we weren't able to move the football, and that eventually wore our defense out.
"I believe in my heart that we're closer to the University of Pennsylvania than 31-0, but today we weren't."
Actually, the Quakers beat up on Cornell no worse than they did the rest of their Ivy opponents.
Penn finished the season with a 30.1-point average margin of victory, the best in league history.
The Quakers set a couple more Ancient Eight records, scoring 43.0 points per league game and holding the opposition to a mere 43.6 yards on the ground.
"Coming in, with you guys picking us fourth, it's been a goal to play like this, to come out and get all these victories," senior linebacker Travis Belden said. "This is a cosmic intersection of the best personalities, the best abilities all coming together. It's amazing."
While this 2002 Penn team may very well go down as one of the greatest teams in Penn history, the seniors know there's plenty of great football ahead, even if they're no longer with the program.
""It's something that we didn't start, and we're not going to end it," said Faulk, who rushed for 95 yards on 20 carries and scored twice. "We play so well because we've seen other guys before us play so well.
"The tradition is something greater than us and hopefully it will continue long after we've graduated."Comments powered by Disqus
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