On Homecoming and Senior Day, the Quakers’ Class of 2019 couldn’t complete the sweep against Harvard.
Penn football's seniors, as well as the rest of the team, suffered a 29-7 loss to the Crimson, who earned their first win in the series since 2014.
The Quakers’ final home game of the 2018 season got off to a fast start, as the junior cornerback Conor O’Brien intercepted Harvard senior quarterback Tom Stewart’s first pass of the game. But the Red and Blue (6-3, 3-3 Ivy) failed to capitalize on the turnover when sophomore quarterback Ryan Glover tossed an interception on the following play at Penn’s own 29 yard line.
“Their first drive, we had the pick, and then great excitement,” coach Ray Priore said. “Then we turn the ball right over.”
That inconsistency would plague the Quakers for the remainder of the game.
After trading interceptions, Harvard (5-4, 3-3) took advantage of its good field position with a one-yard touchdown run by senior running back Charlie Booker to give the Crimson a 7-0 lead with 11:54 left in the first quarter.
Harvard forced a Penn three-and-out to get the ball back, and the Crimson kept the ball on the ground with the duo of sophomore running back Aaron Shampklin and Booker. Both were elusive all day long, and Shampklin, who currently leads the Ivy League in rushing, was especially difficult to bring down. The pair finished the day with 158 rushing yards, most of which came in the first half.
Despite letting the Harvard inside their own 10 yard line, the Red and Blue defense held firm to force the Crimson into a field goal, which junior kicker Jake McIntyre converted to bring the lead to 10-0.
The Quakers started the next possession with good field position, at their own 40 yard line. The strong return set Glover up to complete a 32-yard pass to senior wide receiver Mike Akai, who made the diving grab at the one yard line.
After the big completion, though, Harvard stopped Penn on three consecutive running plays. On fourth-and-goal, Glover overthrew junior running back Karekin Brooks to turn the ball over on downs.
“They always say it’s a game of inches,” Priore said of Akai’s catch just short of the goal line. “And that’s sport, that’s life . . . when we had that fourth down, the player was wide open, we just rushed it, and it went over his head. Once again, [it’s] a game of inches.”
The second quarter was largely quiet, with both defenses getting stops, until a nine-yard touchdown pass from Harvard’s backup quarterback Jake Smith found senior receiver Brian Dunlap in the end zone to give the Crimson at 16-0 lead at the half.
The Quakers looked to come out strong to start the second half, but the offense’s struggles continued with another three-and-out. A porous offensive line struggled to create running lanes and gave the Red and Blue little time to throw the ball.
Both teams exchanged defensive stops before Glover threw his second interception, this time to Harvard’s senior defensive back Wesley Ogsbury. On the ensuing drive, the Crimson converted fourth-and-two before Smith again found Dunlap for a touchdown to extend the lead to 22-0.
"They had 20 points off turnovers," coach Ray Priore said. "That, basically, in my opinion, is the number one stat that you look at. That wins and loses games."
The Red and Blue’s junior quarterback Nick Robinson came in for the following possession but fumbled on a pass attempt. Harvard recovered the ball and Shampklin rushed for a score to make it 29-0. Robinson also fumbled the ball away on the next possession after struggling with an option play.
The Quakers finally found their way into the end zone with exactly 10 minutes to play. After a 31-yard completion from Glover to senior wide receiver Steve Farrell, Penn found itself in scoring position at Harvard’s 26 yard line. Just a few plays laters, Glover found junior wide receiver Kolton Huber for a 23-yard touchdown to make it 29-7.
All in all, it was a day to forget for the Red and Blue. Their defense was able to force the Crimson to punt multiple times, but the offense’s turnovers and inability to move the ball kept Penn from getting back into the game.
The Quakers will look to improve before they close out the regular season at Princeton (9-0, 5-0) next weekend.
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