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In 1983, Penn football would share another Ivy League crown with Harvard.

Credit: DP Archives

This story is part of a series on Penn football's 18 Ivy League titles. Click here to read about the team's 1982 championship.

So close, yet so far. For the second straight season, Penn football was on top of the Ivy League, once again sharing the title with Harvard.

With two games remaining in the 1983 season, the Quakers were undefeated in League play, beating the likes of Cornell, Columbia, and Yale convincingly while tying Brown and slightly edging past Princeton. The Red and Blue now had their eyes set on winning the Ancient Eight outright for the first time since 1959. 

Next on their schedule was Harvard, looking to take revenge on their controversial, walk-off loss to the Quakers from a season ago. On November 12, 1983, Penn football traveled to Harvard Stadium tied with Dartmouth at the top of Ivy standings.

A win against the Crimson would have guaranteed a championship game against the Big Green at Franklin Field the following week, but by the end of the day, there would be a three-way tie for first place in the Ivy League.  

Led by All-Ivy running back Steve Ernst, Harvard avenged its 1982 loss in a convincing manner, shutting the Quakers out 28-0. After a Dartmouth loss to Brown, the Red and Blue needed a victory against the Big Green in the season finale to be in contention for the Ivy League title. And they came to play. 

"Harvard controlled us up front last week and made those mistakes happen," quarterback John McGeehan said after the game. "We controlled Dartmouth and everything bounced our way."

In front of a home crowd of more than 28,000 at Franklin Field, the Quakers played a dominant game against Dartmouth, sacking Big Green quarterback Frank Polsinello 11 times throughout the game, intercepting him once, and recovering four fumbles.

''Our plan was to challenge them,'' coach Jerry Berndt said. ''I told the squad all week long that we wanted to run at them a little bit, dominate the line of scrimmage on defense and take them out of their game. And we did that today.''

After a scoreless first quarter in which the Big Green held the ball for 11 minutes, the Quakers jumped out to a quick 21-0 lead in just five minutes and 39 seconds of game time. The Red and Blue would increase their lead to 38-0 before Dartmouth scored their first points of the game in the fourth quarter, long after the game had already been decided.

Leading the way for the Quakers to their second straight Ivy League Championship was workhorse senior fullback Chuck Nolan, who rushed for 130 yards and scored two touchdowns. 

''I feel just like I look,'' Nolan said after tearfully embracing backfield coach Doug Jackson. ''It's been a real emotional day. It's been a good four years. Today, it was just one of those days when I couldn't do anything wrong. Maybe I should have played the horses or something.''

Nolan and the rest of the 1983 Penn football team set the foundation for the program’s future success. In the following three seasons, the Quakers would win the Ivy League championship each year. And each year, they won it outright — no more sharing the title.

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