This story is part of a series on Penn football's 18 Ivy League titles. Click here to read about the team's 1984 championship.
Fresh off its first outright Ivy League title in 25 years, Penn football was motivated to repeat in 1985.
In coach Jerry Berndt's fifth year at the helm, the Quakers finished the 1985 season with a 7-2-1 record — including a 6-1 Ivy League slate — repeating as back-to-back outright champions. While their conference record was good enough for the overall title, it does not describe the season's down-to-the-wire drama.
Following a 1-1 start to the year, including a 41-3 defeat against Army in front of more than 20,000 fans at Franklin Field, the hopes of a repeat as Ivy League champion did not seem likely. The Black Knights ran all over the home side that day, rushing for 449 total yards in their victory.
But the Red and Blue were determined to right the ship. Penn went on a tear, winning its next five contests, four of which were against Ivy League opponents. Among these triumphs were a 46-14 defeat over Columbia and two shutout victories against Davidson and Yale in back-to-back weeks.
The team's five-game winning streak did not come without adversity. The Quakers got into a bad habit of falling behind in the first half, only to come storming back in the second for the victory. Notably, the Quakers fell behind by three touchdowns early in their contest against rival Princeton. Rather than giving up hope, they turned the tide and did not allow another point for the remainder of the game, turning a 21-0 deficit into a 31-21 victory.
Entering their ninth game of the season, the Quakers faced Harvard in a game that would decide the fate of their season. A win would clinch them the Ivy title outright, while a loss meant their destiny was no longer in their own hands.
Prior to this game, Penn was first in the Ivy League with a 5-0 conference record. Harvard sat in second at 4-1, followed by Princeton at 3-2. If the Quakers won the game, they would be out of reach for their conference foes.
On a dreary afternoon in Boston, Penn's offense never got going in a 17-6 loss. In fact, the Red and Blue did not score until the final 34 seconds of the game. The loss to Harvard snapped the team's 13-game Ivy League winning streak and put its hopes of a title on the line.
"They outplayed us," Berndt said after the game. "They were the better team. I thought we played well enough defensively to win. We just didn't move the ball and put points on the board."
Penn finished off the season against Dartmouth at Franklin Field, knowing a win would give them at least a share of the Ivy League title. With some luck and a Harvard loss against then 3-4-1 Yale, Penn would be able to take the title outright. The Red and Blue went out and handled business in a close game against Dartmouth, winning by a score of 19-14.
After Yale pulled off an upset over rival Harvard in front of a home crowd of 54,647 fans in a 17-6 win, the Quakers had secured an outright title.
Miraculously, everything went right for the Red and Blue in the final week of the season to secure a second straight outright Ivy League title and fourth consecutive overall.
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