This story is part of a series on Penn football's 18 Ivy League titles. Click here to read about the team's 1986 championship.
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Penn football regained the Ivy league title in 1988 after an off year in 1987, when the Quakers went 4-6. The Quakers went 9-1 overall and 6-1 in conference play. After the championship, Penn had won a share of the conference title in five of the previous six years.
The Quakers opened the season on a rainy day in Hanover, N.H., against the Dartmouth Big Green. The Big Green scored the contest's first points with a 5-yard touchdown with 55 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Red and Blue responded in the second quarter with points of their own, taking a 10-7 lead right before the half. Penn would take the lead before half time and not relinquish it, winning the season opener 33-27.
The next week, Penn welcomed Bucknell to Franklin Field and won by a narrow margin of 38-35. The Red and Blue stormed out to a commanding 31-17 lead at the beginning of the third quarter. The Bison responded with a run of their own, scoring 14 unanswered points to take the lead with 10:10 remaining.
The Red and Blue came back with quarterback Malcolm Glover driving his team 38 yards on seven plays, which ended with running back Bryan Keys running in from two yards to score and seal the victory.
"The thing that was really rewarding today was that we were able to drive the football offensive when the pressure was on," coach Ed Zubrow said. "We do still have a few things to work out, though."
Penn would go undefeated in the next five games against Columbia, Brown, Colgate, Yale, and Princeton by scores of 24-10, 10-0, 33-22, 10-3, 31-23. During the five-game span, the Quakers outscored opponents 108-58.
On Nov. 5, 1988, the Quakers played against No.18 Lafayette in Easton, Pa., which remains one of the greatest games in program history.
Going into the game, Penn was only one of three teams in the nation left undefeated along with Marshall and Western Illinois.
Anyone arriving late to the game would have been shocked to see that the scoreboard read 31-17. The game started with Lafayette fumbling the opening kickoff and fumbling the ball again on the next possession. Still, Penn was unable to capitalize on the opportunity to get ahead early.
"We didn't capitalize on turnovers early in the game as much as I thought we'd need too," Zubrow said. "But there was no sense of frustration whatsoever. It's a mature group we have, and there was no sense of panic."
The Quakers gave up 17 in the first quarter, but would not give up anymore in the game. The Red and Blue scored 14 unanswered points to win the game. The Leopards had six turnovers as opposed to Penn's zero, and that ended up being the game changer.
"We could say that we beat ourselves," Lafayette head coach Bill Russo said. "But Penn flat out beat us. A lot of those turnovers were a direct result of how well they played."
After the Lafayette game, the Quakers were the only remaining undefeated team in the nation and earned a No.19 ranking in the national polls.
The next week, in front of 37,000 in Franklin Field, Penn captured at least a share of the Ivy crown with a dominant 52-13 win against Harvard.
Penn opened the game with a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and never looked back to capture the title. The Crimson responded with a touchdown of their own in the second quarter. By the end of the third quarter, the score was 31-7. The Quakers scored three more times after to hand the Crimson their worst Ivy defeat since 1964.
"A lot of guys who were playing got their butts kicked [31-14] up there last year. It meant a lot to our senior linemen to dominate that line," Zubrow said. "Our goal was to win the Ivy championship. We realized that today, and circumstances give us the reward of playing for [an] undefeated season."
After the win against Harvard, the Quakers moved up to No.14 in the poll and would play Cornell the next week for sole ownership of the title.
Unfortunately for the Quakers, they were denied the perfect season and lost after a big 16-point fourth quarter from the Big Red.
"At the same time this was not a championship game, not a winner-take-all game," Zubrow said at the time. "Once we get over the hurt, we'll see what a tremendous year this was."
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