This story is part of a series on Penn football's 18 Ivy League titles. Click here to read about the team's 1988 championship.
Throughout the early history of the Penn's football team, the Quakers have seen times of incredible success and tough failures. Since the first year of official Ivy League play in 1956, the Red and Blue have asserted themselves as dominant members of the conference.
However, success evaded the Quakers for many seasons. Besides an Ivy League title in 1959, Penn waited 23 years until Jerry Berndt steered the program to a tradition of success starting in 1982. After winning three consecutive titles, he passed the torch to Ed Zubrow, who added to his success with titles in 1986 and 1988.
Between 1989 and 1991, during Gary Steele’s short stint at the helm, the Quakers performed poorly, posting losing records for all of his tenure.
In 1992, Al Bagnoli was named head coach and started his reign as the most successful coach in the history of Penn football. His 1993 season was his first championship in what would become a series nine outright championships, an Ivy League record.
The 1993 season started off on a strong note for Bagnoli. Tasked with playing Dartmouth — the pre-season title favorites — at home, the game was played in the pouring rain, which gave the Quakers a much-needed advantage. Jay Fiedler, Dartmouth’s star quarterback, was all but neutralized and could not hold onto a slippery football.
Furthermore, Penn junior Terrance Stokes’ determination — with 125 yards on 26 carries — led them to upset the defending champions 10-6. Coach Bagnoli was quoted as saying that Mother Nature provided a definite advantage to the Quakers.
Penn played Bucknell the next week in Lewisburg, Pa., dominating the Bison 42-12. Senior Jim McGeehan played a fantastic game, throwing for 251 yards and three touchdowns.
Penn then traveled home, playing Fordham at Franklin Field. Penn trailed for most of the game, falling behind 24-7 at the end of the first half and down by 16 with four minutes left in the third quarter. However, quarterback McGeehan led the Quakers to a great comeback in a game that Bagnoli would call one of the strangest in his career up to that point.
Following Fordham, Penn would play its last non-conference game against Colgate, who had achieved two wins against the Ivy League that season. However, Stokes and McGeehan again led the victory against the Raiders 30-12.
This promising 4-0 start to the season foreshadowed Bagnoli’s future success at the helm of Penn’s football team.
Penn started their conference games pummeling every Ivy team in sight. Beginning with Columbia, the Quakers stomped the Lions 36-7 in front of their homecoming crowd. McGeehan again led the way with sophomore wide receiver Miles Macik, who converted two of McGeehan’s three touchdowns. This win led towards Penn’s first ranking of the season as No. 25.
Penn’s next game came against Brown, in front of a Parent’s Day crowd of over 19,000 people. Macik continued his incredible season, surpassing the school record with his ninth touchdown catch of the season. The Red and Blue humiliated the Bears, running over their defense and intercepting Brown quarterback Gordie Myers four times. This victory led Penn to a 6-0 record.
However, on the other side of the conference, Princeton also remained undefeated.
After another convincing win against Yale 48-7, Bagnoli’s 100th career victory, the Red and Blue readied to take on the Tigers at home. In a fight between bitter, undefeated Ivy League rivals, the Red and Blue neutralized Princeton’s All-American tailback Keith Elias, allowing for Stokes to shine with 272 yards and a touchdown. The Red and Blue went up 21-7 at the half and never looked back, continuing their dominance and ending the game at 30-14.
At this point, Penn looked completely dominant. Having been victorious over the two best teams in the Ivy League, the Quakers did not look back, with the Ivy title all but sealed.
However, they nearly met catastrophe in the next few games, first at Harvard, then at Cornell.
In 1993, Penn had been winless at Harvard for 21 years. Playing a poor Harvard team, that would finish with just one conference win that season, the game seemed to be over before it started. However, the Crimson started strong, taking a 20-10 lead at the half. Sloppy play from Penn and an inability to hold onto the football gave Harvard free points.
However, after the half, McGeehan led a fantastic comeback. Scoring 17 unanswered points, the Red and Blue ended the game 27-20, guaranteeing at least a share of the Ivy League title.
Tragedy almost struck Penn again, however. Playing Cornell in their last game of the season at home, the Red and Blue fell behind 14-0 at the half. More sloppy play and turnovers gave the Big Red the fuel they needed to dominate the first half.
In the second half, McGeehan and Stokes could not be stopped. Stokes rushed for 98 yards in the second half, breaking 1,200 season yards. Penn’s defense also had an incredible stop at the end of the game, blocking a last-minute fourth downplay.
This last game put the Red and Blue at 10-0 and gave them the sole right to the 1993 Ivy League title. Overall, the immense adversity that this team had to overcome as well as the sheer talent on both sides of this ball led towards Bagnoli’s first of many titles at Penn.
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.