CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — On Saturday, Penn (6-3, 3-3 Ivy) fell to No. 19 Harvard (8-1, 5-1) in a triple-overtime thriller during the penultimate game of its season. The Quakers were able to stay neck and neck with Harvard’s high flying offense, but to no avail come the final play.
Coming off a dominating win at home versus Cornell, the Quakers entered Harvard Stadium with a potential Ivy League title on the line. Last season, the Crimson robbed Penn’s chance of a title at Franklin Field. This time around, the revenge-seeking Quakers had eyes set on taking down the current conference leaders.
Striking quickly, the Quakers scored the first points of the matchup on the legs of freshman running back Malachi Hosley, picking up where he left off after his historic performance last game. The explosive halfback bounced past defenders, cut to the outside, and was home free for a 29-yard touchdown.
This quick score did not stun Harvard, though, as the team responded with a touchdown of its own on first drive. Quarterback Jaden Craig methodically marched his team down the field, and finished the drive himself on a designed run.
The Quakers were next to strike. Following a toe-tapping catch by sophomore wide reciever Jared Richardson for 17 yards, the Red and Blue found themselves deep in Crimson territory. However, the Crimson's defense did not break, forcing coach Ray Priore to send out senior kicker Graham Gotlieb, who drilled a 43-yard field goal to put the Quakers up 10-7.
Following an interception by junior quarterback Aidan Sayin that ended a promising drive, the Quakers found themselves in a 10-point hole going into the locker room at halftime.
A special teams blunder gave Penn life halfway through the third quarter. Harvard punter Sebastien Tasko was unable to handle the snap and was quickly brought down by a crowd of Quakers, gifting the ball to the Red and Blue. Despite this fantastic field position, the Quakers were only able to come away with a 23-yard field goal, cutting Harvard’s lead to seven.
In the final 15 minutes, Penn’s offense scored its second touchdown at the 11:12 mark of the fourth quarter. Hosley, following his lead blocker, plowed his way into the endzone tying the game at 20-20. A hush fell over a previously roaring Harvard Stadium. The Crimson's undefeated home record was now in jeopardy following 10 unanswered Penn points.
After getting the ball back and driving down the field in the final minutes of regulation, the Quakers elected for a very long field goal. But junior kicker Albert Jang's attempt was blocked by Harvard’s Kaleb Moody, forcing the game into overtime.
Penn was unable to move the chains on their first possession of extra time, and elected for a field goal on fourth-and-four. This time around, Jang's kick did not see see the same fate as the last one, and the Quakers moved into the lead.
Defensively, Penn stood tall once again. After three consecutive stops on the goal line, Harvard opted for a field goal to send the game into a second overtime. In their second overtime possession, Craig’s first career interception could not come at a worst time for the Crimson. Penn defensive back Logan Nash intercepted the pass, and set up the Quakers for its seventh win this season. But the special team woes of this game continued for Penn, as Gotlieb missed the 36-yard field goal which could have kept the Red and Blue's title hopes alive.
In their third overtime possession, after Sayin's pass was incomplete, the Crimson lined up on the second-yard line with a guaranteed share of the Ivy League Championship on the line. After a series of pitches reminiscent of the Philly Special from Super Bowl LII, Craig was open in the end zone, and caught a pass to win the game. The entire Crimson bench cleared, running onto the field to celebrate their Ivy championship, leaving Penn absolutely stunned.
On the loss, Priore commented that he is “so proud of everybody on the whole team. Our kids who’ve fought all year long on the field and off the field. It was a tough loss.”
Hosley built off on Priore’s comments, stating, “We'll keep pushing forward with the same mindset. Even though we might not have a chance to win the Ivy League, just win the next game.”
Penn wraps up its 2023 season at home next weekend, taking on the Princeton Tigers at 1 p.m.