Update: Harvard versus Penn

By beating Penn, Harvard sets itself up to win a share of the Ivy crown.

The escape artists from Cambridge did it again at Philadelphia's Franklin Field on Saturday. With Penn threatening at the Harvard 12-yard line and 10 seconds remaining, senior cornerback Ryan Barnes came up with a pass interception—his third of the game—to preserve a 24-21 Crimson victory.

Harvard now has an overall record of 8-1 and is 5-1 in Ivy League play. Half of the team's wins have been by four points or fewer.

Penn's loss dropped the Quakers (5-4, 4-2) out of a tie with Harvard and Brown for the league lead. A defeat of Yale next weekend would give the Crimson at least a half-share of the Ivy title.

Played on a balmy, September-like afternoon, the Penn game pitted Harvard's league-leading offense against the Ivies' top-rated defense. The determined Quakers limited the Crimson to 261 yards of total offense and held quarterback Chris Pizzotti to 156 yards passing, 122 under his previous per-game average. Harvard had been averaging 412 yards of total offense per game.   

Energized by sophomore quarterback Kieffer Garton, making his second varsity start, the Penn offense had its best day of the season. It held the ball for almost 40 minutes, ran nearly 40 more plays than did Harvard, racked up 27 first downs to Harvard's 12, and compiled a season-high 445 yards of total offense—the most against Harvard in Ivy play since the 2005 season. Garton played like a veteran, passing for 193 yards, rushing for 174, and scoring two touchdowns.

Yet Penn couldn't get on the board for almost three periods. Barnes's first end-zone interception of the day stifled a 14-play drive on Penn's opening series, and midway through the second quarter Harvard took a 7-0 lead on a 10-yard pass from Pizzotti to sophomore receiver Levi Richards. In the third period, tailback Gino Gordon's 63-yard breakaway on a draw play and Patrick Long's 20-yard field goal—set up by a Barnes pickoff at midfield—increased Harvard's lead to what seemed a comfortable 17-0. 

But Penn fought back with a late-third-quarter scoring drive and a 63-yard broken-field touchdown by Garton as the final period started. With the lead reduced to three points, Pizzotti threw a 42-yard pass to receiver Matt Luft, followed two plays later by a 2-yard scoring pass to sophomore tight end Nicolai Schwartzkopf. Penn, now trailing 24-14, missed a field goal try on its next scoring chance, but a 13-yard touchdown by Garton again cut the lead to three points.

With three and a half minutes left, Garton took his team from the Penn 25 to the Harvard 12. The Quakers now had a second down and 16 seconds to play—enough time for a shot at the end zone, and a game-tying field goal try if that failed. But Garton's pass attempt sailed over receiver Marcus Lawrence's upstretched hands and into Barnes's.

Harvard has beaten Penn four out of the last five years, but since 1982 has won only twice at Franklin Field. Its last victory there was a 31-10 rout in 2004, when Harvard posted a 10-0 season and won the Ivy title for the eleventh time.

Yale (6-3, 4-2), the only Ivy team with a win over Brown, faces Harvard at the Stadium at noon on Saturday. Brown (6-3, 5-1) hosts Columbia (2-7, 2-4).

~"Cleat"

THE SCOREBOARD

Harvard 25, Holy Cross 24
Brown 24, Harvard 22
Harvard 27, Lafayette 13
Harvard 38, Cornell 17
Harvard 27, Lehigh 24
Harvard 24, Princeton 20
Harvard 35, Dartmouth 7
Harvard 42, Columbia 28
Harvard 24, Pennsylvania 21

 

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