PHILADELPHIA - After a slow start, the University of Pennsylvania football team got rolling and could not be stopped Saturday at Franklin Field. The result was a dominating, 34-14 win over Harvard that was every bit as impressive as the score would indicate.
With the win, Penn (8-1, 6-0 Ivy) clinched a share of its 15th Ivy League title and eighth under Head Coach Al Bagnoli. The Quakers can win the title outright next Saturday with either a win at Cornell or a Yale loss at Harvard. The Bulldogs stayed within range, defeating Princeton 14-13 to move to 5-1 in conference play.
The first quarter was dominated by the defenses. The best action came on Penn's first drive; the Quakers drove deep into Harvard territory, but went for it on fourth down from the 28-yard line and were unable to gain the first on a Ragone rush to the left side.
Late in the first quarter, Bradford Blackmon fumbled a punt near midfield that Harvard recovered, but nothing came of it. That was not the case at the start of the second quarter, when a Penn punt hit a Harvard blocker inside the Crimson's 10-yard line and was recovered by the Quakers at the 9-yard line. Penn was unable to punch it in, but Andrew Samson nailed a 19-yard field goal and Penn was up, 3-0 with 12:22 to play in the half.
Harvard (6-3, 4-2 Ivy) attempted to tie it with 5:35 left, but David Mothander's 39-yard field goal effort was blocked by Erik Rask. Penn immediately made the Crimson pay, driving 61 yards for the score as Brandon Colavita ended the drive with a three-yard run to paydirt with 3:15 left before halftime. The big play on the drive was a 25-yard pass play to the left sideline from Ragone to Ryan Calvert. The Quakers took their 10-0 lead into the locker room.
Blackmon turned another near disaster into a big play early in the third quarter. A Harvard punt bounced deep in Penn's territory, and in the process of keeping it out of the end zone a Crimson player knocked it back in play. Blackmon was able to beat a Harvard player to the ball just at the line, scooped it up and raced along the right sideline nearly to the Penn 39. Colavita knocked off a big gain on the first play after that, and the tone was set for the six-play drive. Penn drove all the way to a touchdown, the score coming when Ragone found Jeff Jack on a short pass and Jack found all kinds of room to run it in along the right hash marks. The play covered 25 yards and gave Penn a 17-point edge with 10:08 to play in the third quarter.
Penn's defense made the next big play. Winters tried to go deep down the left sideline, but Justyn Williams tipped it at the last second and the ball went right into the hands of Daniel Ritt, who took his first career interception and returned it to the Crimson 45.
Penn went deep downfield for Blackmon, who was unable to catch the ball but was rocked on the play by Harvard defensive back Jonathan Mason. Mason was called for a penalty and Penn got the ball on the Crimson 26-yard line. A few plays later, Samson knocked home a 45-yard field goal and the Quakers were up, 20-0.
Even though more than five minutes were left in the third, Harvard clearly understood the situation when they went for it on fourth down in their own territory. Winters' pass was incomplete, though, and the Quakers took over on downs at the Crimson 38-yard line. The Quakers took seven plays to get the ball into the end zone. Ragone did the honors this time, following his blockers through the right side for a six-yard score that made it 27-0.
Harvard went for it on fourth again on its next drive and was successful, and it looked like the Crimson might get points on the board as the fourth quarter started. However, Winters went deep to the left corner of the end zone, and Josh Powers won a jump ball for his second pick of the season.
Harvard got on the board with 11:04 left in regulation. On fourth-and-7 at Penn's 31-yard line, Winters threw another jump ball -- this time to the goal line along the right sideline -- and Crimson receiver Mike Cook outleaped Williams before tiptoeing into the end zone to make the score 27-7.
Harvard attempted an onside kick after that, but the ball went out of bounds without anyone recovering and Penn got the ball at the Crimson 38. Just two plays later, Colavita raced untouched around left end for a 35-yard score that put the Quakers' lead back to 27.
Harvard drove and looked like it might score again, but Winters' flipped a short pass through the middle and Matt Hamscher made a spectacular diving play to snare the interception at the Quaker 9-yard line. Harvard eventually added a late rushing touchdown, but Penn's 33 seniors finished their careers at Franklin Field with a championship celebration.
Though Harvard had twice as many as Penn's 12 first downs, many of those came with the game out of hand. The Quakers ran for 222 yards, passing the 200-mark for the third straight game. Gino Gordon tacked on some late yards and finished with 110 yards for Harvard which snapped a 32-game streak in which Penn had not allowed an opponent to reach the century mark in rushing.
Colavita finished with a career-high 122 rushing yards on 17 carries (7.2 average) and two touchdowns. Ragone added 64 yards on the ground and 56 passing yards. Penn needed just four completions to put up 34 points. Calvert and Jack led the team with one catch for 25 yards apiece, while Luke Nawrocki and Aaron Bailey each added a reception for three yards.
Rask finished with a game-high 11 tackles and a half sack in addition to his blocked field goal. Williams had a career-best 10 tackles, while Powers and sophomore Brandon Copeland each had eight tackles. Senior Brian Wing had the other half sack for Penn.
Next week, the Quakers have a chance to finish unbeaten in Ivy play for the second straight season. Penn visits Cornell Saturday with kickoff at 12:30 p.m. from Schoelkopf Field.