Following a 14-point loss at Yale on Oct. 20, the Quakers fell to 2-4 on the year. Their only chance of earning another Ivy title was to win each of the last four games against the top four teams in the league. Not an easy feat for any team, especially one that had just lost by two touchdowns against the league's worst team.
Written off by every reasonable football fan, the Quakers responded with one of the most improbable and thrilling Ivy titles in league history.
First, the Quakers returned to Franklin Field for Homecoming where they found themselves trailing Brown by three with under three minutes to play. Sophomore kicker Connor Loftus then connected on a career-long 45-yard field goal to tie the game. Moments later, Trevor Niemann's interception set up Loftus' game-winning kick from 30 yards out with 17 seconds to go.
Mathmatically, the Quakers were still in it after the dramatic Homecoming win, but a matchup with arch rival and first-place Princeton awaited. Penn trailed by seven midway through the fourth quarter. But Daniel Ritt tipped a pass that fell into the hands of C.J. Mooney who skirted 15 yards untouched for the game-tying score with 7:31 to play. After a defensive stop, quarterback Billy Ragone ran in unscathed from three yards out to put Penn up 28-21 with 2:59 left. Princeton then drove the length of the field and faced third-and-goal with 30 seconds left. But senior Steve Lias poked the ball loose from the Tigers signal-caller and senior captain Brandon Copeland fell on the fumble to seal another unlikely comeback victory.
The win at Princeton put Penn back in the title discussion, but that was only a formality for most. No. 25/16 Harvard was the undisputed class of the league at the time with an average margin of victory of more than 25 points against each of its previous five Ivy opponents, including an Ivy-record 69-0 win over Columbia the week prior. The Quakers shut down one of the nation's top offenses and led 21-14 at the break. But things took a turn for the worse when Ragone went down with a gruesome injury on the last play of the third quarter. Backup quarterback Andrew Holland immediately threw a touchdown pass to go up 28-14. Harvard closed the gap to seven again and had a chance to tie the game when they took over at the their own 14 with a little more than two minutes remaining. But with Ragone cheering on from a cart on the sideline, the Quakers registered three straight sacks capped by a Copeland safety that sent the Franklin Field crowd into a frenzy and clinched Penn a share of the Ivy League championship.
Penn still had to win at Cornell to earn the Ivy title outright, but was without Ragone. The Quakers built a 28-13 lead heading into the final quarter of play, but back-to-back scores from the Big Red tied the game in the waning minutes. With the title on the line, Holland and the Quakers drove 63 yards in just six plays and Spencer Kulcsar scored the go-ahead touchdown with 1:00 left. Cornell then drove deep into Penn territory and was just outside the red zone with time for one more play. The Big Red completed a pass to the 8-yard line, but the Quakers made the tackle immediately and watched the time expire on an unbelievable run toward the program's third outright title in four years.
The 2012-13 Penn Top 10 list was selected by members of the athletic department. But here is your chance to weigh in. Was this event ranked too high or too low? Who should be No. 1? Tell us what you think on Twitter with #PennTop10 or give us your thoughts on Facebook.
2012-13 Penn Top 10
No. 1 - Football's Improbable Ivy Title
No. 2: Mills Wins NCAA Fencing Championship
No. 3: Softball Claims Ivy Title, Goes to NCAAs
No. 4: Women's Lacrosse Clinches Ivy Title with OT Win Over Princeton
No. 5: Women's Basketball Postseason Buzzer Beater
No. 6: Gymnastics Wins ECAC Title
No. 7: Wrestling Upends #21 Lehigh, 24-12
No. 8: Sprint Football Thriller(s)
No. 9: Historic Basketball Comebacks
No. 10: Men's Lacrosse Rolls Past #14 Duke, 14-9