Dramatic Comeback Falls Short for Football

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PHILADELPHIA - Despite yet another impressive performance by sophomore quarterback Keiffer Garton on the ground, the University of Pennsylvania football team fell to Harvard University 24-21 at Franklin Field on Saturday. Garton ran for 174 yards and two touchdowns, but the Crimson picked off a pass in the end zone with 10 seconds left to hold off the valiant Quakers comeback.

With the loss, the Quakers (5-4 overall, 4-2 Ivy) will have to win their last game of the season and rely on losses by conference leaders Harvard (8-1 overall, 5-1 Ivy) and Brown to remain in the Ivy League race.

Penn trailed 17-0 near the end of the third quarter, but as has been characteristic of the sophomore’s performances this season, Garton’s propensity for the big play revived the Quaker offense. On the longest offensive play for Penn all year, Garton broke several tackles and scrambled 63 yards for a touchdown, shifting the momentum to the Red and Blue and making the score 17-14 with 13:39 left in the game.

However, Harvard answered the challenge swiftly. The Crimson promptly launched into a five-play, 67-yard march of their own. Harvard quarterback Chris Pizzotti completed a 42-yard pass to wide receiver Matt Luft, and then followed the play with a touchdown pass to Nicolai Schwarzkopf, giving the Crimson a 24-14 lead just 1:50 after the Quakers score.

Penn would respond though as Garton passed and slashed his way to yet another score, leading Penn on a six-play, 54-yard march that culminated in the Castle Rock, Colo., native's second rushing touchdown of the day—this time from 13 yards out—to make the score 24-21 with 6:08 left.

The Quaker defense, which has been the team's strength for much of the season, was especially strong again against the Ivy League's top offense. The squad, which held the Crimson to 261 yards of offense - the first time they have been held under 300 yards this season - quickly forced another three-and-out, allowing the Penn offense to launch a last-gasp drive with 3:23 to work with.

The defense held Harvard to just 12 first downs, compared to Penn's season-high 27. Penn came up with three sacks and an interception - Chris Wynn's team-high fourth of the year - against the league's leading passer as Harvard was just 2-of-10 on third down.

On the Quakers' final drive, Garton started with three straight runs, culminating in a first down at the Quakers 34-yard line. Three plays later, he converted a crucial fourth-down situation with a 20-yard pass to Kyle Derham with 1:35 left on the clock, moving Penn to the Harvard 40-yard line. Three plays after that, he slashed his way to another fourth down conversion, running for two yards on fourth-and-one with under a minute remaining.

Derham and Garton then connected for 17 more yards to set up a first down at the Crimson 12-yard line with 16 seconds left. However, Garton’s inspirational effort ultimately fell short, as he was intercepted for the third time by Harvard cornerback Ryan Barnes in the end zone to effectively end the game.

In all, Penn's offense had its best day of the season. In holding the ball for nearly 40 minutes and running nearly 40 more plays than the Crimson, the team had a season-high 445 yards of total offense. It marks the most the Crimson have allowed in an Ivy League game since 2005 - a span of 24 league games. Garton also had 193 yards passing with junior wideout Marcus Lawrence leading the way with a career-high seven catches for 54 yards. Derham had six receptions totaling 71 yards.

Previously, the Quakers had a 12-play, 74-yard scoring drive midway into the third, marking the beginning of a spirited Quakers’ comeback. Following a series of key rushes by Garton to sustain the long drive, running back Michael DiMaggio scored on a one-yard touchdown run to reduce Penn’s deficit to 17-7. DiMaggio finished with 49 yards on 14 carries.

Harvard had seemingly broken the game open on the second play of the third quarter, as running back Gino Gordon broke free for a long 63-yard touchdown run to put the Crimson up 14-0. After Barnes intercepted Garton's pass for the second time, Crimson kicker Patrick Long converted a 20-yard field goal attempt to extend Harvard’s advantage to 17-0.

The first half evolved into a battle for field position, as neither team was able to capitalize on turnovers by both offenses. Penn’s otherwise-impressive opening drive ended on Barnes’ first interception in the end zone, while the Crimson returned the favor with a key second-quarter interception by Penn cornerback Chris Wynn. Eventually, Harvard opened the scoring ledger on quarterback Chris Pizzotti’s 10-yard touchdown pass to Levi Richards, giving the Crimson a 7-0 lead at the end of the first half.

The Quakers will next be in action on Nov. 22 in the season finale against Cornell. Kickoff from Ithaca, N.Y. is set for 1 p.m. It will be the final game for the 23 seniors who were honored on Senior Day Saturday.