PHILADELPHIA – Who needs overtime?
Penn put a major dent in No. 17 Harvard's Ivy League title hopes Saturday, beating the Crimson, 22-13, on an unseasonably warm afternoon at Franklin Field.
The Quakers (5-4, 3-3 Ivy) snapped their three-game losing streak while Harvard (7-2, 4-2 Ivy) is now on the outside of the Ancient Eight title picture. In New Haven, Princeton beat Yale, 31-28, to forge a tie atop the League with the Elis.
Joe Sandberg scored two touchdowns for Penn, and Braden Lepisto booted field goals from 38 and 37 yards. The Quakers also got the lone score of the second half when Harvard quarterback Liam O’Hagan fell in the end zone for a safety.
But for the Quakers, it didn’t matter how they got the points. Their only goal was to break their gut-wrenching three-game slide that saw them lose each game in overtime.
“I told the kids during the week that they’ve stood up to adversity,” said Head Coach Al Bagnoli. “I’m so happy for them. I’m just so proud.”
The turnover battle proved to be the difference. Jordan Manning and Pat Kimener each picked off passes, while Harvard lost both of its fumbles. The Quakers turned the ball over just once, on an interception late in the game.
Heading into the game, all eyes were on Harvard tailback Clifton Dawson, and he didn’t disappoint. Needing 54 yards to break Ed Marinaro’s long-standing Ivy League rushing record, Dawson did it with a 55-yard haul early in the first quarter.
Harvard got on the board first as a result of that play – two plays later, Liam O’Hagan connected with Jason Miller for a 5-yard touchdown.
But Penn’s own star running back, Joe Sandberg, wouldn’t be upstaged on his senior day. On the next drive, he hit a large hole and ran around the right side 15 yards for game-tying touchdown with 4:48 left in the first quarter.
Sandberg put his side up just over three minutes later, running 11 yards on an almost identical play to put Penn ahead, 14-7.
A big special teams play put the Quakers in position on the kick-off. Jake Lewko hit Cheng Ho and the ball popped loose. Chris Ashley pounced on it at the Harvard 22.
The Quaker offense couldn’t capitalize on the chance, however, gaining just two yards on seven plays. Penn had to settle for a 38-yard Braden Lepisto field goal to take a 17-7 lead.
Another big play gave Penn excellent field position midway through the second quarter. Dawson fumbled in the backfield and Scotty Williams came out of the pile with the ball at the Harvard 22. But again, the Harvard defense held and Penn got a 37-yard Lepisto field goal out of the drive.
Matt Schindel made it a 20-10 game with his 31-yard field goal with 5:11 left in the second quarter, and then closed the half with a 32-yard kick to make it 20-13.
Neither team could add anything to the scoreboard offensively in the second half. The lone points came for Penn in the fourth quarter. After Anthony Melillo’s punt pinned Harvard at its own three, O’Hagan tripped two yards deep in the end zone for the safety. It was the first Quaker safety since 2002 and made the game a two-possession battle with 6:38 remaining.
Penn will wrap up its season next Saturday with a trip to Cornell at 1 p.m.
Game Notes: Penn snapped an NCAA-record three-game overtime losing streak ... Harvard now needs to beat Yale and have Princeton lose to Dartmouth next week to clinch a share of the League title ... Joe Sandberg, who had 86 yards rushing, is now just 16 yards short of Penn's 11th 1,000-yard rushing season ... Joey Brown, seeing major time at cornerback after an injury to Greg Ambrogi, led the Quakers with nine tackles ... Joe Anastasio registered eight tackles and a sack, bringing his season tackle total to 89 ... Penn did not yield a sack to Harvard, the first time the Crimson have failed to hit the quarterback this year ... Penn has given up just seven sacks this year ... It was the third game this season Penn had not given up a sack ... Fullback Nick Cisler had a career game, leading all receivers with 61 yards on four catches and also carrying three times for 10 yards ... Anthony Melillo put four punts inside the 20, including three inside the three on consecutive sequences in the fourth quarter ... Penn beat a ranked team for the second time this season. The Quakers also beat No. 22 Lafayette in Week 1.