CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - Harvard broke open a defensive struggle with 17 points around halftime Saturday, and the result was a 23-7 win over Penn in football action Saturday afternoon at Harvard Stadium.
The Crimson (7-2, 6-0 Ivy League) have set up a showdown for the Ivy title next, as Yale defeated Princeton Saturday to also remain undefeated in the league. The last time Harvard and Yale met in the season's final weekend with both teams undefeated was 1968.
Penn, meanwhile, dropped to 3-6 overall, 2-4 in the Ivy League.
The Quakers once again struggled offensively, coming up with just 198 yards of total offense. They were hindered by the absence of Joe Sandberg, who was hurt on his first rush of the day (after Chris Wynn had taken the opening kickoff 42 yards, to the Harvard 49-yard line). He came back to try one more rush later in the first quarter, lost two yards on the play, and was shut down by the coaching staff after that.
In his place, freshman Michael DiMaggio carried a bulk of the load, and the freshman responded with 14 yards on his first rush and ended the game with 71 on 20 carries. Unfortunately, he was a lone bright spot -- overall, the Quakers netted just 73 yards rushing and 125 through the air, as senior Bryan Walker and sophomore Brendan McNally split duties at quarterback.
Instead, just one week after setting a career high with 12 punts, senior Anthony Melillo nearly matched that with 11 more Saturday.
That said, Penn actually looked like it might be all right after two drives. The first drive, after DiMaggio's run, stalled at the Crimson 29-yard line when Walker and Nick Cisler could not connect on the fourth-down pass; after a three-and-out by Harvard, the Quakers went 49 yards in 11 plays to get to the Crimson 14-yard line. This time, they decided on a field goal on fourth down, and freshman Andrew Samson's 31-yard boot hit the right upright and missed.
While Penn appeared to be fine offensively, the defense was having another outstanding performance. Harvard went three-and-out on four of its first five drives; the fifth went a grand total of four plays before the Crimson punted. In those first five drives, they totaled 10 yards. The sixth drive went a little longer -- seven plays, 31 yards -- but also ended with a punt.
However, the seventh drive struck paydirt and put the Crimson on the board. With just 2:13 on the clock when they got the ball at their own 12-yard line, they received a jolt when running back Cheng Ho ran 37 yards on first down to get the ball to midfield. Three plays later, on a third-and-10, QB Chris Pizzotti found Mike Cook for 23 yards to the Quakers' 28-yard line. Just a few plays after that, Pizzotti hitCorey Mazza in the end zone from 20 yards out and the score was 7-0.
Perhaps bolstered by that performance, Harvard took the kickoff to start the second half and again found the end zone. This time the Crimson needed just five plays to go 62 yards, capping it off when Pizzotti found Matt Luft for a 30-yard score.
Following the kickoff, Penn handed off to freshman Bradford Blackmon, who fumbled as he approached the line. Harvard's Glenn Dorris recovered on the Penn 29-yard line, and although the Quaker defense did not yield a touchdown they were helpless to watch a 30-yard Patrick Long field goal sail through the uprights for a 17-0 Harvard lead.
The Quakers came to life offensively after that -- they went 80 yards in 10 plays, finally getting on the board when DiMaggio carried it in from two yards out.
However, the rest of the half was something Penn fans would just as soon forget -- aside from that scoring drive, the Quakers gained just 44 other yards.
Harvard's final score came off another Penn miscue in the fourth quarter. A short Thomas Hull punt was mishandled by the Quakers' Marcus Lawrence, and the Crimson's Noah Van Niel came up with the fumble on the Penn 20-yard line. Just two plays later, Ho put it away with a 20-yard rush to give the game its final score.
Penn is back in action next weekend, closing out the 2007 season with the annual Trustees' Cup battle against Cornell. It will mark the 114th meeting between these two schools. Kickoff at Franklin Field is slated for 1 p.m.