PHILADELPHIA, PA. 11/10/2012 – It seems as though it should be this way. The University of Pennsylvania and the Harvard Crimson play for a share of the Ivy League championship in football. Penn has the same relationship with Princeton for the basketball title, but that will be in March. This is now. It was a game that could have been won by either team. Late in the game the Penn captain Brandon Copeland made the biggest play of the season sacking Harvard quarterback Colton Chapple in the endzone for a safety. With just 1:25 to play the Red and Blue took a 30 – 21 lead over defending champion Harvard. Penn recovered the onside free kick, then ran out the clock to claim at least a share of the Ivy League championship. There were points in the season that a championship did not look possible, but the team stayed together, and was the reason they celebrate together at this time.
“It definitely feels good, but I was happy the score is the way it is, and more so proud of the team,” said Copeland. “There was a time in the season when we could have played just for ourselves, for stats, or whatever else we wanted to play for, not trusting each other. But we trusted each other.”The Quakers were able to win the contest by playing a complete game. The offense, defense, and special teams all contributed to the victory. On offense Penn ran the ball for 227 yards against the Crimson run defense that came into the game ranked #1 against the rush in the league. Senior running back Lyle Marsh ran for 130 yards. His 47 yard scamper in the in the first quarter set up a Penn touchdown that gave the Quakers a 14 – 7 lead at the 3:09 mark. Senior quarterback Billy Ragone ran for 95 yards scoring a touchdown after the long gain by Marsh. Penn used their power and that was the reason for success according to Marsh.
“Just running at them which a lot of teams have given up on in previous games,” Marsh said. “We were going to focus on running downhill and not getting away from that. We were struggling at times sticking with it, and that was going to be one of the keys to winning the game.”
Ragone completed 8 of 17 passes for 108 yards and two scores to Junior wide receiver Conner Scott and Sophomore tight end Ryan O’Malley. Ragone would leave the game with an injury dislocating his left ankle at the end of the third quarter.
Penn responded with Senior quarterback Andrew Holland entering the game. He threw just three passes in the game, two in the fourth quarter. His one completion was the most important of the game as Holland found Sophomore tight end Mitchell King in the back of the endzone. King went up shielding the ball away from Harvard defensive back Chris Splinter, then came down with the ball for a touchdown that gave Penn a 28 – 14 lead at the 14:03 mark of the fourth.
“Ragone had a tremendous game,” said Harvard Coach Tim Murphy. “He made a bunch of big plays. They continued to run the ball to diminish the effect of losing a great player.”
The Crimson got a touchdown on the ensuing drive. They got the ball back for the last time at their 11 yard line with 2:29 to play. Chapple was thrown for a one yard loss on the first play. Penn Sophomore defensive end Feerooz Yacoobi sacked Chapple for a 7 yard loss placing the ball at the Harvard 3. Copeland zeroed in on Chapple for the safety to decide the game on the very next snap. As a team Penn had 6 sacks on Chapple causing a loss of 25 yards. Copeland led the team with 2 sacks. The Quakers defense held Harvard to their lowest point total of the season.
On special teams Senior punter Scott Lopano had 8 punts totalling 344 yards, and average of 43 yards per kick.
“This was a terrific team victory against a terrific program,” said Penn Coach Al Bagnoli. “When you can win against them (Harvard) you know you have accomplished something. I challenged the kids telling them that we would have to play our best game to give ourselves a realistic chance. Today, I thought they were as determined as they have been all season, and were not going to be denied.”
The Red and Blue travel to Cornell next weekend for their final game of the season. With a win in Ithaca Penn will win the title outright. Even if the Quakers are co-champions it still will be their 3rd in four seasons and 16th overall. Ragone insisted that he would be on the field for the Franklin Field celebration despite his injury as Ivy Champs.
“It means everything,” said Marsh. “It is what we have been working for since the first week of off-season last year. To win three in four years means a lot, too. Our recruiting class was expected to do great things. To come through today means everything to us.”
Copeland will ensure that the team will be focused and ready for Cornell.
“We have one more game to win, one more to go, and we’ll come back tomorrow ready to drill for Cornell,” Copeland said. “I like to eat all on my plate.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian