Crimson cruise, wrap up Ivy title
The echoes of “Ten Thousand Men of Harvard’’ rested on their shoulders from the opening kickoff to the final whistle, the program’s 14th Ivy League title, and first since 2008, within their grasp.
And the Crimson put an emphatic end to Penn’s two-year reign atop the league, rattling off 37 consecutive points on their way to a dominant 37-20 win before 11,283 chilled folks at the Stadium.
And thanks to Dartmouth’s stunning 21-16 win at Brown, Harvard (8-1, 6-0) will head to New Haven next Saturday for the 128th renewal of The Game with the league trophy already in the engraver’s shop.
“The conviction and intensity that our kids played with was very impressive,’’ said Harvard coach Tim Murphy, while lauding the preparation and game planning of his staff. “One of the better defensive efforts we have had here in a long time against a very good football team.
“And there is nothing easy about it, about beating teams like Penn, and everyone else.’’
There were contributors up and down the home sideline.
Senior tackle Josue Ortiz (10 tackles), anchoring a ferocious defensive effort that limited the Quakers to 24 yards rushing on 30 carries, ripped the ball loose from back Jeff Jack early in the second quarter at the Penn 24, cradling the ball between his legs.
“I was double-teamed, and I just tried to push the pile back, and I saw [linebacker Matt Martindale] stand him up. I ripped at the ball, and I didn’t expect it to come out,’’ summed up the 6-foot-4-inch, 260-pound Ortiz. “Times like that you just have to make plays.’’
One play later, fifth-year senior Collier Winters (13 of 20, 132 yards) lofted a spiral to a wide-open Cameron Brate, the sophomore tight end crossing the back of the end zone for a 7-7 tie.
With junior tailback Trevor Scales (10 rushes, 70 yards) hobbled with a bad ankle, shifty freshman Zach Boden delivered 81 yards on 11 carries, including a 14-yard burst off left tackle for the go-ahead score with 1:06 left in the half.
And the Crimson kept piling on.
Just before the break, David Mothander connected on a 35-yard field goal for a 17-7 lead, with Harvard capitalizing on a bad snap after Penn lined up for a punt on fourth and 4.
After senior captain Alex Gedeon (eight tackles) and his defensive mates denied Brandon Colavita on a third-and-1 rush on the first series of the second half, Winters directed the Crimson on a 12-play, 74-yard march, with the 5-11, 190-pound whiz darting in from 4 yards, finishing with a celebratory leap for the left pylon.
“Our inability to run the football was the story of the game,’’ said Penn coach Al Bagnoli, after his Quakers (5-4, 4-2) were dealt just their fourth league loss in the last four years.
Working out of a full-house backfield with Boden and Kyle Juszczyk, Scales danced in from the 2 to make it 30-7. Junior linebacker Alexander Norman then returned an interception 34 yards for a 37-7 spread 54 seconds into the fourth quarter, marking the seventh straight 30-point performance for the Crimson during their eight-game winning streak.
And though Penn punched in a pair of late scores, the final 10 minutes served as a time to reflect and savor for the Crimson, particularly for a proud group of 21 seniors.
“It’s a little odd that we won the Ivy League championship with one week left to play, and the Yale game,’’ said Winters. “And I don’t think we will have a letdown.’’
The Crimson won in a driving rainstorm against Brown. They rolled in a blizzard against Dartmouth. They won four straight with Winters (hip) on the sideline.
“It was the culmination of so much hard work,’’ said Murphy, who then paraphrased one of his favorite quotes, from former US Senator Bill Bradley.
“When you win a championship with such a close group, it’s as close as you get to family, without the complications.’’
Craig Larson can be reached at email@example.com.