BOSTON - In the six years since Penn's last win at Harvard Stadium, the Quakers have been beset by all kinds of roadblocks that kept them from winning an Ivy League championship.
Last season, it was an interception in the waning moments against Harvard at Franklin Field. In 2006, the team's inconsistent kicking contributed to three consecutive overtime losses.
But yesterday, Penn finally put that in the past. The Quakers stormed to a 17-0 halftime lead and never looked back en route to a 17-7 win over the Crimson that clinched at least a share of the Ivy League title.
"I'm happy - but I'm more happy for our seniors," Penn coach Al Bagnoli said. "Our kids were just tremendously focused and tremendously resilient, and it's a credit to that senior leadership."
Despite a driving rainstorm that soaked the announced crowd of 7,424, Penn's first-half performance was among its best since the school's last championship season. The Quakers (7-2, 6-0) got on the scoreboard a little more than two minutes into the game, as Marcus Lawrence took a screen pass 51 yards to score on the fifth play from scrimmage.
Quarterback Kyle Olson scored the second touchdown on a goal-line plunge from 1 yard out early in the second quarter.
In the half, Penn racked up 175 yards of offense and held Harvard to only 57, sacking quarterback Collier Winters three times.
But the Crimson, (6-3, 5-1) who had entered the game as the two-time defending champions, got up off the mat in the second half. Winters hit Chris Lorditch with a 45-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter, and drove Harvard to Penn's 1-yard line with less than three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
He got no farther. Penn's defense, ranked No. 1 in the Football Championship Subdivision, stopped Winters on fourth down, and the visitors' side of the stadium erupted in celebration.
The defense, Bagnoli said, "came up with some huge plays today. There was probably none bigger than stopping them on the six-inch line."
Senior cornerback Chris Wynn, who made the tackle on the fourth-down stop, couldn't quite believe it had happened.
"I was looking for a flag or something," he said. "It's been a long time coming, and now that it's here, I don't really have the words to describe it. It's the best feeling of my life."
Wynn and his teammates finally can celebrate. In their final game of the season Saturday, they have a chance to win the Ivy League title outright at home by beating Cornell.