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Crimson Escape With a Chance to Win Ivy
PHILADELPHIA - It was the leap of Ryan Barnes’s life, making the play of his life in the game of his life.
The Harvard senior safety soared to glory, picking off Penn quarterback Keiffer Garton’s desperation pass into the end zone with 10 seconds left to seal the Crimson’s 24-21 triumph over the Quakers yesterday at Franklin Field.
It was Barnes’s third interception of the day - for a Harvard record he now shares with six others - and the play that stifled Penn’s bid to damage the Crimson’s Ivy League title hopes.
But Barnes wasn’t buying any of it. The best he’d call it was “just one of those things. Things like that sometimes happen.”
Barnes had missed the last three games after suffering a stinger in his left shoulder but wasn’t ready to close his college career on the sideline.
And so it will be Harvard (8-1, 5-1), riding a seven-game winning streak, at home against Yale (6-3, 4-2) Saturday. A Harvard victory coupled with a Brown win over Columbia would result in a share of the title between the Crimson and Bears (6-3, 5-1). But a four-way league tie could result if Yale and Columbia win, and Penn (5-4, 4-2) beats Cornell.
Penn won the numbers game. The Quakers outrushed the Crimson, 254 yards to 105, outpassed them, 191-156, dominated possession time, 39:41-20:19, and converted 12 of 21 third-down attempts to Harvard’s 2 of 10 - but fell short at the biggest moments.
“Stating the obvious, Penn gave us all we could handle,” said Harvard coach Tim Murphy. “Penn has a tremendous amount of pride and tradition. Their kids played inspirational football. We were just very fortunate to finish it off. When the game’s on the line, that’s when you have to believe and have to finish, and I’m very proud of the way our kids hung in there.”
Murphy’s game-ending emotion? “Just relief.”
Garton completed 21 of 37 passes for 193 yards, and rushed for 174 yards, including a 63-yarder (Penn’s longest play this season) for a fourth-quarter score. But the outcome still went the way of Harvard senior quarterback Chris Pizzotti (16 of 23, 156 yards, two TDs) and his supporting cast. Adam Chrissis caught five passes, and safety Collin Zych made 15 tackles, 10 solo.
Harvard built a 17-0 lead by the middle of the third quarter, only to see Penn twice rally within 3 points. Pizzotti’s 10-yard TD strike to Levi Richards, completing a 34-yard march after Andrew Berry’s 21-yard punt return, represented the only first-half points. Gino Gordon’s 63-yard TD run and Patrick Long’s 20-yard field goal boosted the Crimson’s edge to 17-0.
Penn finally got untracked when Mike DiMaggio’s 1-yard smash capped a 74-yard march - featuring Garton’s 29-yard keeper - in the last minute of the third quarter.
Garton squirmed free for his 63-yard TD dash, outracing the Crimson secondary, only to see Harvard answer with Pizzotti completing a 42-yard pass to Matt Luft and a 2-yarder for a TD to Nicolai Schwarzkopf in a 67-yard drive that made it 24-14 with 11:43 remaining.
Andrew Samson missed a 23-yard field goal attempt for Penn, but the next time they had the ball, the Quakers went 54 yards for a score, Garton rushing the final 13 with 4:36 left.
Four minutes later, with Penn at the Harvard 12, Barnes intercepted a Garton pass to seal it.
Harvard had won just once (in 2004) in its last 13 visits to Franklin Field but now has beaten Penn four times in the last five years and leads the series, which dates to 1881, 45-32-2.
“You’ve just got to stop the big plays, and today we didn’t,” said Penn coach Al Bagnoli. “Keiffer Garton gave us a chance to win at the end. We did everything exactly the way we wanted. It just didn’t work out.”
Crimson escape with a chance to win Ivy
By Elliott Denman, The Boston Globe