The contenders for the crown have been pared down to just three — only Yale, Harvard and Princeton still have a chance to emerge from the 2006 season with an Ivy League championship. All three teams stand at 7-1 on the season, the first time this has happened in 99 years. But getting to this point has been anything but easy, as evidenced by Princeton’s double-overtime win this weekend.
Princeton 31, Penn 30
Penn (4-4, 2-3 Ivy) had the dubious distinction of becoming the first team in NCAA history to lose three consecutive overtime games when Princeton (7-1, 4-1) pulled out a 31-30 win in the second extra session in New Jersey Saturday afternoon.
The Quakers trailed 24-10 in the fourth quarter before sophomore quarterback Robert Irvin caught fire, finding receiver Matt Carre on the 1-yard line for a diving catch to salvage a fourth-and-18 for a first down and scoring a touchdown himself on the next play. Still down a touchdown with about a minute left in regulation, Irvin found himself staring down a fourth-and-24. He managed to get off a Hail Mary pass before succumbing to a blindside hit, and Billy May caught the ball downfield and answered Penn’s prayers for a first down. The Irvin-Carre connection cut the lead to one with a touchdown a few plays later, and the Quakers’ fourth-string kicker, Braden Lepisto, split the uprights on the PAT to send the game into overtime. Carre earned Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week honors for his efforts.
But Penn has struggled with kicking in overtime situations over the past three weeks, and this contest was no different as the snap was bobbled on the Quakers’ first field-goal attempt in overtime. However, the defense kept Penn in the game by blocking the Tigers’ ensuing attempt to send the game into a second overtime.
The Tigers crept to the Quakers’ 1-yard line on their next possession, but were pushed to a fourth-down after failing to claw their way into the end zone. Rob Toresco got the handoff and made a dive for the touchdown, but a mid-air hit stymied his scoring attempt. Toresco, though, landed on his feet and then pitched the ball to quarterback Jeff Terrell, who ran around the end for the score and a 31-24 lead for the Tigers. Irvin found Carre in the end zone once again with a 25-yard pass to pull the Quakers within one, but a botched hold on the extra point sent Penn to its third straight defeat and kept the Tigers in the race for the Ivy League championship.
Yale 27, Brown 24
The Bulldogs (7-1, 5-0) narrowly held on to their first-place standing, remaining the only team with an unblemished record in the Ivy League with a 27-24 win over Brown (3-5, 2-3) in Providence, R.I., on Saturday afternoon. Yale quarterback Matt Polhemus completed a short pass to receiver Ashley Wright, who raced 71 yards before being taken down just five yards short of the end zone. Running back Mike McLeod scored the game-winning touchdown on the next play, plunging into the end zone from three yards out with 3:27 left on the game clock. McLeod finished with more than 100 rushing yards for the seventh straight week, and Yale kept its seven-game winning streak alive. Linebacker Bobby Abare did his part on the defensive end to keep the Bulldogs atop the Ivy League standings, snagging three interceptions and returning one for a touchdown. He was the first Bulldog since 1998 to have three INTs in a single game. The home crowd was brought to its feet by the Ivy League Special Teams Player of the Week, as senior kick returner Brandon Markey recorded the second kickoff return for a touchdown in his career with a 95-yard return for a touchdown for Brown. It was the seventh-longest kickoff return in Brown’s history, and Markey added 82 yards on 12 carries in the losing effort. Linebacker Zak DeOssie also turned in a stellar effort for the Bears, making 15 tackles — including eight solo hits and 1.5 stops for a loss. DeOssie and company held the Bulldogs to 138 yards on the ground, more than 60 yards below their average, which led the league entering the weekend.
Harvard 24, Columbia 7
Harvard (7-1, 4-1) was the only title contender who was never truly threatened on Saturday, as the Crimson earned a 24-7 win over the Lions (3-5, 0-5) in Cambridge, Mass. The home team put on a dominating defensive display, holding Columbia to -14 rushing yards, sacking Columbia quarterback Craig Hormann four times and recovering a matching number of fumbles. Reliable running back Clifton Dawson led the Crimson on offense with 120 yards and two touchdowns, giving him 63 career touchdowns and leaving him just 53 yards short of Ed Marinaro’s ’72 Ivy League career rushing record. His total on Saturday also gave him 1,034 yards for the season, making him just the ninth Division I player in history to turn in four 1,000-yard seasons. Receiver Corey Mazza also scored a touchdown, extending his scoring streak to six straight games and 12 of his last 14 Ivy contests. Hormann managed to shake off the Crimson defense long enough to complete 29-of-52 passes for a career-high 320 yards without a single interception. Lions receiver Austin Knowlin earned Co-Rookie of the Week accolades after catching seven passes — including a 22-yard touchdown pass from Hormann — for a team season-high of 118 yards.