Ivy League

Penn football picked to finish 3rd in Ivy League as conference focuses on player safety

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Penn football picked to finish 3rd in Ivy League as conference focuses on player safety

Preseason college football practices opened across the country in recent weeks to increased safety due to the elimination of multiple practices with contact during a single day - the two-a-days.

Such mentality fell into line with some of the measures previously taken by the Ivy League.

With their league at the forefront of trying to reduce concussions and keep student-athletes healthy, Ivy coaches reflected on some of the changes Tuesday during a preseason conference call to preview their upcoming season.

Princeton and Harvard were installed as the preseason co-favorites in a close media vote over Penn. Harvard coach Tim Murphy said the Quakers were too low considering they're a two-time defending Ivy champion, sharing the 2015 title with his Crimson and last year's title with Princeton.

The tie atop the poll was the first since 2008 and the third all-time. Yale was picked fourth followed by Dartmouth, Brown (one first-place vote), Columbia and Cornell.

Coaches lauded the level of play in the league, especially veteran coaches such as Murphy, Brown's Phil Estes and Columbia's Al Bagnoli. The rise could be impacted by the emphasis on keeping players healthy.

"Most guys 25 years or older, they had never had that mind-set back when we played. You did what you were coached to do and you taught what you learned when you were a player. Nothing had changed for a long period of time," said Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens, acknowledged as the league's chief driving force for implementing safety measures. "Certainly with technology and some of the concerns with compression head injury, TBI (traumatic brain injury), growing awareness, we can do things in a different fashion. What I'm finding right now is there's a greater receptivity."

The Ivy League formally eliminated "live" to-the-ground tackling in practices during the regular season last year, continuing to address safety measures alongside the Xs and Os. In addition, league members moved kickoffs to the 40-yard line and touchbacks to the 20-yard line in an effort to limit returns and the possibility of concussions from one of football's more dangerous plays. Two-a-days also had been scaled back in the preseason.

"I think that the rule changes that we made in the league have given us an opportunity to keep the players safe and also decrease the high collisions on special teams, especially on the kickoff game. It's really made the game better," Yale coach Tony Reno said.

Added Penn coach Ray Priore, "How you teach tackling has changed. We used to put the helmet on the ball to cause fumbles; now it's on the back hip in the rugby style. It's changed in that facet, how we as coaches have to re-look at the teaching of some of those mechanisms. I think some of the rules are spot-on with what we want to do without changing the integrity of the game."

The Ivy League has been reviewing concussions since 2010, moving from football to a number of other sports such as lacrosse, ice hockey, soccer, wrestling and rugby.

Safety measures go beyond concussions as well. Cornell coach David Archer notes the risk of knee and leg injuries are down because players aren't being driven to the ground in practice.

Dartmouth has been especially active, developing a robotic tackling dummy, called the Mobile Virtual Player (MVP), to simulate live tackling in an effective and realistic way. The product was unveiled in 2015, nearly five years after coach Teevens instituted a no-tackling policy in practice to keep more players healthy.

Said Priore: "You could see based on the lack of injuries that were reported at the end of the year that … being a successful football team is how healthy you can you stay. I think all these measures go into helping us stay healthy."

Key Ivy League games
Penn at Harvard (Nov. 11) - The last 10 Ivy League titles have included one or both of these powers. Expect the streak to continue in 2017.

Five More: Yale at Dartmouth (Oct. 7); Penn at Columbia (Oct. 14); Princeton at Harvard (Oct. 21); Princeton at Penn (Nov. 4); Harvard at Yale (Nov. 18).

Ivy League football preseason media poll
1. (tie) Princeton (6 first-place votes), 120 points

1. (tie) Harvard (5), 120

3. Penn (5), 110

4. Yale, 71

5. Dartmouth, 60

6. Brown (1), 57

7. Columbia, 38

8. Cornell, 36

Instant Replay: Penn beats Harvard to clinch berth in Ivy League Tournament

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Penn Athletics

Instant Replay: Penn beats Harvard to clinch berth in Ivy League Tournament

BOX SCORE

A night after suffering one of the most disappointing results in program history, the University of Pennsylvania rebounded with its most consequential win in at least five years in an unbelievably dramatic finish.

Sophomore Jackson Donahue drained a three-pointer with 6.3 seconds left to clinch the Quakers a spot in the inaugural four-team Ivy League Tournament with a 75-72 upset win over Harvard at the Palestra, shaking off a 76-74 loss to 7-20 Dartmouth. The tournament will be held on Penn's home floor next Saturday with the Red and Blue facing rival Princeton.

Penn had the ball with the game tied at 72 after an incredible second half. Freshman Devon Goodman came off a screen and dished it to Donahue, who hit the most important shot for Penn in years.

It was clear from the opening tip which team was more desperate. Penn raced out to a 19-11 lead thanks to 11 early points from senior Matt Howard, fittingly on Senior Night. The Crimson responded by locking the Quakers down defensively, holding them to just 36 percent shooting before the break and taking a 35-31 lead into halftime.

After halftime, the Quakers came out hot with a 10-2 run but were soon locked in a back-and-forth affair. Harvard got back the lead and stretched it to as many as six thanks in large part to center Zena Edosomwan's efforts in the post. The senior threw down some thunderous dunks and finished with 15 points.

But Penn would not falter with its season on the line. Down 57-51 with 8:22 to go, the Quakers threw the Palestra into a frenzy with a 14-4 run behind Howard and freshman center A.J. Brodeur. Harvard senior Siyani Chambers continued to help match Penn shot for shot.

Bryce Aiken drained two free throws to tie the game, leading to Donahue's shot. The three was Donahue's only make of the game.

Howard finished with a game-high 24 points while Brodeur had 15 points. Freshman Ryan Betley had 10 as well.

With the win, Penn improves to 13-14 (6-8 Ivy) and finishes in fourth place in the conference. Harvard finishes second with an 18-8 (10-3) record. Despite little to play for other than pride, the Crimson played with passion and were clearly intent on denying the Quakers a tournament bid. 

Scoreboard watching
Before Penn even got to halftime, Cornell had defeated Brown, 92-78, and Princeton obliterated Dartmouth, 85-48. Thanks to these results, a Penn win was all the Quakers needed to make the Ivy League Tournament over Columbia based on the tiebreakers. Columbia lost to Yale later Saturday, making the tiebreakers meaningless.

On the women's side
Penn women's basketball defeated Harvard in Cambridge, 64-46, to clinch its second straight Ivy League regular season title. 

All-time series
Penn holds a 131-41 lead in its meetings with Harvard. However, the Crimson have won 14 of the last 19, including six of the last eight.

Up next
Penn and Harvard both return to the Palestra next Saturday for the Ivy League Tournament. No. 4 Penn will face No. 1 Princeton, which defeated the Quakers twice this season while No. 2 Harvard squares off with No. 3 Yale, which lost both meetings with the Crimson. 

The winners of both games face in Sunday's tournament final.

Penn needs win over Harvard, help to make Ivy League Tournament

Penn needs win over Harvard, help to make Ivy League Tournament

There is one night left in the Ivy League regular season and Penn men's basketball still has a fighting chance at a berth in the inaugural Ivy League Tournament. But the Quakers will need some help. 

As a recap, the tournament will have four teams and be hosted at the Palestra next Saturday and Sunday. Princeton, Harvard and Yale are locked in as the No. 1, 2 and 3 seeds, respectively. From there, only Cornell is eliminated. Penn and Columbia are tied for fourth place at 5-8 while Dartmouth and Brown are 4-9.

On Saturday, Penn hosts Harvard, Dartmouth travels to Princeton, Columbia is on the road at Yale and Brown faces Cornell in Providence. 

The Quakers lost an extremely costly game to Dartmouth on Friday night, while Brown beat up Columbia. Penn was swept by the Big Green for the first time since 2009 and just the second time since 1959. If Penn had won, all the Red and Blue would have needed was a win over Harvard or, perhaps more likely, a Yale win over Columbia. 

Now there are only two scenarios that get Penn into the Ivy tournament and both involve a victory over Harvard. The game is a literal must-win. (There was a scenario that had Penn getting into the tournament with a 5-9 record, but Cornell's loss at Yale on Friday night ended it.)

Scenario A
1. Penn beats Harvard
2. Yale beats Columbia

Scenario B
1. Penn beats Harvard but Columbia beats Yale
2. Cornell beats Brown
3. Princeton beats Dartmouth

For an explanation of all the tiebreakers involved in Penn topping Columbia in this scenario, see my post from Friday morning

Yale beating Columbia in New Haven isn't too tough to imagine, so perhaps the most difficult part is the actual Penn win over Harvard. However, a bit of luck and history are on the Quakers' side. On the luck side, the Crimson played a grueling game at Princeton on Friday night and need to travel to the Palestra with nothing to play for in terms of seeding. In terms of history, the last time Penn lost at home to Dartmouth (2013), the Quakers responded by beating the eventual Ivy champion Harvard the next night.

In their meeting up in Cambridge earlier this year, the Quakers raced out to an early lead but eventually lost to the Crimson, 69-59. If they want any chance of postseason glory, they'll have to reverse that result on Saturday night ... and get a little bit of help.