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Penn and Franklin Field…History Everywhere

Posted by Sean Rowland on November 21, 2011

Back in January, I visited The Palestra on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. It was a venue that I had long known about and eagerly anticipated a visit to as it was well known to college basketball fans. Saturday, I went back to Penn to see another venue, one that it is older and oozes just as much nostalgia, but yet doesn’t get the love like the basketball arena next door. Franklin Field is home to Quaker football and a place that also takes fans back into time. Along with hosting football, the Penn Relays have been held here since 1895 (that’s right as in 1800s) , hence the track around the field. Normally, I’m always against tracks in football stadiums because it cuts back on the view and is less intimate, but in this stadium its OK because of what that track represents. The stadium also was home to the NFL Eagles from 1958-1970.

Despite the parking drawbacks on this urban campus, it was nice to take a stroll this time during the day so I can appreciate the huge, diverse and scenic campus. Like the Palestra, Franklin Field doesn’t really jump out at you as being a stadium from the outside. Plus, there aren’t even any lights to give the stadium away, as those are built into the seating bowl. Inside…wow, unlike any other football stadium I have seen before. There are many stadiums that were built in the early 1900s (this one took its current shape in 1922), but few are left as untouched as Penn’s is. The double-decker horseshoe has so many different vantage points and I checked out a lot of them during the game. Some are amazing, like half-way up the sideline seats on the Penn side, where you have an incredible skyline view of Philadelphia to the right and a view of the University with Weightman Hall on the left. Then there are some that are uniquely awful, like in the corner of the lower bowl on the sideline, where you have a brick wall to your back and side, a pole in the way and a terrible view not even facing the football field. Though seating is uncomfortable and the amenities aren’t there, this is a pretty awesome place to watch a game. Unfortunately, the crowd was weak on Senior Day as it was only announced at 7,609 (and a few thousand of those fans were for visiting Cornell). The only plus atmosphere-wise was watching the weird, yet funny tradition of Toast Tossing.

For a full stadium review and more pictures of Franklin Field, please click the link. I’ll also be doing a review over at Stadium Journey that should be out in a week or two, so be sure to check that out as well!

Oh yeah, the game! Ivy football has yet to disappoint me as five years ago, I saw a classic between Princeton and Harvard. This time, it was Cornell and Penn that put on the entertainment in a game that had no defense, but plenty of excitement. It started great for Penn as Cornell fumbled the opening kickoff and the Quakers scored a touchdown a few minutes later. Cornell got the TD back and then after a few punts, the teams traded touchdowns until it was 21-21. A Penn field goal put them up by 3 at the half. The Big Red got the lead after Penn turned the ball over on downs and Jeff Mathews threw a 54 yard touchdown pass. A few possessions later, Mathews got nailed and Penn picked up the fumble deep in Cornell territory, scoring shortly thereafter for a 31-27 lead. Cornell quickly answered and so did Penn, leading to a 38-34 score in the middle of the 4th quarter. Cornell drove it deep on their next possession, but failed to convert in the red zone. However, as Penn got the ball back, Billy Ragone threw an interception and Cornell this time cashed in on the next possession to take a 41-38 lead. The Quakers followed with a great drive again, however their 44 yard field goal attempt to tie it with 5:23 left was blocked. Penn’s defense had no answer for the Cornell offense all day and they couldn’t get a stop when they needed it as the Big Red effortlessly drove down field, eating clock along the way before scoring a final touchdown. They won 48-38 in a crazy game. Cornell’s Jeff Mathews was 35 for 45 with 548 yards (an Ivy record), 5 TDs and 1 INT. The teams combined for 46 first downs. Meanwhile, Penn had 9 players catch a pass.

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