Big Green football beats Yale 38-31

by Brett Drucker | 10/11/14 9:46am

by The Dartmouth / The Dartmouth

In what will go down as one of Dartmouth’s most satisfying wins in the 100-year history of the Yale Bowl, the Big Green (3-1, 2-0 Ivy) defeated Yale University 38-31 in a back-and-forth thriller in New Haven.

Despite being down 24-14 at halftime, Dartmouth stormed back after the break, outscoring the Bulldogs (3-1, 1-1 Ivy) 24-7 in the second half to open Ivy League play with consecutive victories for the first time since 2001.

“We put ourselves in a hole and were able to climb out of it,” head coach Buddy Teevens said in a post-game press conference. “It was fun to see the maturation rather than the panic.”

The offense showed a new dimension this week, relying on its passing game to move the ball instead of a ground attack led by running back Kyle Bramble ’16 and dual threat quarterback Dalyn Williams ’16. The game plan included a series of long passes and distinctive lack of option runs, partially to compensate for the difficulty of running on Yale’s wet natural grass surface. The Big Green managed only 46 yards of rushing on the afternoon compared to 388 through the air.

“Yale did a great job of shutting down the run,” Teevens said. “Going into the game we probably thought that we were going to have to throw the ball more. They forced our hand because we really weren’t running the ball any place.”

Williams threw for a career-high 388 yards including three touchdowns and one interception, completing 32 of his 47 pass attempts while tallying only 13 yards and one touchdown on the ground.

Twelve of those receptions were to reliable wide-receiver Ryan McManus ’15, who also had a career-high 188 yards receiving. McManus was also a dynamic threat in the return game, taking a punt back 60 yards for a touchdown in the middle of the second quarter, which kept Dartmouth in the game after a rocky start.

“It was really fun to see what we could do because this was the first opportunity that we’ve had to really throw the ball down the field,” he said at the press conference.

While Williams was not at his most accurate and was frequently hassled by an aggressive Yale rush, he was helped by his receivers and repeatedly scrambled around the backfield to buy time for his receivers to find space.

After giving up touchdowns on the first three Yale drives, Dartmouth’s defense settled down and limited the nation’s top scoring offense in the second half. Dartmouth forced three interceptions that stymied a series of Bulldog attacks late in the game.

“They’re a really good offense — it was a blast playing against those guys,” co-captain Stephen Dazzo ’15 said in the press conference. “We came off the field every time and had to adjust something. They found ways to get yards, and we just kept playing hard and that’s what mattered in the end.”

Dartmouth could only muster a single touchdown in the first quarter on a 39-yard strike from Williams to Bo Patterson ’15. After a play-action fake, Patterson gained a step on the Yale defender, and Williams put the ball perfectly in the senior receiver’s arms in stride for the score.

Midway through the second quarter, the Dartmouth defense managed its first three-and-out of the game, forcing Yale to punt to McManus, who has been elusive and dangerous all season. Receiving the ball at his own 40, McManus took off up the middle, sneaking through the Yale coverage unit and breaking an attempted tackle from the Bulldog’s punter on his way to the end zone.

Yale struck back with a 36-yard field goal on its next offensive drive but would score only once more in the game. The teams then traded interceptions, with defensive back Troy Donahue ’15 coming down with a jump ball down the right sideline and a 45-yard return down the Dartmouth sideline to give the Big Green a chance to score again before the half. But the Big Green could not connect on a series of end zone strikes and entered the half down by 10.

“The big thing at the half was just ‘settle down. It’s not a panic state. There’s still 30 minutes to play. We have the ability to do the things we’ve talked about, just do your job,’” Teevens said.

After the teams traded punts to start the third, the Big Green defense came up with another turnover as Vernon Harris ’16 intercepted Yale quarterback Morgan Roberts at the Yale 29-yard line. The Big Green then marched down the field on a seven-play drive that culminated in a touchdown pass to an uncovered Bramble coming out of the backfield, putting Dartmouth within three.

The Dartmouth defense forced a three-and-out on the next drive on a Yale offense that looked like a completely different unit from the one that moved the ball with ease early in the game. The Big Green took over at its own 17 and drove the length of the field to take its first lead of the game on a 30-yard touchdown pass to McManus in stride.

Yale responded with an 84-yard touchdown drive of its own, capitalizing on blown coverage for a 47-yard pass across the middle of the field and took a 31-28 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

On Yale’s first possession of the fourth, Roberts threw another interception, this one caught by Dazzo after a deflection. Dartmouth would tie the game at 31 on its next drive with a 35-yard field goal from Alex Gakenheimer ’17, who is a perfect 4-4 on the season.

But the Big Green offense was not finished. Starting at his own 37 yard line, Williams led Dartmouth on a masterful 11-play drive that took more than four minutes and ended in a quarterback keeper diving over the goal line for the game winning score. The drive was kept alive by three third-down conversions including a 40-yard completion to a diving McManus on third and 12 from the Dartmouth 35 yard line and a gutsy fourth-and-one conversion inside the red zone.

“We anticipated having to throw the ball because people were keying on our run game,” Williams said in the press conference.

Dartmouth converted 11 of 20 third down opportunities, compared to five of 13 conversions by Yale.

Yale gave Dartmouth one more scare, racking up three first downs on the next drive and getting the ball to the Dartmouth 37 before four incompletions forced a turnover on downs and allowed Dartmouth to run out the clock.

Dartmouth is now 2-0 wearing its new “granite” helmets that it debuted against the University of Pennsylvania last weekend in a 31-13 win.

While both players and coaches were reluctant to draw too much from the victory, Teevens noted that it gives the team confidence that it can come from behind in big games and that it was a win that should be celebrated before moving on to the next matchup.

“We’re 2-0, and we’ve got five more to go. There’s no time to celebrate,” Williams said. Then Teevens jumped in: “But we will celebrate. It was a good win for us.”

The Big Green sits tied atop the Ancient Eight standings with Princeton University and Harvard University, who respectively ranked first and second in the preseason poll.

“We’re feeling good,” Dazzo said. “This is the first time in a while where we’ve been in control. We’re in control of our own fate right now and we’re going to keep it rolling.”

The Big Green returns to Hanover for Homecoming next week to take on the College of the Holy Cross in its final non-league matchup before returning to Ivy play at Columbia University.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction appended (Oct. 16, 2014):

An initial version of this article misrepresented the final score of the game, which was 38-31, in its online headline.