Football falls 23-12 to Harvard at home
It was billed as Dartmouth’s biggest game since the two met as undefeated teams in 1997. The game unfolded differently from the 24-0 contest 17 years prior, but ended in the same result: a Crimson victory.
Dartmouth (5-2, 3-1 Ivy) fell short of achieving its first undefeated Ivy League season since 1996, and Harvard (7-0, 4-0 Ivy) managed to parry another challenge from the developing Big Green squad, 23-12.
Harvard’s vaunted defense, which leads the league in points allowed, proved too tough a challenge for the Big Green as Dartmouth was held to 94 rush yards on the day and was forced to kick two red zone field goals.
At the end of the day, however, turnovers doomed the Big Green. The home team lost two fumbles and had an interception, compared to only one interception thrown by the Crimson. The Crimson also won the third-down battle, converting nine of 16 compared to five of 16 for the Big Green
“They made more plays than we did today,” head coach Buddy Teevens said in a post-game press conference. “We had opportunities if we didn’t turn the ball over. We could not get them off the field quickly enough.”
Harvard’s offense moved the ball efficiently throughout the game, especially on the ground with junior running back Paul Stanton rushing for a career-high 180 yards thanks to a strong push from the Crimson offensive line, which was consistent at the point of attack throughout the game.
“We knew Dartmouth was a good defense going in, but we knew they also didn’t bring as much pressure as Princeton,” Stanton said at the press conference. “They tend to play a little more back, so we knew we were going to be able to run the ball a little bit more on them.”
Dartmouth’s offense had moments of strength, but it could not establish a consistent rhythm as the game progressed. Quarterback Dalyn Williams ’16 passed for 210 yards and added 37 more on the ground before leaving the game due to an eye injury sustained late in the second half.
Replacement Alex Park ’14 completed seven of his 11 passes, but he could not lead the Big Green on a scoring drive and was intercepted late in the fourth quarter to seal Dartmouth’s fate.
The first half was a game of fits and starts. After receiving the opening kickoff, the Crimson drove 75 yards for an impressive touchdown drive, punctuated by Stanton’s 3-yard run to give Harvard an early lead.
The Big Green struck back with a 72-yard scoring drive as the first quarter drew to an end. Thanks to a few key third-down conversions on Williams completions to Stephen Johnston ’18 and Bramble and a 10-yard run from Bramble to convert a 4 and 1, the Big Green rushed into scoring position. The running back from Floyds Knobs, Indiana, finished the drive two plays later on a 2-yard run up the middle, but Harvard blocked the PAT.
The Crimson retaliated on its next drive, scoring a 37-yard touchdown on a reverse pass that fooled the Dartmouth secondary. Harvard had its PAT attempt blocked as well, keeping the Big Green within seven.
On the second play of Dartmouth’s ensuing possession, Williams hit running back Brian Grove ’16 in stride streaking down the near sideline for 37 yards that had the Big Green threatening again.
But, Dartmouth could not convert on 4th and 1 from the Harvard 28-yard line, as Bramble was stopped inches short.
“They’re a very tough run defense,” right tackle Scotty Whitmore ’15 said in the press conference. “Their defensive linemen transition well off of blocks, that’s what they’re really good at.”
Dartmouth would then be hurt by its first turnover of the afternoon as a completion to Victor Williams ’16 over the middle was fumbled on the hit, giving Harvard the ball at the Dartmouth 23.
The Crimson capitalized on five consecutive run plays, with Stanton getting the score on a 2-yard dive to put Harvard up 20-6.
Refusing to quit before the half, the Big Green set out on a 5:44 drive that ended in a 30-yard field goal from Alex Gakenheimer ’17, who remains perfect in his field goal attempts in his Dartmouth career, to get the Big Green within 11 going into the half.
“The thought at halftime was, ‘We’ve been in this situation before, we’ve been down before,’” cornerback Vernon Harris ’16 said at the press conference.
Dartmouth received the second half kick and looked poised for a strong second half. The first drive resulted in another Dartmouth field goal, this time from 22 yards, to cap a 70-yard drive that included a highlight 37-yard completion to Bramble down the far sideline.
The Dartmouth defense then took the cue to make a big play of its own as Troy Donahue ’15 intercepted an errant pass from backup quarterback junior Scott Hosch to give the Big Green the ball again with momentum on its side.
But, the energy quickly dissipated. The teams traded punts without advancing much beyond midfield for the remainder of the quarter.
Harvard kicked a 33-yard field goal to go up 23-12 with six minutes remaining in the game, which left Dartmouth with only a few chances left.
Park drove the team across midfield in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter when Bo Patterson ’15 lost control of the ball after a 12-yard completion at the Harvard 47, turning the ball over and all but sealing the Crimson victory.
Harvard has now taken 17 out of the last 18 matchups with the Big Green and takes sole possession of first place in the Ivy League while Dartmouth is tied with Yale and Princeton University at 3-1.
Dartmouth looks to get back into the win column next week at Cornell University.