Dalyn Williams leads Dartmouth to 35-3 win with dominant passing performance

by Alexander Agadjanian | 10/11/15 6:15pm

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It was the Homecoming game, Dartmouth’s Ivy League home opener and one of the most important matchups of the season that will go toward determining the Ivy League champion. With all of these circumstances in play, the football team turned Saturday afternoon’s contest against Yale University into a blowout by halftime. On the back of three different personal and school records broken by quarterback Dalyn Williams ’16, the Big Green (4-0, 2-0 Ivy) thrashed the Bulldogs (3-1, 1-1 Ivy) 35-3.

Williams continues to put together the best season by a Dartmouth quarterback in the program’s history. Williams posted a school-record 435 yards through the air, broke the school record for total career yards set by ex-NFL quarterback Jay Fiedler ’94 and became the first Big Green quarterback to throw for over 300 yards in three consecutive games. Williams led Dartmouth to 592 yards of total offense, its highest tally in more than 40 years.

Early penalties, however, plagued Dartmouth’s first three possessions. Totaling 48 yards on five calls by the end of the first quarter, these miscues offset first down gains made by the Big Green through the air. It was not until the third drive of the game that Dartmouth overcame the penalty deterrents and put points on the board.

After a holding call followed two first downs, Williams quickly negated the setback with a 13-yard pass to tight end Cameron Skaff ’18. Facing a similar situation after a 15-yard personal foul penalty, the quarterback found Ryan McManus ’15 — back on the field after missing two games with injury — for 23 yards and went back to McManus for another nine yards, placing Dartmouth on the Yale 13-yard line. Two plays later, Williams rolled out to his right and found Skaff alone in the back of the end zone, capping a methodical 15-play, 80-yard touchdown drive.

For Williams, the offense settled nicely into the game in large part because of better communication within the unit.

“We knew [Yale] would come out and blitz,” Williams said. “They were basically trying to get the ball out of my hand. [We just made] adjustments on how they were playing us. We’re going out there and I’m seeing a couple of things, the receivers are seeing things differently, but you just want to get on the same page… but obviously we worked it out [later].”

The successful offensive drive also contained a key in-game improvement for the Big Green offensive line. During Dartmouth’s first two possessions of the game, the Yale pass rush heavily disrupted Williams, batting down passes and making contact with the quarterback. The following Big Green drive saw much stouter play by the linemen, and as the game progressed, Williams received more and more time to stand in the pocket and comfortably execute throws.

“I think [the Yale defense] was running a bunch of twists inside, so [the offensive line] has a pretty hard job,” Williams said. “Those five guys care a lot. It’s great, and everyone’s willing to step up. They just made adjustments, they came back in and handled [the Yale pass rush] pretty well.”

Despite only holding a 7-0 edge, disparities in offensive yards (80-30) and first downs (8-2) had already developed for Dartmouth by the end of the first quarter. The indications of the better team were there, and over the next 15 minutes of play, came to fruition on the scoreboard.

A three-and-out commenced the Big Green’s first possession in the second quarter, but on its next, Dartmouth reeled off an explosive 93-yard drive that lasted less than two minutes. Three plays after finding Brian Grove ’16 down the right sideline for a 22-yard pickup, Williams completed two contested long-pass plays — the first to McManus for 23 yards and the second to Victor Williams ’16 for 42 — to quickly put Dartmouth at the Yale four-yard line. Seconds later, Grove dove into the end zone and gave Dartmouth a 14-0 lead. During this drive, Dalyn Williams became Dartmouth’s all-time leader in total yards.

Yale finally found some offensive rhythm its next time with the ball, gaining two first downs in the same drive for the first time on the day, but faltered on a fourth down conversion attempt soon after. In the immediately following play, Dalyn Williams connected on a back shoulder throw to McManus for 41 yards to put the Big Green deep in opposing territory. To cap off another dynamic, sub-two minute drive, Williams — in the face of a big pass rush committed by the Bulldogs — shoveled the ball to Kyle Bramble ’16 right before the pressure swallowed him, which ended in a 17-yard touchdown scamper that built up a 21-point lead for Dartmouth.

Before the first half’s conclusion, the teams exchanged the ball. After Yale linebacker Victor Egu smacked Williams on his blind side to force a fumble recovered by Yale, cornerback Vernon Harris ’16 extended at just the right time on a Yale pass to pull down an interception right near the Big Green goal line. A poor punt minutes from halftime gave quarterback Morgan Roberts and company short field position, which the Bulldogs capitalized on to cut their deficit to 21-3.

By the end of the half, Williams had posted numbers that looked as though he had already played a full game. With 307 yards and two touchdowns off a 20-31 clip in the air to his name, the senior passed the ball to three different receivers for at least 60 yards and to McManus for 105 yards. While not especially sharp in having misfired on 11 throws and missing five of his first seven, Williams compensated with a multitude of big plays. Four of his throws exceeded 20 yards, and two went for more than 40 yards, gashing through a porous Yale defense on each.

On Dartmouth’s second drive of the second half, Bramble found a hole up the middle and erupted for a 54-yard run. A few plays later, one of which included another Williams-McManus connection, Williams found Skaff for a short four-yard score and the tight end’s second touchdown grab of the game. Midway through the third quarter Dartmouth led 28-3, but it felt like much more as the Big Green dominated its visitor in every facet of the game on Saturday afternoon. Toward the end of third quarter, Williams also set a career high in passing yards, eclipsing his total set in last year’s game against Yale.

Severely hampered by injuries heading into Saturday with seven players out, the Yale passing game was seemingly hurt the most, as without three of his injured receivers, Roberts could only muster up 229 yards on a massive 58 pass attempt total. The Bulldog quarterback moved the ball effectively into Dartmouth territory in the fourth quarter, but two of Yale’s most successful late drives ended with the same result — a backbreaking interception by David Caldwell ’16.

The safety, who at one point earlier in the game had to be helped off the field because of an injury, padded another stellar turnover margin for Dartmouth — +2 on the night, and +9 on the season — giving himself five forced turnovers and three picks in 2015.

It marked just one positive aspect of another dominant performance by the defense, which yielded only 3.1 yards per opposing play. Caldwell pointed to the defense’s mentality in explaining the turnover advantage.

“We love to run to the ball,” Caldwell said. “Pursuit, that’s another thing we preach — pursuit is one of our big keys. When you run to the ball, good things are going to happen, ball’s going to drop loose, tackles, gang-tackling, that’s what we try and do.”

Williams, who stayed in the game well after the outcome was decided, topped off the scoring on Saturday afternoon with a 36-yard strike to Houston Brown ’17 to make it 35-3, culminating the rout of the fellow Ivy power. The pass gave Williams the school record for single-game yardage, and put his final games totals at 435 yards and four scores in the air off 29-53 passing. The running game added another 143 yards, as Dartmouth outgained Yale 592 to 276 and achieved 6.9 yards per play.

For head coach Buddy Teevens, the offensive success — particularly the air attack — resulted from how his quarterback, the receivers and the offensive line reacted to and ultimately exploited the Bulldog defense.

“[Yale was] pressuring, bringing five for the better part of the afternoon, and I think we held up well,” Teevens said. “They put their secondary in a [man] matchup situation, and we matched up pretty well.”

After opening its season 4-0, Dartmouth’s dreams of winning the Ivy League championship remain alive. The Big Green will head to Connecticut on this Saturday for its final non-conference game of the season against Central Connecticut State University.