Football blows out Penn by three touchdowns in Ivy opener

by Alexander Agadjanian | 10/4/15 5:05pm

Following two impressive blowouts in non-conference play to begin the season, the football team hardly missed a beat upon starting Ivy League play last Saturday. Crossing the end zone on each of its first three offensive drives and accumulating a three-touchdown lead by halftime, the Big Green (3-0, 1-0 Ivy) easily trampled over the University of Pennsylvania (1-2, 0-1 Ivy) 41-20 with another superb performance from quarterback Dalyn Williams ’16 leading the way. On top of commencing Ivy play in assertive fashion, the win was Dartmouth’s first playing at Penn since 1997.

By the final whistle, the Big Green had posted yet another overwhelming effort, but also added a positive wrinkle into the mix. In completing 23 passes out of 25 attempts, Dalyn Williams set a school record with 92 completion percentage, to go along with 336-yards passing and 82-yards rushing for six touchdowns and over 400 yards of total offense.

Playing in windy and misty conditions in Philadelphia, Dartmouth won the opening coin flip and deferred to the second half. Born out of comfort with a resolute defensive unit, the decision produced benefits within two minutes. On third and short during the team’s first set of downs, Penn running back Tre Solomon got jammed at the line and — when attempting to extend the ball for the first down marker — had it jarred loose. Safety David Caldwell ’16 secured the recovery — notching his second turnover in as many games — as Dartmouth grabbed possession at Penn’s 32-yard line.

For the third consecutive game, the Big Green defense changed the course of the game early on. The turnover marked the second straight contest in which the unit took the ball away on the opponent’s opening drive. Moreover, Dartmouth’s defensive game-changers often come quick. In the first 20 minutes over the last three games, the defensive unit has created five total turnovers. Linebacker Eric Wickham ’16, who brought down Solomon on Penn’s first drive, noted the significance of these type of plays.

“I think as a defense we definitely preach turnovers and going for the ball,” Solomon said. “It’s huge early on in the game, turnovers like that. It’s huge for momentum, and we just rode it on through the last few games.”

Gifted excellent field position, the dynamic Dartmouth offense did not need to do much to capitalize on the opportunity. Across a span of four plays, Williams connected with Victor Williams ’16 for a total 25 yards off two catches, the last of which found the receiver in the end zone with 11:59 on the clock. Victor Williams pointed to the importance of this early result after the game.

“It’s really important because when you come out you really need to set the tone about how the game’s going to go,” Victor Williams said. “[You’ve] got to let the opponents know you came ready to play.”

For the majority of the first half, the drive outcomes for the two teams adhered to an identical pattern. After Penn surrendered the ball away — whether through the opening turnover or three consecutive three-and-outs that followed — Dartmouth responded by subsequently executing a touchdown drive.

Accordingly, the Big Green offense sustained its rhythm after Penn’s second drive immediately flamed out. Running back Kyle Bramble ’16, sidelined by injury for the first two games, made his first appearance in this possession, taking his second carry for 10 yards. In the air, Dalyn Williams continued to cultivate a strong rapport with Victor Williams, as Victor caught two balls for 31 yards and garnered first downs on each.

One yard outside the red zone, Dalyn Williams showed off his versatility with a pair of scrambles that moved the Big Green to the Penn nine-yard line. Inside the 10, the quarterback ran to his right for a potential option pitch but kept the ball himself and barreled into the end zone for a rushing touchdown. Dartmouth missed the extra point, but held a commanding 13-0 lead with seven minutes left in the first quarter.

Another Quaker three-and-out allowed Dartmouth a chance to manufacture a lengthy, successful drive. This time around, Dalyn Williams found even more success on the ground, evading Penn defenders in open space in silk-like manner for gains of 15 and 11 yards. The quarterback followed that up by further showcasing his clinical accuracy, spreading short throws around the field to methodically move the ball. With four different players rushing the ball and five different ones catching it, Dartmouth’s third possession — a 16-play, 90 yard drive — culminated with Dalyn Williams punching it in from one-yard out, good for a 20-0 lead a little over three minutes into the second quarter.

By the end of this drive, Dalyn Williams had already amassed an impressive stat line. Through the first three drives of the game, the senior quarterback went 9-10 for 107 yards and a touchdown through the air, complemented by seven carries for 53 yards and two scores on the ground. His primary pass-catcher, Victor Williams, had already snagged six balls for more than 80 yards and a TD. At the end of the first quarter, Dartmouth had out-gained Penn 185-24 in total yards and had converted seven first downs to the Quakers’ none.

One indispensable contribution to the Big Green’s abundance of first-half offense success came from the offensive line. As it continues to solidify in the young season, the group thoroughly stymied the Penn pass rush on Saturday, granting Williams copious amounts of time to stand in the pocket and make throws. Dartmouth head coach Buddy Teevens considered it another positive step for the line’s progress during this early season stretch.

“The offensive line continues to improve each week,” Teevens said. “[Offensive coordinator Keith Clark] has the guys getting into sync, protecting the passer better and we’re establishing some success on the ground as well.”

After Dartmouth topped off its fourth offensive drive with another touchdown — Williams finding Houston Brown ’17 for a 22-yard touchdown catch — Penn was finally able to have some success moving the ball. Notching its first first down conversion on its fifth drive — nearly 25 minutes into the game, the Quaker offense gradually paced upfield with the help of four passing first down conversions and one rushing one from quarterback Alek Torgersen. Thirty-six seconds before the end of the first half, Penn junior Togersen plunged into the end zone from one yard out to cut Dartmouth’s lead to 27-6 at the break after a missed Quakers extra point attempt.

The third quarter of play offered more of the same — a display of dominance by Dartmouth on both sides of the football. Williams finished off the Big Green’s first drive with a 30-yard strike to Brown, and later launched a 43-yard touchdown pass to Victor Williams with 37 seconds left in the third quarter for a 41-6 advantage.

After replacing an injured Torgersen to start the third quarter, Penn backup quarterback Andrew Lisa found success in the air later in the half. Passing for 126 yards and two touchdowns in five second-half drives, Lisa managed to pull the Quakers within three touchdowns of Dartmouth. Lisa’s late success forced Teevens to send Dalyn Williams — who was taken out amid the blowout — back into the game. Upon his return into the game, Williams led a time-consuming drive that did not lead to points, but effectively iced the Big Green’s advantage.

Victor Williams served as Dalyn’s primary recipient again, eclipsing his mammoth total from the prior week against Sacred Heart University and once again setting career records with 12 catches for 213 yards and two scores on Saturday. Without 2014 All-Ivy First Team receiver Ryan McManus ’15 for the second straight game because of injury, Williams’s rise has proven critical and fulfilling of the team’s next-man-up mantra.

“That’s the mentality for any football team,” Williams said. “Guys get hurt, that’s the nature of the game. It’s a rough game. When someone gets hurt, the next guy just has to step in and play well.”

In what has become a mainstay through three games, the Dartmouth defense smothered the opposition from the start and maintained the intensity for the rest of the day. Another forced turnover — off a strip sack by Folarin Orimolade ’17 in the third quarter — made it two on the day, and 10 so far in the season to go along with a +7 turnover margin. In the more competitive opening half of play, the defensive unit constrained the Penn offense to just 103 yards and a 1-6 third-down conversion rate. Wickham, who had a team-leading 11 tackles, emphasized the cohesion that defines the unit as a key trait.

“The defense as a whole played together, we played 11 as one,” Wickham said. “Everyone’s on the same page and it really showed on the field.”

This coming Saturday, the Big Green will travel back up to Hanover for its homecoming game and conference home opener against Yale University.