Despite early lead, football team loses close game to Harvard
With its Ivy League Championship hopes largely in the balance, the Big Green had questions to answer on Saturday against Harvard University. However, the men fell short in key situations and suffered a 14th-straight loss to the Crimson, leaving the Big Green in need of serious help to win a conference championship.
Dartmouth’s last win against the Crimson was a 30-16 triumph in 2003, two years before head coach Buddy Teevens ’79 joined the team.
“We can’t change previous seasons,” wide receiver Hunter Hagdorn ’20 said. “We’re focused on this team and what we can control.”
First-half play has been a huge problem at times this year for Dartmouth, which has often needed second-half comebacks to win football games. The comeback habit hurt the Big Green against Columbia University last week after the offense fell short of a winning touchdown on the final drive of the game.
This week’s game against Harvard started differently. Harvard won the toss and deferred possession to the second half. Upon receiving the kick, the Dartmouth offense crafted a 10 play, 80-yard drive which resulted in a touchdown run from Ryder Stone ’18. The Big Green looked to have addressed its first-half woes.
“We wanted to come out firing against Harvard,” wide receiver Emory Thompson ’18 said. “This was an area that needed improvement for us and one that we definitely focused on.”
The defense was solid throughout much of the first half. Though Harvard was able to put together two drives with 10 or more plays in the first half together, Dartmouth was able to come up with big plays and forced punts on the Crimson’s first four drives. But a late mistake proved costly.
With 1:28 left in the second quarter, Teevens called a timeout before Harvard punted to give the offense a chance to score before halftime. Danny McManus ’17, back to receive the punt, fumbled a fair catch and Harvard pounced on the ball deep in Dartmouth territory with 1:20 left in the half.
When the punt was muffed, one of the biggest storylines of the game happened off the field. Defensive quality control coach Dion King, who was in the press box, punched a hole through the glass window. King was escorted from the stadium by security.
Harvard capitalized on the turnover as quarterback Jake Smith tossed a touchdown pass with 13 seconds left in the half. Harvard missed the extra point but had the momentum and the ball to start the second half.
Harvard came out of the tunnel and delivered a key blow, mounting a 12-play, 76-yard drive proved to be monumental as the Big Green’s lead had shrunk to two points. Neither team could string together first downs for the rest of the quarter, and the 14-12 score persisted into the final frame.
Dartmouth opened the fourth quarter backed down on defense on its own four-yard line after a blocked punt at the end of the preceding period. On third and goal, Smith delivered his second touchdown pass of the afternoon to give the Crimson its first lead of the afternoon.
Quarterback Jack Heneghan ’18 and the Dartmouth offense were yet again struggling to produce a drive as Heneghan threw an interception on the first Big Green drive of the final quarter. Harvard got another touchdown with 7:21 left in the game, and suddenly the Big Green found itself in need of yet another second-half comeback.
The offense finally delivered with a quick 80-yard drive that lasted 3:03 and resulted in a touchdown scramble from Heneghan. After the defense forced a Harvard punt, the Big Green had one last chance to change the direction of the game. But with 22 seconds left, Heneghan was picked off at the Harvard 42-yard line, effectively ending the game.
“The loss was definitely tough, but we’re going to make the most of the rest of the games this season and focus on what we can control,” Stone said.
With the loss, Dartmouth must win each of its last games against Brown University, Cornell University and Princeton University to have a shot at the Ivy League Championship. Additionally, the team needs Columbia to lose two of its last three games against Brown, Cornell and Harvard since the Lions hold the tiebreaker over the Big Green by virtue of their win last Saturday.