Football team pulls off historic Homecoming win against Yale University

by Jake Philhower | 10/9/17 2:25am

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by Tiffany Zhai / The Dartmouth

Unlike last week against the University of Pennsylvania and the previous week against Holy Cross University, Dartmouth didn’t wait until the last play of the game to beat Yale University on Saturday. This time they did it with 34 seconds remaining. Drew Hunnicutt ’19’s 15-yard touchdown catch completed the largest comeback in Dartmouth history to lead the Big Green over Yale 28-27.

Coming into the game, Dartmouth players and coaches knew the quality of the Yale team. The Elis had the Ivy League’s best scoring offense and were receiving votes in the FCS national coaches poll. The Bulldogs stuck it to the home team early. Yale scored 21 unanswered points in the first quarter and a half while only giving up two first downs in the entire first half.

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The Big Green’s only points of the first half came on defense, when Isiah Swann ’20 grabbed an interception and returned it for a touchdown with 2:24 remaining in the second quarter. The pick-six turned out to be pivotal.

“I was just in man coverage,” Swann said at the post-game press conference. “I cut under the receiver, looked back to the quarterback and the ball was right in my face. I just caught it and ran for my life down the sideline.”

Even with the points, Dartmouth remained in a deep hole going into halftime as Yale kicker Alex Galland connected for a field goal after a 10-play, 67-yard drive to end the half. The Big Green had seen adversity so far this season, but nothing like this halftime deficit.

“We knew that we just had to move on — there was nothing we could do about it,” cornerback Danny McManus ’17 said at the post-game press conference. “We just had to come back strong and do the best we could to put ourselves in the position that we were to win the game.”

Fortunately for Dartmouth, it was a tale of two halves at Memorial Field.

“The most meaningless score in football is the halftime score,” Yale head coach Tony Reno said at the post-game press conference.

Yale only had seven first downs the entire second half and was only able to score on one drive. The Bulldogs’ offensive anemia, combined with a porous second-half defense, allowed Dartmouth to crawl back into the game.

The Big Green opened up the playbook as the game progressed, running a much more aggressive offensive scheme. In the first half, Dartmouth balanced its 11 rushes with 11 passes but only netted 18 rushing yards with its balanced attack. Yale defensive ends Earl Chism and Kyle Mullen shut down the sweeps on the outside. But in the second half, quarterback Jack Heneghan ’18 began to leave the pocket as a rushing threat, opening up receivers on wheel and slant routes for short completions. Increasingly, Dartmouth gained yards in large chunks. Of Heneghan’s 314 yards, 276 came in the second half, including a 40-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.

“I called him out a bit,” head coach Buddy Teevens ’79 said at the post-game press conference. “I said to him, ‘We need you to step up,’ and he did.”

Heneghan finished with three touchdowns and a 138.75 passer rating. His first interception of the season did come in the fourth quarter, but it resulted in a touchback on a busted fourth-down play.

In the absence of Ivy League Rookie of the Year Hunter Hagdorn ’20, who left due to injury in the first quarter, Hunnicutt stepped up and caught a pair of touchdowns, including the game-tying score to set up kicker David Smith ’18’s go-ahead extra point.

“[Heneghan] threw me two great balls,” Hunnicutt said. “He played a great game and the [offensive]-linemen on that last drive gave [him] so much time.”

After the game, players went to greet family, friends and students, attempting Memorial Field’s version of the Lambeau Leap. As the team and crowd came together to sing the “Alma Mater,” as they do at every football game, players were feeling sentimental.

Even late in the game, a Dartmouth win seemed nearly impossible. When Dartmouth got the ball back at its own 10-yard line with 7:24 left in the fourth quarter, ESPN gave Yale a 99.4 percent chance of winning the game.

“This is the best team we have played to date,” said Teevens following the win.

The Big Green has one last nonconference matchup at Sacred Heart University, losers of three straight. The Ivy League remains wide open as Dartmouth heads into the heart of its conference schedule. Traditional power Harvard University was stunned by Cornell University on Saturday. Central Connecticut State University beat defending Ivy League champion Penn by three touchdowns. And Columbia University is 4-0 for the first time in 21 seasons. Dartmouth and Columbia remain the only two unbeaten teams both in and outside of league play. The Big Green will face the Lions on Oct. 21 with a kickoff set for 12:30 p.m.