Erratic Big Green push past Columbia; Penn victory over Princeton could hurt Dartmouth drive for fourth consecutive Ivy Title
NEW YORK, Nov. 6 -- Both Dartmouth and Columbia thoroughly dominated two quarters of today's match-up between one of the Ivy League's Prince Charmings and the foulest of the league's ugly step sisters.
That Dartmouth, which came away with a 42-25 victory, happened to dominate the second and the fourth quarter better than Columbia did the first and the third did little to ease a very frog-like performance by the aptly-monikered Big Green.
Despite the win, Dartmouth's title hopes suffered a severe set-back in Philadelphia. Penn's 30-14 win over Princeton, fueled by a monstrous, 272-yard rushing performance from Terrence Stokes, may well be the clock striking midnight for the Big Green's fourth consecutive Ancient Eight crown.
Penn's remaining opponents, Harvard and Cornell, have at least a chance to beat the Quakers. Harvard has an emotional incentive to win as it will be the final home game for 29-year Coach Joe Restic. The Crimson are also a very streaky team and can turn their befuddling multi-flex offense into high gear at any time.
Cornell, which will have the daunting task of facing Penn in Philadelphia on the final game of the season, has a strong defense and a very solid quarterback in Bill Lazor, who will be playing the final game of an illustrious career in which he has passed for more than 5,000 yards.
Dartmouth almost erased the entire question of whether Penn would lose a game with a somewhat inconsistent performance in New York.
Columbia led 10-0 at the end of the first quarter and went into the fourth with a 25-21 lead.
Dartmouth responded to each of those situations with a three touchdown scoring explosion on consecutive possessions in both the second and fourth quarters to uphold its reputation as the league's comeback kids.
But, somehow, today's come-from-behind effort lacked the urgency of past weeks.
Jay Fiedler '94 threw for three of those touchdowns and rushed for one more as he came up with 289 yards of total offense (243 in the air, 46 on the ground) and Pete Oberle '96 accounted for the other two in an afternoon where he rushed for 126 yards on 31 carries.
"We came down here and did what we had to do," Coach John Lyons said. "We made a lot of mistakes, but we really turned it on in the fourth quarter and came up with some big plays."
But really, Dartmouth should have been able to come up with big plays all day long against a team like Columbia (1-7 over all, 0-5 Ivy League). And although the team was brilliant in stretches, it was, on the whole, spotty, especially on the defensive end, where the Lions piled up 448 yards of total offense.
"We're really disappointed that we let them move the ball like they did," Josh Bloom '95 said. "They owned the line and they shoved it down our throats all afternoon."
Columbia came up with 184 yards on the ground and 264 yards in the air largely by playing musical quarterback between Jamie Schwalbe -- a classic, drop in the pocket quarterback who accounted for 192 of those passing yards -- and Mike Cavanaugh, a dangerously fast and athletic signal caller who bootlegged and optioned his way to 53 yards of rushing.
Coach Ray Tellier substituted the duo at will, sometimes on alternating snaps.
"We had only prepared for what we had seen on film," Lyons said. "We had to make some adjustments to stop them."
Those adjustments paid dividends all day long. As otherwise yielding as the Big Green defense may have been, it managed to collect five interceptions on the afternoon.
Dartmouth, on the other hand, coughed the ball over only twice -- once on a fumble by Pete Oberle '96 and once on an intercepted pass that skipped off of Andre Grant '95 and into the arms of Mark Calveric -- on successive possessions to begin the third quarter.
Meanwhile, Columbia scored touchdowns on its first two drives of the half to grab a four-point advantage with 8:05 to play in the quarter.
After Oberle's fumble, Dartmouth got the ball back two plays later when Jason Fell '94 made a diving interception of Schwalbe. Fiedler then connected with John Hyland '94, who had six catches for 136 yards, on his longest pass play of the day -- a 44-yarder that camped Dartmouth on Columbia's three-yard line.
Dartmouth failed to score on four tries from inside the three, but would not pull a repeat performance in end zone frustration as it scored on its final three drives of the afternoon.
The first came on a 39-yard march that saw Air Jay stick to the ground for 30 yards in three carries, including a six-yard keeper for the touchdown.
The Lions next effort ended prematurely when Bloom became the beneficiary of a pass that deflected off tight end Brian Bassett's helmet and into his lap. That play set up a 21-yard touchdown reception by David Shearer '95 just a few plays later that put Dartmouth up, 35-25.
The knockout punch came on Dartmouth's next drive, a grueling, 12-play, 80-yard march that featured 10 running plays and wasted more than five and a half minutes off the clock. That put Dartmouth up by 17 with 2:34 to play and effectively erased any hopes Columbia might have had for a comeback.
Indeed, the only coming back that was being done was by the Big Green. In addition to erasing a four-point, fourth quarter deficit, Dartmouth eradicated a 10-point edge the Lions built throughout the first quarter, thanks to a 22-yard field goals and a 58-yard touchdown connection from Cavanaugh to Bassett.
Facing an opponent with a double-digit lead, Dartmouth came to life as it had in its previous two games. And before you could say "Jay and the Miracles," the Big Green blitzkrieg posted three touchdowns on the board.
The first came at the end of a 65-yard drive when Fiedler found a wide open Hyland in the end zone for six.
The second set up by a Zack Lehman '95 interception and return that would have gone for a touchdown but for a clipping call against Dartmouth at the five-yard line that made Dartmouth start its drive from Columbia's 21-yard line.
Fielder made memories of the rescinded touchdown very faint on the next play as he faked an option pitch to Oberle, then pulled up and lofted a gorgeous spiral into the outstretched hands of Andre Grant '95 for a touchdown.
The third strike came at the end of a concise, five-play, 54-yard drive, when Oberle scampered around the corner for a nine-yard touchdown run.