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The Dartmouth
April 15, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Big Green fall short in tie

With a share of the Ivy League title hanging in the balance and the Big Green in a must-win situation, Princeton freshman kicker Alex Sierk booted an 18-yard field goal with one second left in the fourth quarter to lift the Tigers to a 10-10 tie and deny Dartmouth a four-way share of the title at Memorial Field on Saturday afternoon.

The tie gave Princeton the outright Ivy League title with a 5-1-1 record. The University of Pennsylvania and Cornell tied for second, with each team finishing 5-2. Penn trounced Cornell 37-18 on Saturday.

Dartmouth finished a disappointing fourth in the Ivy League with a 4-2-1 record.

For Dartmouth Head Coach John Lyons, putting the game into perspective was not easy.

"It's frustrating because it was a game that we had, and we didn't lose it, but it feels that way," he said.

After a hard-fought defensive game by both teams, in the end, only one drive mattered -- the final one of the game.

The Big Green, clinging to a slim 10-7 lead, handed the ball over to the Tigers, who took over from their own 36 with four and a half minutes left to play.

Led by senior quarterback Brock Harvey, Princeton's offense did something against the swarming Big Green defense that it had been unable to do for most of the day -- gain yardage. With a handful of well-executed short passes and solid rushes, the Tigers soon crawled into Big Green territory, edging closer to field goal range.

On third and five, Princeton converted on a crucial nine-yard sideline pass to the Dartmouth 40. Three plays later, Harvey kept on a third and one to give the Tigers a first down at the Dartmouth 29.

After a nine-yard pass and quarterback sneak, Princeton had a first down on the Dartmouth 17 yard line, and the game clock froze at 26 seconds.

With Penn leading Cornell handily at this point, everyone at Memorial Field could sense that the entire season was about to unfold.

On first and ten, Harvey unleashed a sideline pass to the one-foot line, caught just inches out of bounds, and all of the west side stands at Memorial Field heaved a sigh of relief.

On second and ten, Harvey scrambled under heavy pressure, and while in the grasp on the twenty-seven, tossed up a desperation floater to avoid a sack. Linebacker Mark Abel '97 dove for the wounded duck, which just bounced off the tip of his fingers. And this time, the visitors' East side stands swelled with one deep breath.

Princeton, late in getting their next snap off, took a delay of game call, pushing them back to the 23 yard line. That set up a third down and 15, with 15 seconds remaining.

Harvey took the snap, dropped back, and scanned his three receivers, heavily covered, rolling to the right side of the end zone.

With nothing there and the pocket eroding, Harvey scampered around a gaping hole on the left end, and headed untouched toward the endzone, before defensive back Marlin Twitty '98 laid a monstrous hit on the quarterback, knocking Harvey out of bounds to save the touchdown.

With just four ticks left on the clock, Princeton called a time out to debate whether to go for the win or the tie.

Tiger Coach Steve Tosches, cigar in hand after the game, explained the decision to go for the field goal.

"For as much as you want to play for the win, I just thought that a tie gives us the outright championship," he said. "And you can't take that away from the players."

So, as the clock ticked down to one second, freshman Tiger kicker Alex Sierk booted the football just inside the right goal post.

And with those three points, the greatest injustice in all of College football, a tie, crowned Princeton the sole 1995 Ivy League Champions, the eighth title in their history.

Dartmouth jumped out to a 7-0 lead with 2:53 left in the first half when quarterback Jon Aljancic '97 capped a 42-yard drive with an eight-yard keeper.

But Damani Leech returned the ensuing kickoff for Princeton to the Dartmouth 48, giving them good field position, and setting them up for a six-yard touchdown pass that tied the game at 7-7 just before halftime.

The Big Green went ahead 10-7 in the third on a 28-yard field goal by Dave Regula '98, and then the game turned into a classic defensive struggle, with neither team experiencing much offensive success -- until Princeton began that fateful final drive.

For Dartmouth, the tie felt like nothing less than a loss, and there was little consolation for the Big Green after the game.

Co-Captain tailback Pete Oberle '96 said, "It was ours for the taking and we let it get by."

Fellow co-Captain Taran Lent '96, playing in the final game of his career, added, "There's not one of us that didn't leave his heart out there on the field."

Running back Greg Smith '97, playing through a painful collarbone injury, took no solace in proving wrong the prognosticators that had picked Dartmouth to finish in the cellar this year.

"For us, we expected to win," Smith said. "It's no consolation when you expect to win the Ivy League championship."

Dartmouth's defense played well in the "losing cause," especially linebackers Abel and Zack Walz '98. Walz had 12 tackles, two for a loss, and half a sack. Abel had eleven tackles, three of them for a loss, and broke up two passes. As a team, Dartmouth held Princeton to only 76 yards rushing in the game.

After the contest, Tosches commented on the teams' defensive play. "You've got to give both defenses credit today," he said. "I thought both offenses tried to do everything they could. You've got the two best defenses on the field in the league ... two of the better defenses in the east, and those kids proved it."

Dartmouth, which tumbled to fourth place in the Ivies on the year despite going undefeated in its last seven weeks, still has a promising future ahead of it.

Lyons tried to put the successful season into words for his players.

"I'm just really proud of our team. You know you look at us at the start at 1-2, and it doesn't look like we are going to be in the position to be in a game like this. The kids deserve a lot of credit," he said. "It was a great season and I want them to walk out of here with their heads up high."