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The Dartmouth
April 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Football squeaks by Harvard

If Dartmouth did not understand the term "winning ugly" before yesterday's 100th contest against Harvard, it certainly understands the meaning now. However, when Crimson placekicker Ryan Korinke's 39-yard field goal hit the right upright as time expired to give Dartmouth a hard fought 6-3 victory, nobody seemed to care about anything but the scoreboard.

The Big Green had come down to Cambridge and stolen a victory and were coming back to Hanover with their perfect record still intact at 7-0. More importantly, the Big Green's win coupled with Columbia's loss to Princeton puts Dartmouth in sole possession of first place in the Ivy League with the Lions coming to Hanover this weekend.

The Big Green gave Harvard every opportunity to win the game in the fourth quarter but still managed to pull out the victory.

After failing to get a first down which would have enabled the Big Green to run out the clock, Dartmouth punted to Harvard, giving the Crimson the ball at their own 30 with 1:43 remaining in the game. The Big Green defense forced Harvard into a fourth down and six with 50 seconds remaining, but Crimson freshman quarterback Rich Linden scrambled for 16 yards to keep the drive alive.

One play after a first down completion, Dartmouth appeared to have sacked Linden for a big loss, but the officials ruled that he had thrown the ball away while being tackled. A four-yard toss to the tight end and a three-yard run by tailback Eion Hu set up another critical fourth down play, this time a fourth and three from the 32 yard line with 10 seconds on the clock.

The Crimson lined up in an apparent hail mary formation to throw the ball to the end zone, but a clever play call by the Crimson staff allowed for Linden to keep the ball for a 10-yard gain and get out of bounds at the 22 yard line with three seconds left to play. Korinke's kick from the right hashmark to send the game into overtime had plenty of distance but struck the center of the upright and fell harmlessly to the ground to preserve the victory.

"Thankfully he bounced that ball off the upright because I felt they would have won the game in overtime," Head Coach John Lyons said. "They had all the momentum at the end of the game and I think it would have carried into overtime."

"The defense has been fortunate up to this point in the season because our offense has been scoring a ton," cornerback Brad Jefferson '98 said. "When it became apparent that our offense wasn't going to put points on the board, the defense was left no choice but to stop their scoring attempts. We did our best and luckily that was good enough."

Korinke's missed kick was his second miss in the last three minutes of the game. The Big Green had taken control of the ball midway through the fourth quarter after a Mark Abel '97 interception and appeared to be headed to the endzone for the first touchdown of the day by either team.

Quarterback Jon Aljancic '97 made back-to-back third down completions to Eric Morton '97 and tight end Will Harper '98 to set up the ball up at the Crimson 18. The drive stalled there, however, and the Big Green's attempt to go up by two field goals was foiled when Crimson cornerback Toy Jones raced around the left end and blocked Dave Regula's '98 33-yard attempt.

Harvard took the ball from there and drove down the field thanks to big plays from receiver Colby Skelton and Linden. Skelton gained 10 yards on a key flanker screen on third and five, one of his nine catches on the day.

The Crimson continued to move the football down the field and faced with a fourth and one at the Big Green 21, Hu carried the ball for a first down by half the length of the football. As it had done the rest of the day, the Big Green defense took over from there, with defensive end Greg Dietrick '99 recording his second sack of the day.

Followed by a penalty and two stops, Korinke's 45-yard attempt sailed wide left, one of his three misses on the day.

Dartmouth's two scoring drives came within a span of just under two minutes late in the second quarter. Aljancic kept the ball on a fourth down and one for two yards and found Harper and wide receiver Zach Ellis '98 to set up a fourth down and one from the Crimson 13 yard line.

Instead of panicking, Lyons made the right move by sending Regula in to nail a 30 yard field goal to tie the game at 3-3 with three minutes remaining in the second quarter.

On the ensuing play after the kickoff, linebacker Zach Walz '98 recovered and Hu fumbled at the 30 yard line. Unable to gain a first down, Regula hit a career-best 44-yard field goal in what eventually became the game winning score. Korinke had opened the scoring for Harvard with a 37-yard field goal in the first quarter after having missed a 31-yard attempt.

"I think we were very fortunate in the first half," Abel said. "We weren't playing aggressive run defense, and fortunately we were able to keep them out of the endzone. "

In a game that was suppose to have pitted a spirited Big Green offense versus a powerful Crimson defense, the Crimson defense got the job done even though they gave up 115 yards rushing, double their season average.

But after struggling against Cornell the week before, Dartmouth's defense did the job, holding Harvard to just 245 yards of total offense and Hu to just 94 yards on 30 carries, with most of his yardage coming in the first half.

"We just never found a rhythm all game," Aljancic said. "It seemed as if every time we would move the ball there would be a holding penalty or we'd fumble the ball. But good teams find a way to win close games and although I'm not satisfied with the way we played, it's nice to get the victory."

"That was our worst game offensively," Lyons said. "Our only really solid drive of the game was the first one. We just made too many mistakes between the penalties and the turnovers. Even though the running game wasn't working, we couldn't throw the ball because of breakdowns in blocking and Jon missed some throws."

Although it was ugly, the team will take the win and head into next week's match-up against Columbia with their best record since 1971.

"We were happy to get the victory and we'll definitely take it anyway we can," Aljancic said. "But we weren't pleased with the way we played and I'm glad to see the guys were unhappy because it means that we know we can play better than this."