At Harvard, Green turns Crimson blue

by Elliot Olshansky | 11/3/03 6:00am

Even at such a prestigious institution as Harvard University, it never hurts to have an extra history lesson here or there. And on Saturday, in Cambridge, the Big Green football team was more than happy to teach the Crimson a thing or two at the Harvard Stadium Centennial Celebration.

In 1903, Harvard Stadium was opened with a game between Harvard and Dartmouth, a game that saw Dartmouth get its first ever victory over the Crimson. On Saturday, as Harvard celebrated the hundredth anniversary of its stadium, the modern-day Big Green (3-4, 2-2 Ivy) got a memorable victory of its own, defeating the previously undefeated Crimson (6-1, 3-1 Ivy), 30-16, in front of 12,186 stunned fans.

"It was nice to be able to do what they did a hundred years ago," said Big Green head coach John Lyons. "It was a great win for us. It's really big to come down here and beat a good team like they are. I just thing that says a lot about our kids."

Early in the game, it was the Crimson who had a lot to say. After the Big Green's first drive was stopped on downs at the Harvard 29-yard line, the Crimson needed only two plays and 15 seconds to score, as freshman running back Clifton Dawson broke free and ran 71 yards for a touchdown. The Crimson's point-after attempt was killed off by a bad snap, but the game was off to an inauspicious start for the visiting Big Green.

Things didn't get any better for Dartmouth when quarterback Charlie Rittgers '06 had his next pass intercepted by the Crimson's Benny Butler. With the Crimson offense taking over at the Dartmouth 47, the pressure was on the Dartmouth defense to defend the short field. Dartmouth responded, however, and forced the Crimson to punt.

Dartmouth's next possession was similarly-short lived, as the Big Green was forced to punt, and Harvard got the ball back with another short field, taking over at the Big Green 46. Once again, however, the Big Green would respond.

While the Crimson was able to move the ball, largely behind a series of runs from Dawson, the Big Green defense stopped Harvard at the 22-yard line, where the Crimson faced fourth and 9. Harvard coach Tim Murphy showed a lack of faith in his kicking game after the botched extra point, however, and opted to go for it. Dartmouth made Murphy and the Crimson pay for their error, as free safety Clayton Smith '05 stopped Harvard three yards short of the first down marker, and the Big Green men took over at their own 16-yard line.

The Dartmouth drive looked to be in trouble, when a false start penalty left the Big Green men to face third and 10 at the 16, but Rittgers got Dartmouth out of trouble with a 24-yard pass to Bob Murphy '05. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against the Crimson brought Dartmouth to the Harvard 45. Another pass to Murphy and a run by fullback Scott Wedum '04 brought the ball to the 20-yard line, where Rittgers put Dartmouth on the scoreboard with a touchdown pass to Andrew Hall '05. Hall, who caught his first touchdown pass at Dartmouth in last week's Homecoming win over Columbia, made his second scoring catch count, tying the game. The extra point by Tyler Lavin '05 went wide left, leaving the score tied at six at the end of the first quarter.

In the second quarter, Harvard attempted to jumpstart its offense by bringing in quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to replace Garrett Schires, who started the game for the Crimson. Fitzpatrick, who threw for 1129 yards this season before suffering a broken hand against Cornell, missed Harvard's last two games, but returned to the offense to attempt to lead the Crimson to the end zone. Dartmouth, however, held Fitzpatrick and his teammates at the seven-yard line, forcing Jim Morocco to kick a 25-yard field goal that put Harvard ahead 9-6.

Dartmouth responded quickly on the next Big Green possession, as Rittgers found wide receiver Jay Barnard '04 for a 39-yard pass that brought the ball to the Crimson 23-yard line. The Big Green could go no further, though, and a holding penalty moved Dartmouth back to the 33. Two plays later, Lavin was brought on to attempt a 50-yard field goal, which he made, tying the score again.

Schires returned to run the Crimson offense, as Fitzpatrick would not return for the remainder of the half. With problems under center, the Crimson looked to get its yards on the ground, and Dawson brought Harvard to the Dartmouth seven-yard line with a 31-yard dash. The Dartmouth defense stood tall, however, forcing the Crimson to face fourth down at the Dartmouth two. The Crimson again showed a lack of faith in Morocco, and opted to go for the touchdown. Schires' pass attempt went incomplete, and Dartmouth took over in a precarious position.

Running back Chris Little '05 bailed the Big Green out early in the drive, with a pair of runs that brought Dartmouth to the seven yard line and eliminated any chance of a safety. From there, Rittgers completed another 20-yard pass to Hall. The Big Green continued to move the ball up the field, with a series of runs by Little, and passes by Rittgers to Hall and Barnard. A 13-yard pass to Hall brought Dartmouth to the Crimson 23-yard line, where the Big Green faced third and two. Rather than go for the first down, Rittgers made a long throw to Casey Cramer '04, and the All-American tight end caught the pass for Dartmouth's second touchdown of the afternoon, capping off a 12-play, 98-yard march down the field. Erik Hinterbichler '06 added the extra point to put Dartmouth ahead 16-9 with 3:04 left in the half.

The Crimson seemed intent on getting the touchdown back, as Schires completed a series of passes to Brian Edwards, Rodney Byrnes, and James Harvey that brought the ball to the Big Green four-yard line. However, a Harvard false start brought the Crimson back to the Dartmouth nine, and Schires' next pass was intercepted by defensive back Mike Ribero '05, as the 5'10" Californian saved the Big Green's lead and effectively ended the first half.

At halftime, as Dartmouth athletic director Josie Harper joined Harvard representatives on the field to commemorate the first game in Harvard Stadium, it looked as if this Dartmouth-Harvard contest could have a similar result. With Harvard due to receive the ball at the start of the second half, though, it was still anyone's game.

The contest remained tight through the first five drives of the second half, as neither team was able to get the ball into the red zone. Dartmouth changed that, however, when the Big Green men got the ball at their own 38-yard line. First, Rittgers found Barnard for a 26-yard pass, and two plays later, Little broke free at the Crimson 35-yard line and didn't stop until he was in the end zone. Lavin kicked another extra point, and Dartmouth was ahead by two touchdowns.

On the next Harvard possession, Fitzpatrick " who had reentered the game midway through the third quarter " began to find more success, and as the third quarter ended, the Crimson was poised on its own 45-yard line. The first play of the fourth quarter saw Fitzpatrick connect with Byrnes for a 55-yard touchdown pass. With only nine seconds gone in the fourth quarter, it appeared that the game was far from over. During the next 2:28, though, that appearance would change dramatically.

After the touchdown, Harvard was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct, and the ensuing kickoff came from the Crimson 20-yard line. Adam Kingston's kickoff sailed out of bounds, and the Dartmouth offense received the ball at midfield. After a 28-yard pass to Cramer, the Big Green was again at the Crimson's doorstep. However, two plays later, Dartmouth's scoring opportunity was dealt a serious blow. The Harvard defense chased Rittgers out of the pocket, and as the sophomore quarterback rolled to his right, he collided with the referee. The play was ruled dead, and Dartmouth faced third and 28 at the Harvard 40-yard line.

It seemed as if the Dartmouth touchdown threat had been ended, and the Big Green's best hope was to move the ball back into field goal range. However, Rittgers made a deep throw for Hall, and the junior wide receiver jumped over two Harvard defenders in an attempt to catch the pass.

As Hall said, "I didn't think I'd get the ball at first, because they were double-teaming me. I saw the ball go up, and I tried to get underneath it. At first, I thought the ball was going over my head, but then, I thought I might be able to catch it."

Hall's second thought was right, as the 6'3" Greene, Maine native reached up with one hand and brought down an improbable 38-yard catch, giving Dartmouth a first down at the Harvard two-yard line. A quarterback sneak brought Rittgers into the end zone, and another kick by Lavin made it 30-16 in favor of the Big Green. With 12 minutes left to play, there was still plenty of time, but the wind had been taken out of the Crimson's sails.

Harvard's next drive appeared as if it might go somewhere, but Dartmouth's defense would allow the Crimson no further than the Big Green 34. After three incomplete passes, Fitzpatrick attempted to run the ball on fourth and 10, but Phil Frost '04 " the reigning Ivy Defensive Player of the Week " forced Fitzpatrick to fumble the ball, right into the hands of Chris Green '06. The Dartmouth offense came up empty-handed when Lavin missed a 42-yard field goal, but the game was safely in the hands of the Dartmouth defense.

Starting at the Crimson 25, Fitzpatrick was again able to bring the Harvard offense to Dartmouth's 34. Once again, however, the Harvard drive was cut short by a turnover, as linebacker Lyle Campbell '04 intercepted Fitzpatrick's pass at the 25-yard line.

Dartmouth's possession lasted only four plays, but time was clearly running out on the Crimson, as a punt by Grant Wagner '04 gave Harvard the ball back with only 1:18 left on the clock. Four plays later, Ribero picked off a Fitzpatrick pass for his second interception of the day, effectively ending the game. Harvard got one more possession with 20 seconds left, and defensive end Ryan Conger '05 put an exclamation point on the Dartmouth victory by sacking Fitzpatrick on the final play of the game.

Harvard finished with more total yards than the Big Green (545 to Dartmouth's 427), but the Dartmouth defense held the Crimson to 7-of-18 on third down and 3-of-8 on fourth down. "Our guys adjusted well," said Big Green co-captain Clayton Smith '05. "We were at a disadvantage, because we were on our heels a bit, with all the fourth downs, but they gave up great field position."

Rittgers was able to help Dartmouth turn that field position into points, as he completed 17 of 33 passes for 344 yards. 223 of those yards went to two receivers: Barnard had his fifth 100-yard game of the season (4 catches, 112 yards), while Hall broke the century mark for the first time in his Dartmouth career with 5 catches for 111 yards. "It was huge," Hall said of his day. "I wasn't thinking about how many wards it was. I just thought of beating Harvard on that field, getting the win. When I found out about the yards, it was the cherry on top."

The Big Green will attempt to finish off another Ivy League foe next Saturday when Cornell (1-6, 0-4 Ivy) visits Hanover next Saturday. The Big Red are coming off of a 28-6 loss to Princeton this past Saturday, and haven't won since beating Bucknell in the first week of the season. Cornell senior Mick Razzano is the Ivy League's lowest-rated quarterback (90.0), as the Big Red averages a league-worst 14.2 points per game. The Dartmouth defense will be looking to continue Cornell's offensive woes en route to a Big Green victory when the teams kick off at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday at Memorial Field.