In home finale, football stuns Brown in overtime thriller
The Big Green defense had to prevent the Bears from crossing the goal line. With nothing to lose and everything to gain, the Big Green defense charged onto the field, about to protect Dartmouth's first victory at home this season.
The stands were tense with the anticipation of a victory, the likes of which have been few and far between for a Dartmouth program that has been rebuilding over the last several years. The Bears' spectacular senior quarterback Joe DiGiacomo got set under center at the Big Green's 25-yard line and began the overtime series.
After leading the Bears to a first down at the Big Green 11, DiGiacomo took a delay-of-game penalty, pushing the Bears back to the 16-yard line. The first two passes of the next set-of-downs fell incomplete, and the spectators at Memorial Field in Hanover stayed standing in nervous excitement for the next play.
DiGiacomo took the snap and fired to the left corner of the end zone. A Dartmouth defender tipped his pass and the ball took a fortuitous deflection straight into the hands of a Brown wide receiver. It appeared that the Bears' ball-handler was able to drag one foot in bounds, but the referee and linesman ruled the wide receiver to be out of bounds. The Brown sideline exploded as the Big Green sideline breathed another sigh of relief.
The drama was not over at Memorial Field, however, as the very next play produced one of the most dramatic and emotionally draining endings to a Dartmouth football game in several years.
DiGiacomo received the football on fourth down and threw a perfect spiral towards the end zone. His target was standout wide receiver Lonnie Hill, but two Big Green defenders were able to deflect the pass. The Dartmouth side rushed out onto the field. What they did not see was the contact made on the play by the members of the Big Green secondary. A flag was thrown, and the entire Dartmouth team went back to their positions on the left sidelines.
The ball had obviously been tipped, and Dartmouth head coach Buddy Teevens '79 furiously waved for the linesman who had the best angle for viewing the play: the referee, who had already signaled for the pass interference call against the Big Green.
The officials conferred, the fans stood silent, and the players gripped their helmets in anticipation. The men in stripes ended their conference and the head referee got ready to make his call.
"There is no foul on the play," he said, sending the stands and Dartmouth sideline into a frenzy.
The overtime win would not have been possible without a furious fourth-quarter comeback by the Big Green.
Down 10-0 through three quarters of play that had seen two missed field goals by Andrew Kempler '08, Dartmouth began what would end up being its biggest comeback of the 2006 campaign. Sophomore running back Nate Servis '09 barreled into the endzone with 12:24 remaining in the fourth to narrow the gap to 10-7.
Kempler partially redeemed himself with 6:59 left in the fourth-quarter, as his kick was true from 35 yards out. The Bears then promptly drove the ball down the field and were in a position to basically run out the clock on the Big Green. Then DiGiacomo made the biggest error of the game. He called for the snap with 15 seconds remaining on the play clock, 15 seconds that would end up making all the difference in the world for Brown and Dartmouth.
The Bears ended up converting on a Morgan field goal with 1:48 to go. With Dartmouth trailing by three points, Mike Fritz '07 continued his strong play this season and ran a very effective two-minute drill. Kempler lined up for a 39-yard field goal with only a few seconds to go and drilled the ball through the uprights to send the contest into overtime.
Brown won the overtime coin toss and elected to have Dartmouth go on offense first. After a key 16-yard scramble by Fritz, Jason Bash '06, sidelined for most of the season with a sprained ankle, lined up in the backfield on fourth-and-goal from the one.
Fritz received the ball and quickly got it into the hands of Bash. The powerful runner pounded the ball into the endzone for a touchdown. Dartmouth took the lead and Bash took the glory.
For the day, Fritz completed 24 of 36 attempts for 250 yards through the air and rushed 17 times for 58 yards to lead Dartmouth on the ground.
Wide receiver Ryan Fuselier '06 had a strong day as well, catching seven balls for a total of 99 yards. The Big Green were led defensively by Justin Cottrell '08, who continued to play well, wrapping up 13 tackles and one sack.
"It was obviously an exciting contest," said head coach Buddy Teevens. "I thought our guys played solid football throughout the course of the afternoon. We talked about having a complete game. We started out and played well right off the bat. At the end of the ball game, we had to make plays. It's nice to feel this way, because we've felt the other way so many times in the past."
The Big Green next travels to Princeton, N.J., where Dartmouth will have the opportunity to play spoiler against the Tigers next Saturday afternoon. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.