Big Green football wraps up season with loss to Princeton
Dartmouth's football season ran a bit longer than expected Saturday as a late comeback pushed the game into overtime. However, the Big Green (3-7, 3-4 Ivy) faltered and fell to Princeton 17-14 in the extra frame.
Dartmouth was in a 14-0 hole entering the fourth quarter after the Tigers (4-6, 3-4 Ivy) scored on their first two possessions of the ballgame. The Big Green cut the deficit in half late in the fourth quarter on a one-yard touchdown run by Ryan Mahoney '08. The score ended a 3:49 drive that brought the game clock inside of nine minutes.
After a handful of failed attempts to get the game-tying drive off the ground, the Big Green took over on its own 15-yard line with 1:44 to go in the game and the season. The crowd of 4,017 was on its feet as Tom Bennewitz '08 ran the two-minute drill, connecting with Brett Lowe '08, Milan Williams '09 and Tim McManus '11 to drive down the field into the red zone.
"I felt like everyone knew we were going to put it in the endzone. Everyone knew it was going to OT, and we were getting ready," Dan Cook '08 said. "It was the most anxious I've ever been, and nervous, but it was so exciting."
With 11 seconds on the clock, Bennewitz lofted a pass to Andrew von Kuhn '09 in the left corner of the end zone. Wilson Cates's defense elicted boos from the student section, but no flag was thrown as the pass fell incomplete. Bennewitz rushed for a first down on the next play, bringing the Big Green to the six-yard line with just two ticks left on the clock.
After a Princeton timeout, Dartmouth lined up to try to save the game. Phil Galligan '09 went underneath Princeton's man-to-man defense on a post route to the right side of the endzone. Bennewitz found him with a low pass, sending the Dartmouth bench and cheering section into a reserved frenzy, until Andrew Kempler '08 hit the extra point, sending the game into overtime.
"It was kind of electric on the sideline for the last drive, the last play," Dartmouth Head Coach Buddy Teevens said. "I've seen that build and it was nice. [The team] really felt, 'We're winning this ball game.'"
Princeton won the coin toss and opted to go second in the overtime period. A five-yard run by Nate Servis '09 brought the Big Green to the Princeton 20. On the next play, Servis fumbled and Jon Stem recovered, giving the Tigers a shot to end the game.
On the first play after Princeton took over on the Dartmouth 25, Brian Anderson broke through the Big Green defensive line to rush for 16 yards. The Tigers took two plays to set the ball up in the middle of the field, then lined up for a field goal on third down. The 25-yard kick split the uprights, ending the game and the Ivy League football season.
Bennewitz finished the day 28 for 57, throwing for 290 yards and a touchdown. Of those yards, 180 came in the second half, as Dartmouth tried to mount a comeback and control the clock.
"Physically, we scrambled in the second half. We threw the ball a whole lot just to get back into the game," Teevens said.
Williams anchored the running game in the first half before leaving the game. He was plagued by injuries all season. Williams rushed for 85 yards on 14 carries.
Brett Lowe '08 had what some called the game of his career. He made 10 catches for 150 yards, many of which came in the final drive to tie the game. He also made a speech at halftime to the players that Teevens and Cook described as inspiring.
For Princeton, junior QB Brian Anderson made his first career start, a decision that head coach Roger Hughes kept under wraps all week. The switch proved effective as Princeton scored on its first two drives, but the Big Green defense made adjustments to contain Anderson for the rest of the game.
"Coach Teevens took us aside after the second touchdown and basically just said, 'It's time to man up, you guys are seniors and this is the last time you're going to play,'" Cook said. "We kind of realized that and just played like we've never played before."
Teevens also tried to motivate the defense out of what he called "sleepwalking" in the first half at halftime.
"I said, to heck with the scheme fellas, we've got to play with some heart,'" the coach said.
Anderson finished the game 16-21 for 186 yards passing, and 72 yards rushing with a touchdown. He was held to just 41 yards passing and 23 yards running in the second half.
With the loss to the Tigers, Dartmouth ends its 2007 season in a three-way tie for fourth place in the Ivy League with Penn and Princeton. There are no tie-breakers in the Ivy League so the tie stands despite the Big Green's win over the Quakers and loss to the Tigers. The Dartmouth players and coaches were disappointed with their losing record, but felt like much was accomplished over the course of the year.
"There were some goals that we set out that we did accomplish, and some goals that we didn't, but the goal every season is to get a ring," Cook said, referring to winning the Ivy League championship.
Teevens emphasized that the Class of 2008 had laid a solid groundwork for the program to build on in coming years.
"We're getting closer and closer. The biggest thing that we swung this year was the emotion and the mental approach, guys believing that they're going to win," Teevens said. "You can see that percolating through the team, and it means a lot to them. Guys have to step up, and we'll find people to do the job, but they've been mentored well."
The 2007 season represents Dartmouth's best record in the second Teevens era, but it is the 2008 season that will be the true test for Teevens, as it is the first season where the senior class will have known no other head coach in their Dartmouth careers. The Class of 2009 has already begun to fill the starting spots on the depth charts, but the departure of Bennwitz leaves big shoes to fill under center. He averaged 171.5 passing yards per game and threw for 14 touchdowns this year in his role leading the highly charged Big Green offense. It is hard to blame Dartmouth's troubles this season on lack of offense, but the loss of four of the starting five offensive linemen will be troubling for the Big Green next season.
On defense, John Pircon '08 and Justin Cottrell '08, the team's leaders in tackles, both played their final games in a Big Green uniform, leaving holes to fill at the linebacker and safety positions.
It's difficult not to be excited about the relative success of Dartmouth football this year, but for the first time since much of the current student body arrived in Hanover, the saying "there's nowhere to go but up" will no longer work. The Big Green will have a lot of work to do to make sure 2007 is not just a flash of success in a sea of failures.