Football finishes with winning League record for first time since 2003
Due to a pair of upsets in other League games, Dartmouth (5-5, 4-3 Ivy) finished the season in a four-way tie for second place in the conference.
Just as he has been in every Dartmouth victory this season, Schwieger was a major asset to the team, carrying 30 times for 157 yards, including the game-sealing run on fourth down late in the fourth quarter. He finished the season as the League's leading rusher for the second consecutive year, and increased his career rushing total to 3,150 yards.
"Nothing really hit me until we were taking the knee there at the end," Schwieger said. "Now that it's actually come to an end, it was definitely the right way to go out, and I'll definitely remember going for it on fourth-and-two and getting the yards. I think that's an image that's going to stay with me for the rest of my life."
Three years ago, Dartmouth lost to Princeton 28-10 in the final game of a 0-10 season. Now, having won its third straight game to finish with a winning League record, it is evident how much has changed in Hanover.
"We've really come a long way from that day," Schwieger said. "We've done a complete 180 in the way we carry ourselves."
While the victory was sweet for the Big Green's seniors, it was also especially meaningful for linebacker Bronson Green '14, who, after a 41-10 loss at Harvard University three weeks ago, promised that the Class of 2012 would go out the right way. Three victories later, Green who had a career-high 13 tackles on Saturday said he could not be happier.
"That Harvard game was a tough loss all around and we made it a point to go out on the right note," Green said. "We really put it together. That sense of pride for those guys was really spread out for the entire team. We can thank them for turning around our program."
The player most emblematic of Dartmouth's turnaround this season was not Schwieger or Green, but rather quarterback Conner Kempe '12. It is rare for a quarterback to fly under the radar, but for most of his tenure in Hanover, Kempe has been overshadowed by Schwieger, last season's Ivy League co-Player of the Year.
Just a few weeks ago, the Big Green appeared to be destined for a losing season, sitting at 1-4 and 0-2 in the League. Kempe bore much of the blame, having been relegated to the bench after completing just 48 percent of his passes. But Kempe got the starting nod against Columbia University on Homecoming, and he has keyed the Dartmouth turnaround since. Kempe completed passes at a 62 percent clip and led the Big Green to a 4-1 record down the stretch, the only blemish being a loss to Harvard University, the League champion.
Saturday was one of Kempe's finest days as a Dartmouth quarterback, as the senior completed 16 of 22 passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns.
"Conner's gotten better as a football player every game," Teevens said. "He got hammered in the early season, but he continued to compete and became a very efficient passer. His first touchdown pass today he threaded the needle. It was a beautiful throw."
The first half did not go according to plan for the Big Green, despite facing a Princeton offense featuring six freshman starters, including the quarterback, Quinn Epperly, who was making his first collegiate start. The Tigers (1-9, 1-6 Ivy) held a 14-6 lead with just over two minutes to play in the second quarter. But after a Foley Schmidt '12 field goal cut the deficit to five, Shawn Abuhoff '12 picked off a wounded duck throw from Epperly to give the Big Green the ball at its own 38-yard line with 1:05 to play.
Princeton then shot itself in the foot when junior linebacker Andrew Starks was called for a personal foul early in the drive, moving Dartmouth to the Princeton 35-yard line. On the next play, Schwieger took a screen pass down the left sideline for a 23-yard gain. Kempe finished the drive with an impressive pass to Bo Patterson '15 for a 12-yard touchdown reception. Although Schmidt's extra point was blocked for the second time in the game, Dartmouth held the momentum heading into the break.
Dartmouth's defense took over from there, limiting Princeton to just three points after halftime. While the Tigers were able to take the ball into Big Green territory, they struggled to move forward once they got to the red zone.
Dartmouth took the lead midway through the third quarter, as Kempe capped a 70-yard drive with a seven-yard touchdown pass to tight end Justin Foley '13. Teevens elected to go for a two-point conversion rather than risk another blocked kick, but the Big Green failed to convert and was forced to settle for a 21-17 lead.
Dartmouth held on, forcing Princeton to punt three times and commit two turnovers in its final six drives.
"We wanted to shut down the inside run first and force the ball outside," Green said. "We knew they had a good rushing attack, but I think that we shut them down pretty well."
Nine Dartmouth seniors started on defense and made many of the biggest plays in the contest. Most memorably, safety Anthony Diblasi '12 picked off a throw from freshman quarterback Connor Michelsen at the Dartmouth five-yard line with 3:00 remaining in the game.
Schwieger seemed happy with Dartmouth's performance after the game, but it was clear that he had hoped to win more than five games this season. Still, the running back chose to focus on the positives of his career at Dartmouth.
"I'm really going to miss it," Schwieger said. "I've been looking at Austen Fletcher ['12] and John Gallagher 's faces in the huddle for four years. [Running back coach Chris Wilkerson] has been like a second father to me. I'm blessed to have a lot of great people around me. They're great coaches and great men, and I think that's reflected on the field."
Dartmouth has made steady gains over the past two seasons, but it will need new players to step up in 2012 if the Big Green is going to replicate this year's success with another winning season. Sixteen of the team's 22 starters are graduating, and although Dominick Pierre '14 should be able to cover some of Schwieger's production as running back, the Big Green faces big questions at quarterback and on defense, where it will return just two starters. Greg Patton '13 has proved to be a capable quarterback, but it remains to be seen whether Teevens will make him the full-time starter or opt to rotate him with a more traditional drop-back passer.