In the final home game of the season, the Big Green football team came away with another convincing victory, defeating Brown University 44-21, to send its seniors off in style.
The Class of 2015 has now tallied 24 wins in its four years, the most at Dartmouth since the Class of 1999.
In the first half, the streak of five consecutive close Brown-Dartmouth contests looked set to continue, as Dartmouth (7-2, 5-1 Ivy) eked out a 17-14 lead. But the Big Green exploded in the second half for the overwhelming win.
The turning point came when Dartmouth forced an interception deep in Brown territory on the third play of the opening Brown drive. Linebacker Will McNamara ’16 nabbed an errant pass over the middle at the Brown 28 and returned it all the way to the Brown nine-yard line.
McNamara, who leads the Ivy League in tackles per game, added another 10 stops on the afternoon as a centerpiece of the defense.
Four plays later, the Big Green capitalized on the mistake with the third touchdown connection of the day between quarterback Dalyn Williams ’16 and wide receiver Ryan McManus ’15 on a jump ball in tight coverage. The touchdown gave the Big Green a 24-14 lead and put the momentum squarely in Dartmouth’s corner.
Williams led the charge for the Dartmouth offense on the afternoon, completing 25 of his 33 passes for 248 yards and three touchdowns while adding another 100 yards on the ground.
McManus was his favorite target. The senior caught a career-high 13 passes for 154 yards and three touchdowns, the first time since 1989 that a Dartmouth receiver had three scores in a game.
Due to first-half injuries, Dartmouth was forced to go with its fourth-string running back — Ryder Stone ’18 — for much of the game. But the Big Green offense managed more than 500 yards of offense in the game and overwhelmed the visiting Bears in the second half.
“Adjust and improvise, that’s kind of a saying on the team,” head coach Buddy Teevens said in a post-game press conference. “Whatever happens, don’t worry about it. Adjust and improvise and move forward. They’re very, very resilient.”
Stone carried the ball 10 times for 114 yards and three touchdowns in his first major varsity action of the year.
“I had been told to be ready and I prepared like I have every other week,” he said at the press conference. “There’s always an opportunity that comes up and I wasn’t hesitant.”
After giving up touchdowns on the first two Bears drives, the Dartmouth defense settled down and limited Brown to only 302 total yards on the afternoon, with just 186 coming over the last three quarters. The defense pressured the Brown quarterbacks throughout the game with a series of crushing hits coming from defensive end Cody Fulleton ’16 as the opposing signal caller was attempting to throw.
“I thought our pass rush was outstanding,” Teevens said at the press conference. “Cody was a man possessed out there.”
After Dartmouth went three-and-out on its first series of the afternoon, the Bears marched 75 yards on a methodical 5:59 drive that combined an effective passing and rushing attack, in addition to a mixed unit of players under center to take an early 7-0 lead.
Dartmouth struck back on the next drive, going 81 yards for a score thanks to seven completed passes, with five, including the 25-yard touchdown strike, going to McManus. McManus was wide open in the end zone following a devastating double cut that left the cornerback three steps behind.
The game appeared to shape up to be a shootout, with both teams scoring touchdowns on their next drive. A 28-yard completion on the far sideline set up Brown’s score, bringing the Bears into the red zone. Dartmouth scored on the second Williams-McManus connection of the day, this time from 10 yards out, across the middle of the end zone.
The tide began to turn on Brown’s next drive when the Bears advanced to the Dartmouth eight, but failed on a fourth-down conversion to come away empty-handed for the first time in the game. The game remained scoreless for the rest of the quarter until Alex Gakenheimer ’17 drilled a 30-yard field goal to give Dartmouth a slight 17-14 lead at the half.
“It was just a matter of regrouping,” Teevens said in the press conference. “The fun thing with this group is that they don’t panic. They understand ‘Hey, we can’t do that, we’re better than that. Let’s settle in.’”
The second half was all Dartmouth, with the McNamara interception and McManus’s third touchdown pushing the Big Green to a strong 27-7 finish.
“Going into the second half, once we made a few plays, you felt the momentum shift in our direction, and it kind of snowballed,” McManus said at the press conference.
Stone shouldered much of the load for the Dartmouth offense in the second half, tallying all 114 of his rushing yards and all three of his scores after the break.
The defense allowed only 122 yards of offense in the second half. Brown managed to get into Dartmouth territory only twice and coughed up an interception and a fumble.
While running down the clock in the fourth quarter, Stone had one more highlight play — a 63-yard rushing touchdown to give Dartmouth a 44-14 lead that put the game out of reach.
“I just saw inside zone and it opened right up,” he said at the press conference. “We had great blocking. I saw the tight end game come across and hit it hard and didn’t look back.”
Because of the gap the Big Green opened up in the second half, Teevens worked in seniors who had never accumulated much playing time, noting that players on the bench pushed the coaches to get their upperclassmen teammates in the game.
“They respect what these guys have done,” Teevens said at the press conference. “Most of these guys have been scout team players for most of their career, but Dartmouth football means a lot to them and they mean a lot to us.”
The Big Green will finish the season on the road next weekend looking to earn a share of the Ivy League title with a victory over Princeton University and a Harvard University loss against Yale University. It would be Dartmouth’s first title since 1996.