As the season comes to a close, each matchup becomes a do-or-die for the football team. Saturday’s matchup with Cornell University was no different — a loss would have ended any realistic hopes for a piece of the Ivy League crown. This week, the defense starred, holding together a 10-0 shutout at Memorial Field on Saturday.
“It’s certainly nice to win again,” football head coach Buddy Teevens ’79 said after the game. “I’m very proud of our defense [in producing] a shutout against a very physical football team.”
The matchup was a battle between two of the better defenses in the Ivy League. The Big Green and Big Red are second and third in the Ivy League in points allowed, respectively. The best indication of the defense’s strength: how little they were on the field. Throughout the game, the defense showed an ability to play soundly and get off the field before Cornell was able to put a long drive together.
The decisive blow in the game came early, something that Dartmouth had not done this season. On the second drive of the game, Jack Heneghan ’18 connected with Hunter Hagdorn ’20 for a 23-yard touchdown pass, giving the Big Green an early first-half lead.
Running back Ryder Stone ’18 had a career-high 119 yards on 28 carries to help the team possess the ball for over 35 minutes. He credited his success on Saturday to effective blocking from the offensive line.
“We knew we needed to run the clock out, and we knew we just needed to get the job done,” Stone said. “The guys up front were blocking really well today — it was awesome.”
In a game that featured 23 punts between the two sides, the matchup became all about field position and grinding down the clock. While Cornell had several drives that started in Dartmouth’s half of the field, the Big Green defense was consistently able to come up with the plays necessary to keep Cornell off the scoreboard.
As the game progressed, neither team seemed to make much headway or show signs of producing an explosive play. Dartmouth suffered an interception as well as a crucial turnover on downs but was still able to preserve the 7-0 lead going into halftime.
In the second half, neither team gained advantage; the third quarter and much of the fourth featured drives that ended exclusively in punts. Neither team displayed any threat to produce a game-changing blow, despite Cornell’s good field position after short punts. However, with just over 6:44 left in the quarter, the Big Green was in a bit of trouble.
After a three-and-out, Dartmouth punted from its own 23-yard line, but only netted a punt of 21 yards, giving the Big Red the chance to put together a touchdown drive and tie the game. However, with 6:07 left in the game, Isiah Swann ’20 intercepted a pass by the Big Red’s quarterback Dalton Banks to give the Big Green the ball with six minutes remaining.
“We were in man-to-man coverage,” Swann said. “I was closing in on my guy, and the ball went right through his hands, and I just stuck a hand up and it stuck on my hand and my shoulder pad when I came down with it.”
With the ball and the ability to run the clock down, Dartmouth was in a good spot. The offense needed to execute a long drive to clinch a victory. In a drive that featured six rushes from Stone, the offense was able to produce an 11-play, 37-yard drive which concluded with a 33-yard field goal from David Smith ’18. This kick all but sealed the fate of the Big Red, finishing Dartmouth’s first shutout in four years.
“As a defense, we really wanted to put together a complete game,” defensive lineman Rocco Di Leo ’18 said. “Today was the first day we were able to put everything together.”
Di Leo had a standout performance for the Big Green, delivering eight tackles. Collectively, the defense was able to record two sacks while only allowing 12 first downs, but these numbers fail to describe how truly dominant the Big Green’s defensive front was throughout the game.
The Big Green still has hope for the Ivy League crown. Yale University currently stands alone with only one loss in Ivy League play, but the Bulldogs have two tough games to finish out their schedule against Princeton University, who has the Ivy League’s most prolific offense, and Harvard University.
Dartmouth is in a dead heat for second place with Columbia University, Cornell and Harvard. In order to have a shot at claiming part of the Ivy League title, the Big Green needs to win its last two games against Brown University and Princeton.
Dartmouth returns to action this weekend against Brown at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. Kickoff is set for Friday at 8 p.m.