Dartmouth football suffers first loss in upset by Cornell, 20-17
The Big Green suffered its first loss of the season at home against Cornell on Saturday.
After No. 12 Dartmouth’s (8-1, 5-1 Ivy) monumental victory last week versus Princeton University at Yankee Stadium, head coach Buddy Teevens ’79 reminded his team that the season was not over, that winning the Ivy League required one more victory. The first opportunity would come against Cornell University (3-6, 2-4 Ivy) at home — a game in which the Big Green would be heavily favored. Teevens, however, was not writing off the Big Red.
“Enjoy the bus ride tonight, and get back to work tomorrow,” Teevens said at the time. “Cornell played Princeton tough, and we’ve seen that on tape. They’re a scrappy bunch.”
And scrappy they were. The Big Red ran into Hanover and stunned Dartmouth with a 20-17 upset, winning a game against a ranked Ivy League team for the first time since 2006, and accomplishing this feat on the road for the first time since 1950.
“I just think what our record says — there’s a saying, ‘You are what your record says’ — not these kids,” Cornell head coach David Archer said after the game. “I’m just really super proud of them and how they performed.”
Prior to Saturday’s win, Cornell had not beaten Dartmouth since 2008, when the Big Red secured a 37-14 victory at home. Today’s win snapped the Big Green’s 10-game winning streak against the Big Red.
“Since I’ve been here, Cornell has always played us tough,” cornerback Isiah Swann ’20 said. “Always. All their kids, no matter what their record is, they’re always a good team on Saturday. As Coach T always says, ‘The team that plays the best on Saturday is going to win the game.’ It doesn’t matter what your record is, or how well you’ve done during the season or what you’ve done, Cornell’s going to come out and play their hardest. They happened to be the better team this Saturday.”
From the very first drive, it was evident that Cornell would be playing tough once again. The Big Red threatened immediately, moving the ball 84 yards downfield in 13 plays, but the offense was forced to settle for a short field goal after Swann broke up a pass in the end zone.
Cornell’s opening drive was so lengthy that it seemed likely the Big Red would be going into the first intermission with the lead. Cornell outgained Dartmouth by a wide margin in the first, generating 114 yards of total offense to Dartmouth’s 55. The scoreboard, however, displayed something different. As Cornell’s third offensive play on their second drive broke down, Big Red quarterback Richie Kenney made a poor read, throwing a pass that almost appeared intended for Swann, who returned the interception 69 yards for a touchdown. It was Swann’s fourth career pick six, a new school record. The score put the Big Green up 7-3 at the end of the first.
The defensive battle continued in the second, as the two teams traded punts on the first three drives of the quarter. With just over seven minutes left in the half, cornerback Darren Stanley ’21 brought in the Big Green’s second interception of the day on an overthrown pass by Kenney. Following the pick, the offense started rolling for the first time all afternoon, moving the ball all the way to the Cornell 22-yard line. Dartmouth’s pursuit for points appeared to be in jeopardy after quarterback Derek Kyler ’21 was sacked, setting up a crucial fourth-and-14 from the 30.
It didn’t matter. The offense more than converted, with Kyler finding wide receiver Hunter Hagdorn ’20 for the 30-yard touchdown. It was quite the spark for the offense, which had struggled to move the ball all throughout the half. At the end of the first half, 47 percent of Dartmouth’s total passing yards came on that one play alone.
Cornell responded with another short field goal, after driving the ball 65 yards in just 1:46 to make it an eight-point game at the half, with Dartmouth leading 14-6. Then, on their second play from scrimmage to begin the third quarter, the Big Red found paydirt for the first time. A 74-yard touchdown run from running back Harold Coles brought the game within two, and a failed two-point conversion kept the score at 14-12.
The offensive sluggishness subsequently resumed. Six straight punts followed Coles’ touchdown, with neither team moving the ball more than 21 yards in any individual drive. The inability to score was due just as much to poor offense as it was to good defense. Both quarterbacks struggled to do much of anything — Kyler had a couple of overthrows on long passes, while Kenney completed just three of his seven attempts in the quarter, averaging just over three yards per attempt. And, after putting together the best drive of the quarter which moved the Big Green inside Cornell’s 20 for the first time in the game, Kyler lost a fumble stretching for a first down with just under two and a half minutes left in the third.
“We were just inconsistent,” Teevens said. “You hit a big play, and then you’d take a tackle for a loss. You had a ball tipped — normally it would be a safe pass for us, and it was knocked down. You had an errant throw, those things happen. I would say that it was a collection of things. It was just a domino effect, things kept happening that haven’t happened to this point. We were not clean in our execution on either side of the football, and it cost us.”
In the fourth, a combination of Kyler and freshman quarterback Nick Howard ’23 put together an 11-play, 56-yard drive, resulting in an important 34-yard field goal from Connor Davis ’22. With the kick, Dartmouth went up 17-12, forcing Cornell’s hand on offense. No longer would a field goal allow the Big Red to take the lead, but Kenney responded with a 24-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Owen Peters on the following drive, and a conversion on the two-point attempt put them up by three with just 5:32 to play.
“We had a corner and a post,” Kenney said. “The safety bit a little bit too much on the corner, left the middle of the field open. It was play action, so it tucked the backers down, and Owen Peters made a great catch over the middle.”
Kyler then had two different drives to reclaim the Big Green’s lead, but as was the theme all afternoon, the offense couldn’t score. An interception with just 1:46 left in the game sealed Dartmouth’s fate.
“We were playing for rings today,” Swann said. “The energy was up. It was a championship game for us. We had opportunities — didn’t take advantage of them.”
Now, Dartmouth will turn its attention to its final contest of the season: a date with Brown University (2-7, 1-5 Ivy) in Providence next Saturday. Potentially concerning are injuries to three important players: Quarterback Jared Gerbino ’20, running back Caylin Parker ’20 and defensive lineman Jackson Perry ’19 all left Saturday’s game due to injury.
Teevens expressed different levels of certainty about whether these three players will return to action. He seemed most certain about Gerbino’s status, saying that he will probably play next week.
Dartmouth can still clinch a share of the Ivy League title with a victory, but the Big Green would still need Harvard University (4-5, 2-4 Ivy) to beat Yale University (8-1, 5-1 Ivy) in New Haven in order to win the title outright.