In home opener, Dartmouth cruises to 41-3 blowout victory over Sacred Heart

In the team’s first home game in nearly two years, the Big Green showed few signs of rust. Ivy League play begins this weekend.

by Will Ennis | 9/27/21 2:15am

football-12

Paxton Scott '24 scored Dartmouth's first touchdown on Saturday. Through two weeks, he now has 10 catches for 95 yards and two scores.

by Caroline Kramer / The Dartmouth Staff

Dartmouth football took on the Sacred Heart University Pioneers in a matchup on Saturday, dominating in every phase of the game and eventually securing a 41-3 blowout victory. With the win, Dartmouth moves to 2-0 before opening Ivy League play next week.

In the first half, Dartmouth’s key offensive contributors from its previous win at Valparaiso University made their impact felt once again. All three of Dartmouth’s first-half touchdowns were scored by players making trips into the end zone for the second consecutive week.

The Big Green started fast, stringing together a nine-play, 75-yard touchdown drive on the game's opening possession. Paxton Scott ’24, a major contributor in the prior week’s win, stayed hot, catching the score for his second touchdown reception in only the first two games of his Dartmouth career. With a missed extra point following the score, Dartmouth opened up with a 6-0 lead less than five minutes into the game.

Scott expressed gratitude to his teammates for continually putting him in a position to produce points early in his Dartmouth career and making him one of the offense’s featured targets through the first two games of the season.

“The kids are just putting me in some really nice opportunities, and I’ve just been trying to take advantage of them,” Scott said. “But it’s pretty cool. A couple more people know me around campus sometimes.”

After several defensive stops, the Dartmouth sideline exploded at what appeared to be a touchdown on a punt return by Jamal Cooney ’23. The play, however, was called back due to penalties for holding and unsportsmanlike conduct, resulting in a Dartmouth possession beginning at its own 35-yard line.

The lost touchdown proved not to matter, though. Three plays into Dartmouth’s offensive drive, Zack Bair ’22, another standout from the Big Green’s first game, found open field on a second-down rush attempt and ripped off a 47-yard touchdown. This time, Cameron Baller ’23 knocked the extra point through the uprights and Dartmouth led 13-0.

After forcing another quick punt from the Pioneers offense, the Big Green padded its lead with an 11-play drive capped off by a touchdown pass to Jonny Barrett ’23. Baller connected on another PAT and Dartmouth led 20-0 with the first half winding down.

However, Sacred Heart was able to score a 39-yard field goal on their final possession of the half, allowing Dartmouth to take a subsequent knee and a 20-3 lead into halftime. 

Linebacker Tanner Cross ’21 praised his team’s physicality throughout the game, something the defense had emphasized throughout the week in preparation for Sacred Heart.

“It was a night and day difference,” Cross said. “A lot of it was just coming out, being ready to play and to be more physical than Sacred Heart, because we had seen on film that they were a very physical and aggressive team.”

With a commanding lead supported by stifling defensive play through the first half, Dartmouth was in a comfortable position to close the game out. However, the Pioneers came out looking to challenge the Big Green lead on their first possession after halftime.

On a Sacred Heart second down at midfield, Marques White ’23, starting his second career game for the Big Green, came off the edge and sacked Pioneers quarterback Marquez McCray for a loss of six. This was White’s first of two sacks on the day to give him three in his career, all recorded in the first two games this season. Dartmouth would go on to force a turnover on downs just two plays later.

“We knew we needed to come out and hit them hard in the beginning, with energy,” White said. “We were upset that we gave up three points, and that’s a testament to our mentality and what we want to accomplish.”

Following the strong defensive play to get the ball back, the Big Green wasted no time extending its lead. On the second play of the drive, quarterback Nick Howard ’23 took a direct snap 53 yards to the house for a touchdown. Extra point good, 27-3 Dartmouth.

The run brought Howard over 100 rushing yards in the game for the first time in his Dartmouth career, as well as securing him his first career touchdown. He was far from finished, though, and would go on to post 154 rushing yards and two touchdowns on only nine carries, providing almost the entirety of Dartmouth’s second-half offensive production on his own.

“Nick’s a big dude,” Scott said. “I think he’s playing around 230 [lbs.], and he runs with a lot of force and not a lot of guys want to come up and hit him. So we just let him get the ball in his hands and let him play.”

Scott also noted that the strong offensive showing against Sacred Heart gave the Big Green confidence on that side of the ball heading into conference play next week.

“[In] the first game, there were a lot of miscues and we put the ball on the ground way too much, but [Saturday] was more what our offense can really do whenever we’re all focused and on the same page,” Scott said. “It’s a great feeling.”

Dartmouth did show some signs of sloppiness as the lead grew. The team fumbled the ball away on the possession after Howard’s first touchdown and threw an interception in the closing minutes. Still, the Big Green closed out an easy win on the back of a lockdown defense, an offense that remained effective — scoring two more touchdowns in the fourth despite the turnovers — and great play on the margins, particularly from Cooney on special teams.

Cooney returned three Pioneer punts for a total of 128 yards, highlighted by a 64-yard runback late in the second half that set Dartmouth up inside the Sacred Heart 10-yard line and put the Big Green in great position to punch in its final touchdown of the game.

Beyond the on-field production, multiple players also highlighted the Big Green’s “next man up” mentality as a factor in the early-season win.

“You never know when your number’s gonna be called, and last week I got pulled up and I was able to make a difference,” White said. “It’s been an amazing journey so far, and I can't wait for Penn.”

Dartmouth will look to carry its momentum from this blowout victory into Ivy League play next weekend, when the Big Green kicks off its conference schedule on the road against the University of Pennsylvania on Friday night.

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