Dartmouth football shut out for first time since 2011 in 19-0 loss to Columbia
The Big Green will look to bounce back in next weekend’s rivalry game at Harvard.
In Friday night’s home matchup against Columbia University, Dartmouth football was stifled offensively, losing 19-0 in the team’s first shutout loss on Memorial Field since 2006 and its first overall since 2011.
The loss drops Dartmouth to 5-1 with a 2-1 record in Ivy play — the same record that Columbia holds after their win.
“We were beaten in every aspect of the game,” said head coach Buddy Teevens ’79. “They outplayed us from the opening kickoff right on through, and we didn't have an answer. We were outcoached and outperformed, and we made too many mistakes in all facets: offense, defense and special teams.”
Dartmouth’s usually fierce rushing attack, the bedrock of its offense, could not get momentum at any point in the game. The Big Green had averaged 200 yards per game on the ground through its first five matchups. In Friday night’s game, however, the team was held to just 60 yards on 20 carries.
Offensive lineman Jake Guidone ’21 praised the Lions’ defensive game plan but maintained that the Big Green offense underperformed.
“All teams try to try to mix things up, get you off guard, but I do think that we were prepared,” Guidone said. “But we went 0/3 on fourth down and 0/2 in the red zone. It doesn't matter what the defense is drawing up. Once you get down there, you gotta make it when it counts.”
Both defenses came out strong to start the game, with the first four drives — two for each team — ending in punts.
On the fifth drive of the game, Columbia put together a 14-play, 52-yard possession ending in a 34-yard field goal, giving the Lions a 3-0 lead with one minute remaining in the first quarter.
On Dartmouth’s following possession, quarterback Derek Kyler ’21 was hit in the backfield on first down, losing the ball. The referees called on the field that Columbia had recovered a fumble and gained possession inside Dartmouth’s 10-yard line. Fortunately for Dartmouth, the call was overturned and the play instead resulted in an incomplete pass. The Big Green, however, could not string a successful drive together and was forced to punt the ball away yet again.
Columbia got the ball back and marched down the field. Aided by two offsides calls on the Dartmouth defense in the red zone, the Lions punched it in for a touchdown. After the extra point, Columbia held an early 10-0 lead.
Facing that deficit, the Big Green offense started to make mistakes that it hadn’t in previous games. On third down and six, Kyler targeted rookie receiver Paxton Scott ’24 but threw an interception — his first of the season — to give possession back to the Lions.
The Dartmouth defense, working with poor field position, was able to keep the Lions in check on the following drive, holding them to a field goal. Still, Columbia extended its lead to 13-0 with 7:26 to play in the half.
That deficit was the first time that Dartmouth has trailed by 13 or more points in four years, since the Big Green went down 16-0 by halftime against Columbia in the teams’ 2017 matchup. Dartmouth went on to lose that game 22-17 after making a second-half push.
On what would prove to be the team’s final offensive drive of the half, the Big Green looked to be putting together a scoring drive, moving 63 yards down the field. The possession, however, ended with a turnover on downs after the Lions broke up a 4th-down handoff from Nick Howard ’23 to Scott.
The Lions’ ensuing drive petered out quickly and Columbia took its 13-0 lead to halftime.
The second half did not begin any more favorably for Dartmouth. After a 3rd-down pass from Kyler to Jamal Cooney ’23 fell incomplete and the Big Green was forced to punt once again, the Lions marched down the field, eventually finishing the drive with a 25-yard pass for a touchdown. Columbia opted to go for two on the extra point and did not convert, so the score stood at 19-0 with eight and a half minutes remaining in the third quarter.
From there, the defenses stood strong on both sides of the field. The next six possessions, stretching into the fourth quarter, all ended in punts.
Niko Mermigas ’21 praised his team’s defensive performance in the second half, but also lamented that they could not find that rhythm earlier in the contest.
“I think if we played like we did in the second half for a majority of the game, it would have been very different,” Mermigas said. “But, again, you just cannot keep giving them life on third and fourth downs.”
With 10 minutes to play, the Lions punted the ball to Dartmouth and drew a penalty for targeting, giving the Big Green excellent field position — the drive began at the Columbia 40. Another big reception by Scott put Dartmouth in the red zone, but the Big Green could not seize the late-game opportunity. Scott was not able to haul in a 4th-down pass in the end zone, possession returned to the Lions, and the game was all but over.
Dartmouth will next take the field on the road against Harvard University on Saturday, the site of Kyler’s miracle “Harvard Heave” two years ago.
The Big Green will be hoping for similar good fortune in the matchup this year, with Harvard currently tied with Dartmouth in the Ivy League standings after a 5OT thriller of a loss against Princeton on Saturday.
Mermigas said that he told the players in his position group that the loss stings, but that they have to learn and build from it.
“This is like my fifth loss my whole time at Dartmouth, and I told the [defensive backs], it gets worse every single time you lose,” Mermigas said. “I think we've struggled a little bit to find an identity and I think this is a perfect time, coming into Harvard week. Let's find an identity, let's figure out what we did wrong in this game, and let's figure out who we actually are.”