Dartmouth football breaks records and earns honors as program takes 20th Ivy League title
In addition to the Big Green winning its second consecutive conference title, 17 players earned All-Ivy selections and head coach Buddy Teevens ’79 was named Ivy League Coach of the Year.
An overtime win against Yale University during Homecoming Weekend, a narrow win on the road against Harvard University and a blowout win at home over Princeton University helped Dartmouth football win a share of the Ivy League championship.
Following its comfortable 52-31 victory over Brown University in Providence last Saturday, Dartmouth football has successfully defended its share of the 2019 Ivy League championship and earned the program’s 20th title, the most in the Ivy League.
This year, Dartmouth splits the championship with Princeton University — the Big Green and Tigers both finished with identical 9-1 records and 6-1 records in conference play. In the teams’ head-to-head matchup this year, Dartmouth came away with a 31-7 victory.
“I didn't do a ton of winning in high school,” quarterback Nick Howard ’23 said. “I'd never won a state championship or even a conference championship, so coming here and going two-for-two on really the highest level we can get, because we don't compete in the playoffs, is awesome.”
Looking at the team’s numbers for the whole season, the Big Green was impressive on both sides of the ball. Dartmouth posted the Ivy League’s best scoring defense, allowing an average of just 14.7 points per game, even after giving up a season-high 31 to Brown in its final contest. On offense, Dartmouth posted 30.6 points per game, good for third in the league.
In recognition of the team’s performance this year, head coach Buddy Teevens ’79 earned the Ivy League’s Coach of the Year award for the second consecutive season. The Big Green as a whole notched 17 All-Ivy selections, the most in the conference.
Other highlights of the season included a 24-17 overtime win against Yale University on Homecoming Weekend, a 38-21 victory over the University of New Hampshire in this year’s Granite Bowl and a 20-17 thriller of a win on the road against Harvard University. The Big Green’s one loss came at the hands of Columbia, who came into Memorial Stadium and shockingly shut out Dartmouth, 19-0.
While this season can be seen as a continuation of Dartmouth’s recent success in football, it was by no means guaranteed. After losing a full season to COVID-19, Dartmouth returned few of its highest-impact players from its 2019 championship season.
In fact, in the Ivy League’s preseason polling, Dartmouth was ranked third, comfortably behind Princeton in first and Yale in second.
Linebacker Jalen Mackie ’22 said that even with the outside doubts, there was always confidence within the team about what they could accomplish this year.
“We definitely had some big shoes to step into,” Mackie said. “The guys before us definitely left a legacy to admire, but I feel like most of that skepticism was from the outside looking in. From the inside, we knew that we had guys that could ball.”
Mackie was one of five Dartmouth players to earn All-Ivy First Team honors for their performance this season. Joining Mackie with First-Team honors were Howard, offensive linemen Jake Guidone ’21 and Evan Hecimovich ’21 — both fifth-year players — and cornerback Isaiah Johnson ’22.
Howard, in particular, was one younger player who stepped into a major role for the Big Green this year, and he thrived in it. Throughout the season, he split quarterback duties with Derek Kyler ’21, another returning fifth-year starter. Dartmouth’s offensive system used Kyler as its primary passer, bringing in Howard most often in running situations, giving him carries as a wildcat quarterback.
Howard posted an impressive 787 rushing yards on 125 attempts, an average of 6.7 yards per attempt. He also found paydirt 15 times on the ground, tying a Dartmouth single-season record set 92 years ago. Both his yardage total and touchdowns comfortably led the Big Green, and he led the Ivy League in yards per carry, rushing touchdowns and total scoring with 90 points.
Kyler said that, particularly for a rushing quarterback in Dartmouth’s system, there were question marks, namely because Dartmouth practices are exclusively non-contact, but that he was confident in Howard from the start of the season.
“How is this guy going to be in a real game? Are people going to be able to tackle him? Is he going to break a bunch of tackles?” Kyler said. “But knowing [Howard], the way that I know [Howard], he’s a real hard worker. He’s a super strong and big kid and he loves football, he loves the team, he loves everything about it, so I was always confident that [Howard] was going to be a big time player for us.”
Howard said that heading into the season, he knew he was going to have the opportunity to see the field, but he did not know in what capacity or role necessarily that would be.
“I’m just thankful that I got the opportunities that I did throughout the season and that I was able to have a pretty positive impact,” Howard said.
Kyler, for his part, provided a steadying veteran presence to the offense all year. He completed 70.7% of his passes, the highest in the Ivy League this year and a Dartmouth program record, for 1972 yards and 17 touchdowns with only one interception, far and away the best ratio in the Ivy League and another Dartmouth record. For his career, his 69.3% completion rate and 164.55 passer rating rank at the top of the Dartmouth record books, and the Big Green compiled a 27-3 record in his 30 games at quarterback.
“I was looking up at the clock and it was almost like it was counting down my career here, so I was trying to just soak it all in at the same time,” Kyler said. “It’s been a long time coming, especially with COVID, and this group of guys, I think it’s as close a team as I’ve had here, so it was just really fun for us.”
For his performance this season, Kyler earned All-Ivy Second Team honors, along with six other Dartmouth players.
For the second consecutive year, Dartmouth will split the Ivy League championship with a team it defeated in its head-to-head matchup. Mackie said that, although the championship certainly feels good, he wished that the Ivy League would institute some sort of tiebreaker.
“No way we should be splitting with Princeton. 31-7. We literally mopped the floor with them,” Mackie said. “I definitely wish the Ivy League would adopt that way of going about things.”
Still, though, Dartmouth finishes this season having gotten back to the mountaintop, in a year where many doubted its ability to do so. The Big Green earned this championship, and with breakout performances from younger players up and down the roster all season will definitely look to build on it next year.
Looking forward to next year, the Big Green will be losing several impact players, both fifth-years and seniors, but Howard remains confident that the program will continue its track record of success.
“Obviously, we’re losing a lot of great talent, a lot of great guys, a lot of great teammates, but this is what we do,” Howard said. “We really develop our guys well and I think we have a really bright future. We have a lot of young talent and a lot of guys that are yet to really step into the role that they are more than capable of playing.”