Dartmouth football defeats Cornell 41-7, Ivy League title up for grabs next week
Two years removed from a heartbreaking loss versus the Big Red that kept Dartmouth from a perfect season, the Big Green flipped the script.
With the 41-7 victory over Cornell, the Big Green wrapped up its final game at Memorial Field this season.
Two years ago, an undefeated Dartmouth football team welcomed Cornell University to Memorial Field and was promptly handed a shocking 20-17 loss. This year, with Dartmouth tied atop the Ivy League standings entering the same matchup, there was no letdown.
The Big Green once again hosted the Big Red, this time for Dartmouth’s Senior Day on Saturday. In contrast to the 2019 heartbreak, Dartmouth dominated every phase of the game, securing a comfortable 41-7 victory.
“You can’t take anyone lightly,” head coach Buddy Teevens ’79 said. “It happened to us earlier this year and it happened to us two years ago. … We have the capability of playing very, very well, but we’re only as good as we play.”
The story of the game was Dartmouth’s dominance in the trenches: The offense racked up 292 rushing yards as a team, a season high. On the other side of the ball, the Big Red could only muster 187 yards of total offense against a stifling Dartmouth front.
With one sack on the day, linebacker Marques White ’23 upped his team-leading total to five. He highlighted the strength of the Dartmouth defensive line and how that unit has continued to gel as the season has progressed.
“We haven’t reached our max potential yet,” he said. “We're getting better, game by game, and we just know that if we come out and we play to our best, we are the best.”
Junior quarterback Nick Howard ’23, who had committed to Cornell as a linebacker but ultimately chose to attend Dartmouth, was the driving force behind the Big Green’s offensive output on Saturday. Facing off against the school he nearly attended, Howard ran roughshod. He carried the ball 13 times for 172 yards — nearly outgaining Cornell’s entire offense himself — and found paydirt four separate times, the first four-touchdown game of his career, giving him a team-high 13 touchdowns on the season.
“It’s not something I think about a lot, but it does feel good looking back,” Howard said regarding his decision to change his commitment to Dartmouth. “I think I made the right decision.”
The game got off to an ominous start for Dartmouth when Connor Davis ’22 doinked a 27-yard field goal attempt off the right upright on the Big Green’s first drive, a rare miss for Dartmouth’s reliable senior kicker. Teevens said that “there was a second” on the sideline where he was reminded of the 2019 loss.
Fortunately for Dartmouth, it was a short-lived second. The Big Green defense gave up one yard on Cornell’s first three plays and forced a punt on fourth down that did not cross midfield. This was the first of two first-half drives for Dartmouth that started on Cornell’s side of the field.
The Big Green capitalized on its advantageous field position, running a seven-play, 3:55-long drive that ended in Howard’s first touchdown run of the day. After the defense forced another three-and-out, Dartmouth ran another seven-play drive, this time ending in a 13-yard touchdown scamper from Noah Roper ’23, his first score of the year. Early in the second quarter, the score stood at 14-0 Dartmouth.
Cornell head coach David Archer said that losing the field position battle early put the Big Red at a disadvantage.
“We mishit our first two punts,” he said. “[Dartmouth] didn’t need help, and we kind of gave them help.”
The Big Green closed out the first half strong, scoring two more touchdowns in three offensive possessions and not giving up a single score defensively. The first of those came courtesy of Howard, who punched it in from two yards out on the heels of a massive 75-yard run, his longest of the day, on which he was run down before reaching the end zone.
“I saw it open up and I was like, ‘Oh man, that's a long way to go,’” Howard said. “Our guys up front executed perfectly, they gave us the look we wanted, and it’s an awesome feeling when you see that open [field] and you just hit it.”
Dartmouth’s fourth touchdown of the half came on a drive set up by a 34-yard punt return from Jamal Cooney ’23. Starting from Cornell’s 33-yard line, the Big Green ran seven plays culminating in an eight-yard touchdown snag from Dale Chesson ’23. The Big Green defense held strong on Cornell’s final drive of the half, and Dartmouth took a commanding 28-0 lead going into halftime.
It was yet another strong performance from Chesson, who has improved every week since returning from injury against Harvard two weeks ago. After scoring his first touchdown of the year last week, Chesson followed it up with seven receptions on seven targets for 106 yards and the score. With that performance, Chesson has now racked up 239 receiving yards this season, making him Dartmouth’s second-leading receiver by yardage with only three games played.
“It’s a shame that we missed him for the better part of the season,” Teevens said. “He’s an explosive runner, he’s a tough kid. … You get the ball in his hand, he does not want to go down and he has the speed to run away from people. He’s dangerous.”
At the start of the second half, Cornell showed signs of life, running a nine-play, 75-yard drive that ended in the Big Red’s first and ultimately only touchdown of the day.
Howard, on the other hand, had two more touchdown runs left in him: a 20-yard score in the third quarter and a 32-yard rush at the start of the fourth quarter. A missed extra point from Ryan Bloch ’23 set the score at 41-7. Teevens said that, after Howard’s touchdown, Davis requested that Bloch get the chance to kick the extra point.
“Ryan’s not even warm, but just the unselfishness [by Davis],” Teevens said. “Nobody does that.”
With a 36-point lead in the fourth quarter, Coach Teevens followed his kicker’s lead, turning largely to his non-starters to salt the remaining game away.
“It was electric on the sideline, when we had played most of our bench,” Teevens said. “The guys are getting in and they cheer for each other because they work hard together. It’s a special group of guys.”
With the rematch of 2019’s trap game now firmly in its rearview, the Big Green will turn its attention to the final game of the season against Brown University in Providence next Saturday, and the chance to guarantee at least a share of this year’s Ivy League title with a win. Entering play, Brown’s record stands at 1-5 in the Ivy League and 2-7 overall.
“[This win] feels great, but the job’s not done,” Howard said. “We have work to do. One more game, we come out, we do our job, we win. That's what we expect to do, that’s what we prepare to do.”