Football loses heartbreaker to Penn in Ivy League opener
After the 23-17 double overtime loss to the Quakers Friday night, the Big Green’s record stands at 1-2.
For the first time since 2017, Dartmouth football has lost two consecutive games, this time against the University of Pennsylvania in a double overtime thriller. This comes on the heels of last week’s overtime loss to Sacred Heart University. The game, televised on ESPNU on Friday, saw both teams stumble into overtime at 10 points apiece, but the Quakers eventually got the best of the Big Green and closed it out at 23-17.
Penn opened the contest with a commanding first drive, running 14 plays over 7:45 and eventually finding the endzone on a three-yard rushing touchdown.
Despite a strong first play, Dartmouth was unable to respond on its first offensive drive. Running back Zack Bair ’22 immediately got Dartmouth into Penn territory with a speedy 29-yard rush down the middle – the Big Green’s longest play of the day – but Dartmouth was forced to punt on its next set of downs.
“We didn’t convert when we needed to,” head coach Buddy Teevens ’79 said.“Flashes of productivity, but not really any consistency. We run the football – that’s about all we’re doing.”
Teevens added that the team needed to “broaden [it’s] offense.”Teevens said he was proud of his defense, though, commending their ability to put the first drive behind them. The defense “woke up” after that first touchdown, linebacker Joe Heffernan ’22 said, “and executed the game plan.”
It was after a few more defense-heavy drives that the Big Green offense started to string some positive plays together. Starting at its own 25-yard line, Dartmouth moved deliberately, converting three first downs and advancing into Penn territory before taking its first timeout to pause the game with 0:47 remaining in the half. Upon exiting the huddle, quarterback Nick Howard ‘23 found Jamal Cooney ’23 for a 13-yard reception and ran it himself for nine more yards to set up a Ryan Bloch ’23 field goal. The score cut Penn’s lead to four points, and Dartmouth went into the locker room down 7-3.
The first six drives of the second half were unremarkable, barring a one-yard Bair rush that brought his career rushing yards to the 1000-yard mark. Bair said that the milestone didn’t mean much to him, as “winning the game is all that matters.”
Even when a shanked 14-yard punt by Penn flailed out of bounds at Penn’s own 37-yard line, the Big Green could not execute. Howard was pulled out of the game after a hard hit, replaced temporarily by backup Dylan Cadwallader ’24. The Big Green would then lose 10 yards on back-to-back penalties, and an incomplete Cadwallader pass brought the drive to an end with a disappointing punt.
“We had every opportunity. It’s a comedy of errors,” Teevens said of that drive.
Following a Penn three-and-out, the Big Green found itself on the positive side of some penalties, advancing 30 yards thanks to a defensive face mask and then a roughing the passer call. The energy shot up from there, and Howard pushed through what appeared to be the entire Quakers defense before finally being stopped at the Penn 14. A Bair rush advanced the Big Green offense three more yards before Howard ran it again, this time for an 11-yard score, giving Dartmouth a 10-7 lead.
A Quakers three-and-out gave Dartmouth the ball with 8:10 remaining, and the Big Green took its time, converting three first downs before attempting a 48-yard field goal with the leg of wide receiver Ivan Hoyt ’26. His attempt careened just right, though, and Penn got the 2:11 they needed.
The Quakers offense played poised in key situations, converting two fourth downs and a 19-yard reception to get well within field goal range. After a few failed attempts to find the endzone, a 35-yard Penn field goal sent the game into overtime.
There, Dartmouth won the coin toss and elected to defend, but Penn converted two first downs before punching in a five-yard touchdown pass. Dartmouth was quick to respond, though, and in four plays Dartmouth had scored, sending both teams trotting to the other end zone.
Following NCAA Division I overtime rules, Dartmouth started with the ball this time, but the Big Green came up empty, converting one first down before having their 28-yard field goal attempt blocked.
From there, the Quakers only needed a field goal, but they decided on a victory lap; Penn picked up 24 yards on the ground from second and 11, and then two plays later found the endzone. Penn ultimately won 23-17.
As Dartmouth travels to the Yale Bowl this weekend for its second Ivy League matchup, the team hopes to fix the mistakes that have cost them the last two weeks.
“It’s a game we could’ve won,” Teevens said, but “could’ves don’t count.”
Now standing at 1-2 on the season after winning back-to-back Ivy League titles, Teevens said that this is “uncharted waters for a lot of these guys.”
Heffernan seemed ready to embrace the murk, adding that the team plans to “pick each other up” to prepare for next week.
“Every game in the Ivy League’s a playoff game,” Bair said. “We have to be perfect the rest of the year.”
Starting with Yale on Saturday, we’ll see if the Big Green can do it.