In a battle that was closer than the final score indicated on Saturday, Harvard University defeated Dartmouth 28-13, putting a damper on the Big Green’s Homecoming weekend. Beneath sunny skies and a stadium packed with 8,735 fans, the Big Green kept it close early on — scoring both of its touchdowns in the second quarter before failing to score again.
The Dartmouth defense, which allowed Harvard to rush for 257 yards, could not seem to stop the Crimson ground attack. After Aidan Borguet, Harvard’s lead running back, tallied 179 yards and two touchdowns on 26 rushes, the Big Green has now — for the first time since 2011 — allowed a single rusher to put up 100 or more yards for four consecutive games.
“No doubt, Bourget is a good running back,” safety and captain Quinten Arello ’23 said. “[He] definitely gave us a lot to worry about today, but it kind of showed what we need to work on as a defense… Just prepare better, get in the weight room, work on wrapping up a little bit better.”
On the other side of the ball, Dartmouth’s rushing offense was — like last week — stifled, amassing only 90 yards for an average of 3.6 yards per carry.
“We’ve played against some good D-lines throughout the course of the year, but these guys were just another challenge,” offensive lineman Michael Flores ’23 said. “I felt that we prepared well all week … we just didn’t execute it a couple of times, and that happens in the game of football.”
The Big Green, which started with the ball, went three-and-out on its first two possessions, allowing Harvard to strike first.
Starting at its own 33-yard line, the Crimson offense completed a quick pass down the middle to reach the Dartmouth 45. Harvard advanced 16 yards over the next two plays — both rushes — and then blown Dartmouth coverage on a play-action pass gave the Crimson an uncontested 34-yard score.
“It’s just a play-action pass — we bit on it,” head coach Buddy Teevens ’79 said. “We should’ve had middle help and we didn’t, and the safety’s up and the corner’s left on an island. It just looks bad when guys run scot-free down the field.”
On the next Dartmouth drive, Dylan Cadwallader ’24 entered the game hoping to ignite a spark — and for a second, he did. Cadwallader found Paxton Scott ’24 for a 24-yard completion to advance Dartmouth into Crimson territory, but a penalty on the ensuing play drove the team backwards and the drive concluded with a punt.
After a quick Dartmouth stop, Cadwallader showed promise again, completing a 44-yard strike to Jamal Cooney ’23, the Big Green’s longest passing play of the year. The first quarter would expire soon after, but a series of six rushes at the start of the second culminated in a touchdown. Nick Howard ’23 ran it 13 yards to reach the one-yard line and on the next play crossed into the end zone.
Harvard would, however, match the Big Green score with a strikingly similar drive. The Crimson immediately mimicked Cooney’s reception with a 41-yard completion of its own, and then ran its own series of rushes — with one pass intermixed — for a touchdown.
“The two big passes that they hit, those are devastating,” Teevens said. “Just a swing in the field position, and we didn’t make enough big plays.”
But with nine minutes remaining in the opening half, the Big Green did execute again, this time on a 13-play, 6:11-minute drive. Dartmouth’s offense was patient, moving steadily thanks to an array of rushes and passes. Zack Bair ’22 capped it off with the four-yard rushing score, but a blocked extra point attempt would keep Dartmouth down 13-14.
“All week long, the key was possessing the football, working it down the field, keeping their offense on the sideline,” Teevens said. “We showed snippets of it, but just not enough.”
Harvard looked to respond, advancing the ball to the Dartmouth 40 before punting it with 41 seconds left. Dartmouth, upon receiving the punt, ran out the clock.
Neither team did much with their opening second half drives, but Dartmouth’s three-and-out gave the Crimson too much momentum. Harvard came out firing on its second possession, covering 76 yards over nine plays and 4:11 for another touchdown to put themselves ahead by eight.
Dartmouth would give the ball back via punt five plays later, and Harvard looked to complete its second consecutive score, driving all the way to the Dartmouth 34 before Arello came up clutch with an interception on fourth down.
“Probably should’ve batted it down, but sometimes that happens,” Arello said. “It brought some juice to the sideline. We just have to keep that juice up and make something happen on offense after that.”
That the Big Green could not do. Dartmouth converted one first down before punting, and the Crimson again looked strong, completing another nine-play touchdown drive, this time advancing 86 yards over 4:48.
“Defensively, I thought we were on the field too long,” Teevens said. “It takes its toll over the course of time.”
Dartmouth would, however, rally behind a strong drive of its own. The Big Green advanced all the way to the Harvard 30 until a fourth down pass slipped through the hands of Scott, causing Dartmouth to turn the ball over on downs.
Harvard would then run the clock out from 4:39 to 1:19; on the final possession, Dartmouth crossed into Crimson territory but ended short of a score.
“We have good guys and they’re committed to each other,” Teevens said. “They understand there’s a lot of young guys that are playing that haven’t had a lot of snap time, and it’s almost nurturing, encouraging and growing the guys that are around them…Every week, if we can get a little bit better, a little bit better, a little bit better, we’re moving the program forward.”
But Arello, who will play his last collegiate game for Dartmouth in three weeks, doesn’t have time to dwell on the future.
“Third loss, definitely tough to come back from that,” Arello said. “As Dartmouth football, we’re gonna rally from it, we’re gonna keep going forward, because that’s the only way we can go.
Next Saturday, the Big Green will travel to New Jersey to take on the Ivy League’s top-ranked Princeton Tigers at 1:00 p.m. on ESPN+.