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The Dartmouth
March 2, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Inches away from defeating Cornell, football falls 17-13

With one game left, the Big Green looks to avoid finishing last in the Ivy League for the first time since 2016.

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In the 105th annual football matchup between Dartmouth and Cornell University, the Big Red defeated the Big Green 17-13 in a battle that came right down to the wire. Cornell went up early, and two lead changes occurred before Dartmouth began its final drive of the game.

Down 17-13 with zero timeouts and 1:29 remaining, Nick Howard ’23 completed six passes to creep up the field before spiking the ball at the Cornell eight-yard line.

With the clock stopped at four seconds, the Big Red called a timeout, giving Dartmouth an opportunity to draw up its final play. When play resumed, Howard dropped back and threw a fade to Jonny Barrett ’23 on the left side. The spiral was perfect, and Barrett came down with it — he was, however, just out of bounds.

“Finally, we get down to the red zone and [throw the] last-second fade, and [I’m] just a few inches out of bounds,” Barrett said. “We’ve been there plenty of times where we’ve had two minutes to drive down the field…we knew what we had to get done — just fell short.

Howard, having missed the preceding Princeton University game due to injury, made a welcome return for the Big Green, passing for 213 yards — a career high. It was, however, Jackson Proctor ’25 who led the offense on the first drive, hoping to capitalize on his strong showing last week. Instead, the offense went three-and-out.

Cornell was a little more successful on its first drive, converting two first downs before failing to convert a fourth and five attempt from the Dartmouth 32-yard line.

Howard got the start on the next drive, but it was equally unsuccessful, ending in a punt.

“Nick hadn’t really played much the previous two weeks and the practice week,” head coach Buddy Teevens ’79 said. “We just weren’t 100% sure…so the thought was ‘Okay, we’ll start with Proctor and then kind of work Howard in.’”

The Big Red, which leads the Ivy League in time of possession, then proved why it owns that stat. Cornell drove 84 yards over 15 plays in 8:34 for a rushing touchdown, breaking into the second quarter as it did so.

“Definitely…want to have [that drive] back,” linebacker Joe Heffernan ’22, who leads the Ivy League in tackles, said.

With 12:26 remaining in the half, the Big Green responded. Howard found Barrett for three completions — each for over 10 yards — before a trick play saw running back Noah Roper ’23 find Jarmone Sutherland ’24 in the end zone for a touchdown reception. A missed Ryan Bloch ’23 extra point, however, kept the Big Green down 7-6.

“We all know [Howard] can sling the ball, and when he has the time he will,” Barrett said. “Huge momentum change in the game just to get our offense going and keep our defense off the field.”

The next three drives were three-and-outs, and on the last one Cornell punted from its own five. The punt, weak and wobbly, landed at the Cornell 31 with 2:16 remaining, but the Big Green offense was denied again. On fourth and six, a Howard pass to Jackson Gerald ’25 was batted down, returning possession to the Big Red.

Cornell, upon gaining possession, ran out the clock on the first half.

When the second half started, the tug-of-war continued; each team converted one first down before punting, and then Dartmouth forced another Big Red punt before deciding to strike.

Over four plays, the Big Green offense drove 66 yards to the end zone. Three of those plays came through the air — a 24-yarder to Jace Henry ’24, an 18-yarder to Barrett and then a 22-yard pass again to Henry as he streaked into the endzone, giving Dartmouth a 13-7 lead after a successful Bloch extra point.

“We were productive and completing passes,” Teevens said. “[Howard] did a nice job with Jace Henry — the two big catches, and obviously the touchdown pass.”

But as with earlier games this season, Dartmouth failed to execute drives like that one with any consistency.

“You see just a drive here, and a drive there,” Teevens said. “And to be able to do that with regularity…you got to string those things together.”

Cornell did not let the Big Green hold the lead for long. On the ensuing Dartmouth kickoff, the Big Red broke off a huge return. Receiving Bloch’s kick at the nine-yard line, Cornell’s returner shot past the entire Dartmouth defense for a 91-yard return touchdown. With 2:40 remaining in the third quarter, Cornell regained its early lead, now up 14-13.

“Special teams are a critical part of the game,” Heffernan said. “And we spend a lot of time throughout the week prepping those things. That was a huge letdown, but I know those guys will bounce back, and we'll get those things shored up next week.”

Dartmouth went three-and-out on its ensuing possession, and Cornell broke into the fourth quarter with a 11 play, 6:24 drive that resulted in a field goal.

Dartmouth went three-and-out again, but on the next possession  the defense clutched up, with Heffernan forcing a fumble on the Big Red’s first play of the drive. When Charles Looes ’23 fell on the ball at the Cornell 47, Dartmouth was immediately put within striking distance.

The Big Green would, however, turn it over three plays later, as Howard rushed it across the first down line and then, trying to push for extra yardage, crashed into a Cornell defender and lost the ball.

“Obviously, very, very costly,” Teevens said. “Close game like that, to get a turnover…we just didn’t capitalize on it.”

With 8:09 left, Cornell did what it does best, bleeding the clock all the way to 1:29 before narrowly missing a field goal.

“They were in their four-minute offense, trying to kill the clock,” Heffernan said. “We were doing our best to get them off the field and give the offense one last chance to punch it in.”

Next Saturday, the Big Green hosts Brown University at 1:30 p.m. With matching 1-5 conference records, both teams aim to avoid finishing last in the Ivy League — especially the Big Green, which took home a share of the championship trophy both of the last two years.

“[I] feel bad for the players because they’re working so hard,” Teevens said. “Just adjustments as we go through injury and so forth, but we’ve got enough guys to play and the guys that are healthy are going to show up and give you everything they got.”

As Barrett and Heffernan approach their final career games, they’re insistent on maintaining the same mindset they have all season.

“We're going into the game treating it like every other game,” Barrett said. “It's an Ivy League game, and we want to win — [we’re] playing for each other, and playing for the win.”