As Yale University’s cornerback leaped in front of Isaac Boston ’24 and snatched the interception with nothing but turf in front of him, assistant coach Danny O’Dea immediately lifted his hands to his headset and threw the headphones – audio still intact – behind him.
By the time O’Dea picked the headset up, the Bulldog was long gone and approaching the 50 yard line as Boston – now ten yards away – did his best to close the gap.
For O’Dea and the Big Green, that would be just the first in a long list of frustrations on Saturday, Oct. 7. The team fell to Yale 31-24 here in Hanover, the first time the Bulldogs beat Dartmouth at home since 2010.
In retrospect, the stats simply do not align with the results. Dartmouth did nearly everything better than Yale: 12 more first downs, 11 more minutes of possession, nearly 100 more yards of total offense and nine more third-down conversions.
How did Yale possibly win, then?
“The two things that really allowed them to stay in that game and put us in a tough situation were the turnovers and giving up big plays,” head coach Sammy McCorkle said. “We just can’t give up those big, long ones.”
That pick-six was just one of many of “those big, long ones.”
From the second quarter onwards, Yale had four receptions of over 30 yards. One led to a touchdown, two of them to a field goal and the final 69-yarder to Ryan Lindley was the game-winning touchdown. Lindley would end up having 128 yards on the day.
“I think Mason Tipton and Ryan Lindley and Chase Nenad and Mason Shipp are as good as they get in this league,” Yale head coach Tony Reno said of his receiving corps. “Getting the ball to them in space and letting them go make plays was a big part of our success today.”
While McCorkle had said yardage stats are not all that important to him, Yale’s 239 passing yards — a symbol of those big plays more than anything else — had to bite.
“You just can’t allow big plays, explosive plays, like that,” McCorkle said of those receptions. “[If] you force them to work it down the field, you’re going to get them in a third-down situation.”
Yale ultimately only converted two of 10 third-downs.
Turnovers, too, proved costly to the Big Green. Nick Howard’s ’23 early pick-six was just the first of three interceptions Dartmouth threw on the day, the last two coming from Jackson Proctor ’25 on the Big Green’s last two offensive drives. Yale also recovered their own punt when it bounced off Cam Maddox ’24.
Had the fourth quarter not ended so poorly, Dartmouth very well could have won. Both teams entered the final period tied at 17, but Yale started it on the Dartmouth 9-yard line and quickly went up by seven.
Showcasing the day’s offensive success, Dartmouth took their next possession for a 14-play, 75-yard drive that spanned just over seven minutes. Dartmouth averaged just under 12 plays per drive on each of its scoring drives, representing an ability to run the ball methodically for a total of 189 yards on the day.
Even Reno admitted his defense didn’t play all that well, summing it up succinctly in the press conference: “We weren’t successful defensively.” Even so, Bulldog linebacker Joseph Vaughn had a massive game, putting together 15 total tackles, 11 of them solo.
Tevita Moimoi ’24, who had just 2 cumulative rushing yards last season, put up 82 on Saturday to finish with 9.1 yards per carry. On Dartmouth’s first scoring drive, Moimoi set up Howard’s rushing touchdown with a 41-yard rush of his own.
“[Moimoi] is one of the hardest working guys on the football team, one of the most humble guys,” McCorkle said. “It was good to see him play with a little edge, a little energy.”
In that spirit of humility, Moimoi, who McCorkle said will be the star of the Big Green’s between-the-tackle offense, deflected his success to the guys in front of him.
“The o-line had a hell of a game, not just run blocking, but pass blocking as well,” Moimoi said. “So tips off to them for allowing those holes to be created. I’m much more of a downhill runner, so I just hit it.”
As Yale got itself back on track by jumping to 2-2 overall and 1-1 in Ivy League play, Dartmouth undoubtedly took a step backwards. This Saturday, the Big Green will play Colgate University in Hamilton, New York at 1 p.m. to finish off its non-conference schedule.
While this game will not affect conference rankings, McCorkle and the team will look at it as a chance to continue what it did right and remedy what it did wrong.
Those few plays were the reason for the loss. Surely O’Dea hopes to keep his headset on for the entirety of the game next week.