‘Strange. Surreal. Sad.’: In a rivalry game no longer fought over by lifelong best friends, Harvard tops Dartmouth 17-9
For the first time in 18 years, Crimson head coach Tim Murphy faced a Big Green team not led by Buddy Teevens.
When the postgame press conference had run its course, Tim Murphy followed me into the hallway behind the Murr Center Lounge.
“It’s strange how the world works,” the Harvard University head coach began.
We began to talk about Buddy Teevens, and about what Murphy’s career trajectory would have looked like without him.
Spoiler: It would have been very different.
Saturday night’s contest between Harvard and Dartmouth, too, looked different. Murphy’s wife and Teevens’s wife sat together in the stands, per usual, but the Big Green coach lined up across from Murphy was not Teevens, who died in September.
Minutes before our conversation, Murphy had won his 136th Ivy victory, breaking the conference record. When I asked about it, he was quick to credit Teevens, who had been his best friend since age 12.
“When you consider that us two knuckleheads ended up being Ivy League coaches,” Murphy said, his mind then wandering.
It was never supposed to be like this, Murphy explained. He and Teevens coached together at the University of Maine, and then Murphy was admitted to the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Murphy told Teevens he was done with coaching — he was moving to Chicago.
Except he didn’t. In 1987, Teevens left Maine to take the head coaching job at Dartmouth, and, with enough convincing, Murphy finally filled Teevens’s role as the new head coach at the University of Maine.
Murphy only planned to be in that role for one year. But, feeling at home as a head coach, he never looked back.
Saturday night, thousands of fans and supporters watched Murphy. The crowd at Harvard Stadium was 22,515. It was the largest attendance at Harvard Stadium for a non-Yale game since 2009.
“It was great to see the amazing turnout in general, and part of it for Buddy Teevens,” Murphy said. “I really appreciate honoring Buddy in that way.”
Prior to the game, the video board featured a 30-second clip featuring photos of Teevens and Murphy together.
The game itself, played with run-heavy offenses more reminiscent of Teevens’s time as a player, also, unintentionally, honored the late coach.
“Our game was not a masterpiece, but we’re not giving it back,” Murphy said. “It was one of those old-fashioned, very gritty, run the football, stop the run, get off the field games.”
Harvard ended up defeating Dartmouth 17-9, holding the Big Green to just three field goals.
“In this era of modern football, if you can hold a team to zero touchdowns, that’s a really good thing,” Murphy said.
Harvard didn’t have much success through the air, but its 235 rushing yards and three scoring drives were enough to outlast the Big Green.
Harvard quarterback Charles DePrima, who threw three interceptions against Princeton last week, threw two in the first half yesterday, both to Sean Williams ’26. He was later replaced by sophomore quarterback Jaden Craig, who ran for 54 yards and the game’s two touchdowns.
“We just know that we can run the ball, and I think that was good for us tonight to find that identity,” Harvard running back Shane McLaughlin — who ran for 157 yards himself — said.
Murphy — whose team leads the league in rushing yards — was proud of Harvard’s grit upfront.
“They knew we were going to run the ball, pretty much,” Murphy said of Dartmouth’s defense. “It’s hard enough to run the ball. It’s hard when someone knows you’re going to run the ball … It wasn’t pretty, but it was the essence of what football used to be.”
The game was not, however, lacking momentous moments. Harvard capitalized on them while Dartmouth could not.
Despite Williams’s two interceptions and a huge fourth down pass breakup by Tyson McCloud ’24, the Big Green converted none of those plays into scoring opportunities.
Dartmouth head coach Sammy McCorkle said he wished he knew why his team couldn’t capitalize on those drives.
“We’ve had opportunities,” McCorkle said. “We need to get turnovers, and we got that. But we have to capitalize on that.”
Harvard, on the other hand, did. Three plays after Williams’s first pick, a strip-sack on Dylan Cadwallader ’23 gave Harvard prime position to let Craig run it in for the first score of the game. A second Harvard sack — just the fourth allowed by Dartmouth all year — pushed Dartmouth out of field goal range with seconds remaining in the half. From 52 yards out, the attempt by Owen Zalc ’27 veered wide left.
“In any game, especially when it’s as balanced and even as this game was for most of the duration, you have to have some impetus and be able to make some of those special plays,” Murphy said.
Down 17-6 with just over three minutes remaining, Dartmouth drove down the field and kicked a field goal, but it was too little too late. On a tricky onside attempt, Ivan Hoyt ’26, rather than Zalc, kicked the ball. Harvard, however, recovered it.
“We gave ourself a chance at the end of the game there, but we can’t just kick field goals,” McCorkle said.
Paxton Scott ’24, who led the team with 72 receiving yards, agreed.
“We can’t have the last drive be our best drive,” Scott said postgame. “We have to start earlier.”
Murphy, standing in front of me after the game, was certainly glad he began his friendship with Teevens early on.
“To be able to meet someone like that when you’re 12 years old,” Murphy said, adding, “I didn’t know much at 12 years old, but I knew I wanted that guy to be my wingman.”
On Saturday — when either a Harvard or Dartmouth win would have made Teevens proud — it’s nice to think Buddy, once Murphy’s teammate, returned to his role as wingman.