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Fall Classic: Big Green Stages Historic Comeback

  • Dartmouth College's Kyran McKinney-Crudden tackles Yale's Zane Dudek during a game between Dartmouth and Yale on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. Dartmouth came back to win 28-27. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Dartmouth College's Michael Gordon (37) celebrates with his team and fans after a game between Dartmouth and Yale on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. Dartmouth came back to win 28-27. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Dartmouth College's Jack Heneghan throws the ball before being tackled by Yale's Jarett Balter during a game between Dartmouth and Yale on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. Dartmouth came back to win 28-27. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Dartmouth College's Kyran McKinney-Crudden tackles Yale's Jaeden Graham during a game between Dartmouth and Yale on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. Dartmouth came back to win 28-27. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Saturday, October 07, 2017

Hanover — The undefeated Dartmouth College football team’s momentum continued to build Saturday, when it staged the biggest comeback victory in the program’s 136-year history.

Trailing Yale by 21 points late in the first half at Memorial Field, the Big Green forged a tie with 34 seconds remaining on Jack Heneghan’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Drew Hunnicutt on fourth down. David Smith booted the deciding extra point and the hosts stranded the Bulldogs at midfield as time expired in a 28-27 final.

“I just wanted to hug every guy out there and tell him I love him,” said Hunnicutt, whose team performed before an announced crowd of 8,114. “Because of you doing your job, that’s how we were able to overcome adversity and end up winning that game. The crowd was spectacular, and we feed off its energy.”

Dartmouth players gathered for a raucous, postgame rendition of the school’s alma mater, then celebrated as if they’d won their second Ancient Eight title in three years. Defensive tackle Charlie Pontarelli and tight end Joseph Cook climbed the 10-foot face of the stadium’s west stands and perched on its rim, surrounded by delirious students and former football players back for homecoming.

“I’ll take as many of these as we can get,” Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens said. “At halftime, I said the first thing we’ve got to beat is frustration.”

The result, which moved Dartmouth to 4-0 overall and 2-0 in Ivy League play, was the Big Green’s third dramatic triumph in as many weeks. Holy Cross fell in overtime on Sept. 23, followed by a last-second defeat of two-time defending league champion Pennsylvania on the road. Up next is the nonconference finale at Sacred Heart (2-3).

Adding to the improbability of Saturday’s accomplishment was the absence of two of Dartmouth’s top players, receiver Hunter Hagdorn and defensive tackle Jackson Perry. The former re-injured an ankle in the first half and the latter went out with a leg injury after intermission. Receiver Charles Mack and cornerback Jarius Brown also exited in pain and did not return.

“The mindset is next guy up,” said Isiah Swann, who replaced Brown and whose 47-yard interception return for a touchdown two minutes before halftime was pivotal. “We have a lot of depth on this team, so the next guy comes in and we keep on rolling.”

That depth may be what separates this Dartmouth squad from others in the past decade. Some of those teams featured brighter stars than anyone on the current roster, but financial and facilities upgrades and a share of the 2015 Ivy League title have attracted numerous prime recruits.

Heneghan wasn’t one of them, arriving from a small California high school in 2014 with a recently repaired shoulder that didn’t allow him to throw with much zip. Rest, training and experience have built the 6-foot-4, 230-pound righthander into a seasoned signal-caller, however. He didn’t blink when confronted by his coach at halftime on Saturday after completing just 5 of 11 passes for 38 yards.

“I called him out and said you need to play better,” said Teevens, who quarterbacked Dartmouth to the 1978 league title. “He was stoic and just looked at me and acknowledged it. He’s kind of unflappable and solid and he put the ball in there on a lot of tight throws when we needed it.”

Dartmouth also gave the senior better protection after punting on each of its six first-half possessions, four of which were of the three-and-out variety. The Big Green gained only 56 yards before intermission and surrendered 310 yards, including 16 snaps that resulted in gains of 10 or more yards.

Yale quarterback Kurt Rawlings threw for a touchdown pass late in the first quarter and one early in the second stanza for a 14-0 lead. Another Bulldogs drive was snuffed by a Danny McManus interception, but it was Swann’s swipe-and-score shortly before halftime that loomed ever larger as the game progressed.

“It was emotionally big to be on the board, no matter how we got there,” Teevens said. “We were back in it and we had some time.”

Said Yale coach Tony Reno, whose squad kicked a field goal as the first half expired: “It was a huge play, a swing of points and momentum.”

Trailing, 24-7, Dartmouth received the second-half kickoff and drove 91 yards to score in just six plays. Hunnicutt, running up the left hash, hauled in a 30-yard touchdown pass over his shoulder.

Yale (3-1, 1-1) answered with a 13-play, 77-yard drive capped by Alex Galland’s second field goal. The score was 27-14 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter and the Bulldogs had 387 yards of offense.

A comeback still appeared unlikely with nine minutes remaining in the game. Dartmouth’s last two possessions had ended with fourth-down stops, and sophomore quarterback Jared Gerbino, last week’s running hero in the Penn win, wasn’t a significant factor. The “jet sweep” play, on which a receiver in motion takes a quarterback handoff behind the center, was repeatedly stuffed.

With six minutes remaining, however, Dartmouth drove 90 yards in just five plays, as Dylan Mellor caught a 40-yard touchdown pass from Heneghan and cut Yale’s lead to 27-21. Yale went three-and-out and the Big Green took over at its 31-yard line with four minutes on the clock.

Dartmouth drove 69 yards in 13 plays, converting once on fourth down and once on third down before needing five yards on fourth down from Yale’s 15-yard line. Hunnicutt was wide open on a crossing route from the left side with 39 seconds remaining, catching a Heneghan dart before absorbing a hit just inside the goal line.

“These comeback wins are kind of surreal,” McManus said. “This is what college football is all about and why we love it. Every play a nd every game matters.”

Heneghan completed 24 of 42 passes for 314 yards and three touchdowns, his fifth career outing with more than 300 yards through the air. Mellor caught seven passes for 133 yards and a touchdown and Hunnicutt had five receptions for 64 yards and a score.

Heneghan rushed for 33 yards and Ryder Stone had six carries for 29 yards.

 

 

Notes: Dartmouth’s last comeback from 17 or more points came during a 19-18 victory over Princeton on Nov. 20, 1999. The Big Green has won its last three games by a combined five points, breaking the program record of eight, set during 1971. … Football equipment manager Steve Ward was featured in a video board showing in which he won a three-man burrito-eating contest with ease. … Reno is 27-27 in six seasons at Yale and 1-5 against Dartmouth. … Former Dartmouth center Rob Bathe, a 2013 graduate, began his business career in beer sales. He’s now formed the Folly Coffee Co. in Minneapolis, featuring the “choicest, ethically-sourced unroasted beans from the best coffee growing regions in the world.”... Attending the game was former quarterback Dalyn Williams, who led Dartmouth to that 2015 title. The Texan said he’s training to work in commercial real estate.

 

 

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com or 603-727-3227.

Correction

Dartmouth College defensive back Michael Gordon wears jersey number 37 and celebrated with other players and fans after Saturday's 28-27 victory over Yale in Hanover. Gordon was misidentified in an earlier version of this story.