‘It Just Kept Going’ : Big Green Has Little to Show for Longest Game in Ivy History
Dartmouth College players A.J. Dettorre, left, and Elliot Kastner, react Saturday after the visiting Big Green lost to Pennsylvania, 37-31, in four overtimes. It was the longest game in Ivy League history. Valley News - Tris Wykes Purchase photo reprints »
Dartmouth College kicker Riley Lyons (49) and holder Ben Kepley watch as Lyons' attempted field goal with no time remaining in the fourth quarter sails wide after being partially blocked. The Quakers' Kevin Ijoma (21) jumps for joy. Had the boot been successful, the Big Green would have won at Pennsylvania for the first time since 1997. Instead, it lost in four overtimes, 37-31. Valley News - Tris Wykes Purchase photo reprints »
Dartmouth College safety Troy Donahue, left, rushes to join in a gang-tackling effort Saturday on Pennsylvania ballcarrier Kyle Wilcox at Philadelphia's Franklin Field. Garrett Waggoner (11) and Mike Banaciski (24) are also in on the play. Valley News - Tris Wykes Purchase photo reprints »
Philadelphia — Dartmouth College’s football players limped, slouched and drifted out of their Franklin Field locker room Saturday and spread themselves along a tree-lined sidewalk in front of the venerable stadium. Munching on sandwiches as they waited for their buses to depart, the Big Green gridders were a disconsolate bunch.
Guard A.J. Dillione moved slowly down the path, using metal crutches with forearm attachments, an ice bag on his leg. Receiver Kirby Schoenthaler, who played his first game after an appendectomy, walked gingerly and in obvious discomfort and defensive end Cody Fulleton moved in lurching fashion, a hand pressed to his abdomen.
For all of them, however, the physical pain was less than the mental anguish after losing the longest game in Ivy League history to Pennsylvania, 37-31. The Big Green couldn’t convert what would have been winning field goals at the end of the fourth quarter and the first overtime, then lost its league opener when the Quakers’ Kyle Wilcox bounced a run off right tackle and inside the end zone pylon to finish the fourth extra session.
Dartmouth, which had sought its first victory here since 1997, was left in disbelief. So much effort, so much heart. So little to show for it all.
“It just kept going and it doesn’t quite feel like it’s over yet,” said Dartmouth linebacker Michael Runger, who had a game-high 13 tackles. “It feels like we should be going out there for a fifth period.”
Said Penn coach Al Bagnoli: “It was a spectacular game for a spectator and if you’re a coach, you’re going to bed really early, because it was emotionally exhausting.”
With the air temperature at roughly 85 degrees and the reading on the artificial turf at least 10 degrees higher, it was a physically exhausting one as well. Surprisingly, no players suffered visible cramps. Trainers and managers proffered water at every turn and wet towels soaked in buckets of ice were wrung out over competitors’ heads on the sidelines.
“We’re a well-conditioned team and we play a lot of people,” said Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens, who is 3-11 against Penn. “We have some tough-minded guys who really work to win.”
They didn’t get what they deserved, however, because for the fifth consecutive meeting with Penn, the game was won by the Quakers on the final possession. That’s been the case with all but one of the teams’ meetings since 2006, but Bagnoli didn’t rub it in.
“I give Dartmouth a lot of credit,” he said. “I thought they played well enough to win and we caught a couple of breaks. We were very fortunate, and I think Dartmouth is a legitimate football team that’s going to cause other teams problems this year.”
Dartmouth (1-2) took a 7-0 lead on Dominick Pierre’s 1-yard run during the fifth minute and the first of Riley Lyons’ five conversion kicks. However, the Big Green trailed 14-7 at halftime after surrendering a touchdown pass by fifth-year senior Billy Ragone and an 84-yard fumble return for a touchdown by linebacker David Park.
The latter play, six minutes before intermission, came after Big Green quarterback Dalyn Williams had a defender hit his throwing arm. The visitors protested that an incomplete pass should have been called.
A Williams touchdown pass to tight end Dean Bakes pulled Dartmouth into a 14-14 tie early in the third quarter, but Penn went up 21-14 on a short run late in the stanza. The score moved to 21-21 after Williams scrambled two yards for a touchdown early in the fourth. After the Quakers missed a 52-yard field goal with a minute remaining in the final period, the Big Green, despite having no timeouts, drove to the hosts’ 4-yard line with four seconds remaining.
Park then blocked Lyons’ 21-yard field goal attempt, but the Quakers’ jubilation was short-lived when they couldn’t score on the opening possession of overtime. Lyons, however, missed another field goal attempt, this one from 34 yards.
The order of possession switched for the second overtime, and Schoenthaler caught a 15-yard touchdown pass to put his team up 28-21. The Big Green soon had Penn in a third-and-12 hole but Ragone, who has ravaged the Big Green during his career and who’s coming off ankle surgery, somehow managed a 27-yard touchdown run, falling across the goal line in the grip of Evan Chrustic’s tackle.
“He can keep drives alive with his feet and his head,” an admiring Teevens said. “He’s a winner.”
Penn went up 31-28 on a 38-yard field goal, answered by a Lyons boot from 40. Dartmouth then appeared to score on a 12-yard touchdown pass from Williams to Pierre on the first possession of the fourth overtime, but the play was wiped out by a personal foul and Lyons soon missed yet again, this time from 42 yards.
Penn (2-1) won the game by handing the ball to Wilcox three consecutive times for gains of 2, 3 and 20 yards. Dartmouth’s offense is averaging 509 yards per game, but its defense is surrendering an average of 487. Lyons, a sophomore who made 7-of-14 field-goal attempts last year, has missed at least one kick in each game this season.
“We’ve got a capable kicker and a capable operation and when we need a play, we’ve got to get a play,” said Teevens, who personally coaches his team’s kicking and punting operation. “Nobody feels worse than Riley, but it’s a team sport and you’d like to think you don’t get yourself in a position where it comes down to one player.”
Williams completed 26-of-45 passes for 292 yards and two touchdowns and had one toss intercepted. The Quakers kept the sophomore in better check than any other team that’s faced him, but he still ran 19 times for 77 yards and a touchdown.
Pierre carried 21 times for 151 yards and a touchdown and Schoenthaler caught eight passes for 65 yards and a touchdown. Pierre, Bo Patterson and Victor Williams each had five catches for a combined 192 yards. Ben Kepley punted six times for an average of 40.8 yards. Ragone completed 17-of-28 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown and had two throws intercepted. His team scored on 4-of-5 trips inside the red zone.
Bagnoli, who’s in his 22nd season at Penn and who coached 10 previous campaigns at Union (N.Y.) College, said Saturday’s game, which lasted nearly four hours, was one for the ages.
“This one had as many highs and lows as any I can recall,” he said. “We’ve been in overtime games before, but they didn’t have the drama that this game possessed. When the smoke clears, this could be a defining game for the season.”
Tris Wykes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3227.