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Sending ’Em Home Happy: Homecoming Win Puts Big Green Back on Track

  • Dartmouth's Chase Womack, right, and Garrett Waggoner sandwich Yale's Chris Smith to cause an incompletion during the first half of Saturday's Ivy League game at Hanover's Memorial Field. Valley News - Tris Wykes

    Dartmouth's Chase Womack, right, and Garrett Waggoner sandwich Yale's Chris Smith to cause an incompletion during the first half of Saturday's Ivy League game at Hanover's Memorial Field. Valley News - Tris Wykes Purchase photo reprints »

  • Dartmouth College quarterback Dalyn Williams scrambles away from the Yale defense Saturday during the teams' Ivy League game at Hanover's Memorial Field. Center Sean Ronin (72) provides some of the blocking. Valley News - Tris Wykes

    Dartmouth College quarterback Dalyn Williams scrambles away from the Yale defense Saturday during the teams' Ivy League game at Hanover's Memorial Field. Center Sean Ronin (72) provides some of the blocking. Valley News - Tris Wykes Purchase photo reprints »

  • Dartmouth's Chase Womack, right, and Garrett Waggoner sandwich Yale's Chris Smith to cause an incompletion during the first half of Saturday's Ivy League game at Hanover's Memorial Field. Valley News - Tris Wykes
  • Dartmouth College quarterback Dalyn Williams scrambles away from the Yale defense Saturday during the teams' Ivy League game at Hanover's Memorial Field. Center Sean Ronin (72) provides some of the blocking. Valley News - Tris Wykes

Hanover — Dartmouth College football coach Buddy Teevens said last week’s four-overtime loss at Pennsylvania was the most wrenching of his lengthy career. Saturday, Teevens experienced what might have been one of his most crucial victories during the Big Green’s 20-13 triumph over Yale at Memorial Field.

Had Dartmouth lost its Homecoming contest, it would have started its most expectation-laden season in nearly 20 years with a 1-3 record. The situation would have been seen by many as the beginning of the end for Teevens and his staff, and alumni and fan discontent would have begun to boil.

Instead, Dartmouth delivered an effort that, while imperfect, got the job done against an opponent that arrived at 3-0 and perched just outside the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision’ top 25 rankings. With lowly Bucknell (1-4) and Columbia (0-4) coming to Hanover for its next two games, Dartmouth should be 4-2 when it visits archrival Harvard on Nov. 2.

“There are a lot of (Ivy teams) that are going to beat each other, and it’s as balanced a league as I’ve seen,” said Teevens, whose team is 2-2 overall and 1-1 in Ivy play. “It’s nice to have Dartmouth in that balance.”

Dartmouth trailed by four points at halftime but gained control of the line of scrimmage after the break and bulldozed the Bulldogs, running back Dominick Pierre carrying a career-high 37 times for 167 yards and a touchdown. The powerful senior from Florida sat behind Big Green career rushing leader Nick Schwieger as a freshman and sophomore and was dogged by injuries last fall, but he is averaging 5.4 yards per carry this season.

“We struggled a little bit in the first half, but we realized we weren’t being as physical as we usually are,” Pierre said of the home offense. “I knew coach was going to ride me to get things going.”

Yale defensive end Beau Palin tipped his cap to Pierre, who during the game became the third Dartmouth runner to eclipse 2,000 yards in career rushing, behind Schwieger and Al Rosier, a 1991 graduate.

“We absolutely did not underestimate him,” Palin said. “We just didn’t do our jobs and he took advantage. He runs hard and has strong legs.”

Pierre was at his best during a 10-play scoring drive early in the fourth quarter. He carried seven times for 40 yards, including a 6-yard scamper through the left side for a touchdown that was aided by a block from receiver Victor Williams. There were 10 minutes remaining when the play and Riley Lyons’ conversion kick accounted for the game’s final points.

Dartmouth had a chance to add to its lead, but Lyons missed his second field goal attempt of the game, this one from 32 yards, with three minutes remaining. Yale’s Tyler Varga lost a sideline fumble on a hit by cornerback Chase Womack a minute later, however. Linebacker Mike Banaciski made his second fumble recovery of the game and the Big Green ran out the clock deep in visiting territory.

“It looked like (Varga) was spinning in the air and they got a helmet or a hand on it,” said Yale coach Tony Reno, whose team is 3-1 overall and 1-1 in the Ivies. “He actually came down out of bounds but the ball had already come out.”

Dartmouth, which played without left guard A.J. Dillione and with right guard Cohle Fowler nursing a leg injury, nonetheless held a rushing advantage of 235 yards to Yale’s 114. The Big Green piled up 423 offensive yards while holding the Bulldogs to 264.

“We’ve turned a corner emotionally, because our guys don’t get down,” Teevens said. “To finish off the fourth quarter with 11 minutes of possession time, that’s what we had to do.”

Said Reno: “Everything from dropped balls to missed passes to missed tackles. It all goes together as the missed opportunities we had to make plays in the game.”

Dartmouth took a 6-0 lead early in the second quarter when quarterback-turned-tight end Cole Marcoux made a lunging, one-handed touchdown catch of a Dalyn Williams pass. Yale’s Kyle Cazzetta kicked a 29-yard field goal eight minutes later and quarterback Henry Furman ran 17 yards for a touchdown four minutes before halftime. The visitors led 10-6 at intermission.

Another Cazzetta field goal, this one from 32 yards, lifted the Bulldogs’ lead to 13-6 with five minutes gone in the third quarter but Dartmouth answered three minutes later on Bo Patterson’s diving touchdown catch of a 32-yard pass from Williams. Lyons added the extra point for a 13-13 tie.

The Big Green answered with its final scoring drive, which consumed nearly four minutes. The only pass was a crucial, third-down completion to Marcoux, who has 10 catches for 92 yards and a touchdown this season despite having played tight end for only about a year.

Dartmouth has now won two consecutive home games against Yale for the first time since 2001-02. That latter contest was the Big Green’s last defeat of the Bulldogs in Hanover.

Dalyn Williams completed 14-of-30 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns and Pierre caught four passes for 63 yards. Freshman Ben Kepley punted five times for an average of 37.8 yards per boot, linebacker Eric Wickham had an interception and Banaciski led his team with 10 tackles.

Yale’s Furman completed 15-of-32 passes for 144 yards and had a toss intercepted. Teammate Vaughan Williams had an impressive 20 tackles and Varga carried 20 times for 64 yards, his lowest rushing output of the season.

“He’s one of the better backs in the league but we all think (Pierre’s) better,” Banaciski said.

Dartmouth won the time-of-possession battle by more than 10 minutes and ran 93 offensive plays to Yale’s 68, but its placekicking is a mess. Lyons has converted only 2 of 9 attempts this season and reserve Alex Gakenheimer had a conversion try blocked Saturday.

“I’m the kicking coach and I’m scratching my head right now,” Teevens said. “We’ve got to generate some confidence in our (kickers) because it affects the mindset of the team when you drive the ball a distance and don’t put it through. We’ve got to figure it out.”

Despite that headache, the coach and his troops are sitting a lot prettier than they would have without a victory.

“They rallied themselves and worked hard all week and we had great practices,” Teevens said. “We knew we had to play a complete game, and it’s a credit to our players that they did.”

Notes: The game was nationally televised on Fox College Sports. … Dartmouth committed 12 penalties for 73 yards. ... Patterson returned to the game despite a thumb injury that had him screaming for a few seconds after the digit was hurt and which required bracing by the medical staff. ... Pierre rushed for more than 100 yards in a game for the seventh time. … Dartmouth receiver Ryan McManus missed his second consecutive game with a concussion, but Victor Williams played despite not practicing during the week. … As is now the trend in college football, Yale personnel held aloft rectangular signs divided into quarters to help signal offensive plays. One of the symbols was the old NHL Hartford Whalers’ logo, another was a barbecue grille and a third was a minion cartoon character from the children’s movie Despicable Me. … Former Dartmouth linebacking great Reggie Williams was honored at halftime and blew kisses to the announced crowd of 10,983. … Varga, who was heavily recruited by Dartmouth, impressed more than a few sideline observers with his bulging physique. “He looks like a superhero action figure,” said one Dartmouth administrator… Dartmouth president Phil Hanlon watched from the sidelines. … For the second consecutive week, Dalyn Williams wore a rubber wristband emblazoned with the slogan “I Love Boobies” as part of a sport-wide effort this month to raise breast cancer awareness.

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