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Big Green Closes Year With Razzle-Dazzle

  • Dartmouth quarterback Dalyn Williams looks for running room as he gets loose in the Princeton secondary. Williams led Dartmouth to a second half rally for a 35-21 victory in the Ivy League season finale Nov. 17.<br/>(Valley News - Tris Wykes)

    Dartmouth quarterback Dalyn Williams looks for running room as he gets loose in the Princeton secondary. Williams led Dartmouth to a second half rally for a 35-21 victory in the Ivy League season finale Nov. 17.
    (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Dartmouth College receiver Ryan McManus runs away from a pair of Princeton defenders during the Big Green's 35-21 Ivy League victory in New Jersey. McManus caught four passes for 76 yards.<br/> (Valley News - Tris Wykes)

    Dartmouth College receiver Ryan McManus runs away from a pair of Princeton defenders during the Big Green's 35-21 Ivy League victory in New Jersey. McManus caught four passes for 76 yards.
    (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Dartmouth quarterback Dalyn Williams looks for running room as he gets loose in the Princeton secondary in the Ivy League season finale Nov. 17. Williams led Dartmouth to a second half rally for a 35-21 victory, and was  selected as the Ivy League's rookie of the year yesterday.<br/>(Valley News - Tris Wykes)

    Dartmouth quarterback Dalyn Williams looks for running room as he gets loose in the Princeton secondary in the Ivy League season finale Nov. 17. Williams led Dartmouth to a second half rally for a 35-21 victory, and was selected as the Ivy League's rookie of the year yesterday.
    (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »

  • With the South trailing in the 3rd quarter of Saturday's All-Star game,  Windsor High School's Luke Tancreti scrambles to avoid a costly sack.

    With the South trailing in the 3rd quarter of Saturday's All-Star game, Windsor High School's Luke Tancreti scrambles to avoid a costly sack. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Dartmouth quarterback Dalyn Williams looks for running room as he gets loose in the Princeton secondary. Williams led Dartmouth to a second half rally for a 35-21 victory in the Ivy League season finale Nov. 17.<br/>(Valley News - Tris Wykes)
  • Dartmouth College receiver Ryan McManus runs away from a pair of Princeton defenders during the Big Green's 35-21 Ivy League victory in New Jersey. McManus caught four passes for 76 yards.<br/> (Valley News - Tris Wykes)
  • Dartmouth quarterback Dalyn Williams looks for running room as he gets loose in the Princeton secondary in the Ivy League season finale Nov. 17. Williams led Dartmouth to a second half rally for a 35-21 victory, and was  selected as the Ivy League's rookie of the year yesterday.<br/>(Valley News - Tris Wykes)
  • With the South trailing in the 3rd quarter of Saturday's All-Star game,  Windsor High School's Luke Tancreti scrambles to avoid a costly sack.

Princeton, N.J. — It took the Dartmouth College football team’s buses an exhausting 10 hours to reach its New Jersey hotel on Friday. Last night, however, the Big Green floated home on air after rallying for a 35-21 victory over the Tigers in the Ivy League teams’ season finale.

The visitors trailed, 14-7, at halftime and were extremely fortunate their deficit wasn’t larger. But Dartmouth exploded in the third quarter, racking up 21 points in four minutes and finishing 6-4 for the second time in three seasons. The Big Green, 4-3 in the Ivy League, also posted a second consecutive winning season in league play for the first time since the 1996 and 1997 campaigns.

“We got some nice shots on them, and we played physical,” said Dartmouth linebacker Michael Runger, whose squad recovered two Princeton fumbles and intercepted a Tigers pass. “We talked at halftime about making them fold, about how we needed to keep going and deflate them.’’

Dartmouth did that and more. The Big Green tied the game 14-14 five plays after the second-half kickoff when receiver Ryan McManus took a couple steps back from the line of scrimmage, caught a lateral from quarterback Dalyn Williams and chucked a 54-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Bo Patterson. Riley Lyons added the second of his five conversion kicks.

Two plays after the ensuing kickoff, Princeton quarterback Quinn Epperly ran for nine yards but fumbled after a Garrett Waggoner hit, with Dartmouth’s Mike Banaciski recovering the ball. The Big Green took possession at its 47-yard line and four plays later Williams hit tight end Mitch Aprahamian for a 4-yard touchdown pass and a 21-14 lead.

The visitors kicked off again and this time Cole Pembroke’s hit on Will Powers caused another fumble, also recovered by Banaciski. Dartmouth was in business at the Tigers’ 25-yard line and six plays later, Williams ran two yards for yet another touchdown and a 28-21 lead.

“It happened quick,’’ said Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens, whose program has a 6-game road winning streak dating back to last season. “We jumped the guys pretty well at halftime. We were sloppy (during the first half) but it all came together.’’

Momentum spiraled further out of Princeton’s control during the fourth quarter. The hosts’ first drive of the stanza ended when Epperly, nursing a throwing shoulder hurt on the game’s third play, threw a wounded duck of a pass that Waggoner intercepted and returned 15 yards to the Tigers’ 35. Dartmouth soon faced a fourth-and-12 at the Princeton 37, but Teevens gambled and had Williams launch a pass down the left sideline to Michael Reilly, who hauled it in over his shoulder for his team’s last touchdown.

The Princeton portion of a crowd announced at 8,327 was left in stunned silence. The Tigers, who fell to 5-5 overall and 4-3 in league play, had entered with a shot at a share of the Ivy title. They needed a defeat of Dartmouth and a Cornell upset of first-place Pennsylvania, which the Quakers narrowly averted.

“We ran out of gas,’’ said third-year Tigers coach Bob Surace, whose team finished 1-9 during each of his first two seasons. “We needed to have a bigger lead at halftime. Their quarterback, I don’t know how many times we had him in our grasp and he made plays out of it.’’

Ah, yes. Williams. He was unquestionably the star of yesterday’s show, running 23 times for 43 yards and a touchdown and completing 20-of-35 passes for 284 yards and three scores. The freshman didn’t throw an interception in 124 pass attempts this season and grew from a harried rookie who took frequent sacks and pouted when he wasn’t on the field at crunch time during the season’s second game, into the team’s unquestioned star and an Ivy Rookie of the Year front runner.

“It was like Rocky (Balboa) chasing the (chickens),’’ Surace, said, referencing the movie scene in which the fictional boxer trained by trying to catch barnyard fowl. Williams “has vision and he can throw the ball. I hope he decides to go pro or something.’’

Princeton defensive lineman Mike Catapano, whose 12 sacks this season were the most by a Tiger since 1998, was similarly impressed.

“He’s a great player,’’ Catapano said of Williams, who only took over as the Big Green starter in its seventh game. “He’s really elusive, even though we had him in our hands a bunch of times. He’s a guy who can make throws even when he’s being thrown to the ground.’’

Before Dartmouth’s comeback, it appeared its hopes for victory might be grounded before halftime. The Big Green dropped passes, committed a slew of penalties, had a field-goal attempt blocked and a punt attempt blocked and returned for a touchdown.

“At halftime, we said `Forget this,’ ’’ Banaciski said. “We went back out there to win the game.’’

Dartmouth’s rally actually began after it trailed 14-0 midway through the second quarter. Williams threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to tight end Justin Foley six minutes before intermission. The Tigers then drove down to the Big Green’s 2-yard line before stalling and deciding to kick a field goal. However, the snap sailed over the holder’s head and Princeton wouldn’t score again until two minutes remained in the game.

“It was just a snowball, a lot of things in a brief period of time that we couldn’t overcome,’’ said Surace, whose team began the day with its reserve quarterback injured and which lost its starting tight end to a knee injury during the game. “When both our quarterbacks’ throwing arms are injured, playing from behind was going to be really difficult for us.’’

Dartmouth overcame its wounds. Starting running back Dominick Pierre ran for 25 yards in 11 carries before reinjuring a hurt ankle for the third or fourth time this season. Starting linebacker Bronson Green exited early in the second quarter with a knee injury that could require surgery and a recovery period of roughly eight months.

All in all, however, the afternoon was a rousing success for the Big Green and its senior class, which was recruited on the heels of the program’s 0-10 finish in 2008.

“It means the world,’’ Runger said of the triumph. “They’ve given so much to the program and been so supportive of the young players who are coming up and getting playing time.’’

Notes: Dartmouth has won three consecutive games against the Tigers after losing the previous six… The Big Green had 521 yards of offense, the fifth time in its last six games it produced 400 or more. The last time the program had 400 or more yards four times in a season was 10 years ago… Dartmouth leads the teams’ series 45-43-4... Dartmouth, Princeton and Brown tied for third place in the Ivy League, trailing first-place Penn and second-place Harvard … Reilly finished his career sixth on the Dartmouth charts with 1,745 receiving yards and ninth with 106 receptions … Williams ended the season 73-of-114 (64.0 percent) for 974 yards and seven touchdowns … Runger’s 17 tackles gives him 98 on the season to lead the Ivy League... Backup quarterback Alex Park, the former starter, did not play yesterday.

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