Green Gets Stunned, Brown Gets Revenge on Gridiron
Dartmouth running back Dominick Pierre twists for yardage yesterday against Brown at Memorial Field. Valley News - Tris Wykes Purchase photo reprints »
Hanover — Revenge, cold and glorious, was served to the Dartmouth College football team yesterday at Memorial Field. Brown, trailing by 10 points in the fourth quarter, rallied for an improbable 28-24 victory that eliminated the Big Green from an unexpected shot at the Ivy League title.
Dartmouth did the same thing to the Bears last year, surprising them in Providence, R.I., and ending their hopes for an Ancient Eight crown. Brown collapsed the next week, losing to lowly Columbia during the season’s final game and leaving coach Phil Estes in a funk. Ever since, the Laconia, N.H., native has encountered self-imposed reminders at almost every turn.
“I got a bunch of Dartmouth game sideline passes and the game plans for Columbia and put them everywhere,” Estes said. “In my car, on my desk, in my house. That’s a little over the top, I know, but now I can get rid of them.
“After last year and the way things ended, it can’t be any sweeter than this.”
In the home locker room, however, the sour taste was sharp and unpleasant. With Pennsylvania upsetting Harvard in Philadelphia earlier in the afternoon, a Dartmouth defeat of Brown would have handed the Big Green a longshot chance at its first Ivy title since 1996, and just four years removed from a winless season.
Dartmouth victories over Brown and Princeton in its final two games, combined with a Cornell upset of Penn next week, would have left the Big Green in a first-place tie with the Quakers. Harvard also remains in the title mix, despite its two league losses.
“You’re always thinking about the best-case scenario, but we wanted to have a strong showing in our last two games, regardless of what else was going on in the league,” Dartmouth linebacker Garrett Wymore said. “I don’t think (the title possibility) was a distraction, but we were aware of it.”
All of that become moot after Brown drove 80 yards in eight plays and just two minutes to notch the winning score. Quarterback Patrick Donnelly zipped an 18-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Jonah Fay, who split defenders Steve Dazzo and Mike Banaciski at the goal line. Most in a Memorial Field crowd announced at 3,439 were left shocked, given that the Big Green had led 24-14 with seven minutes to play. Donnelly completed his last eight passes, six of them on the winning drive.
“A lot of good things went on out there,” said Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens, whose team had possession for 31 of the game’s first 45 minutes. “But at the critical points where we needed to make plays, we didn’t. Third-and-1, fourth-and-1. Down on the goal line.”
The Big Green (5-4, 3-3) converted only 7-of-15 third-down chances and turned the ball over on downs at Brown’s 36-yard line after facing fourth-and-1 in the first quarter. Dartmouth also lost a fumble and missed a 28-yard field goal.
“We allowed them to hang around and that’s why we feel like we do right now,” Teevens said.
Brown (6-3, 3-3) opened the scoring on a first-quarter touchdown pass, but Dartmouth answered with a 23-yard Riley Lyons field goal and 33- and 6-yard touchdown runs from Dominick Pierre, who finished with 136 yards and the two scores on 28 carries. The Bears cut their deficit to 17-14 just two seconds before halftime when Donnelly bulled two yards into the end zone.
Dartmouth pushed its lead to 24-14 after Michael Reilly caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from freshman quarterback Dalyn Williams, who completed 18-of-27 passes for 240 yards and that one score. Making his second collegiate start, the Texan also ran 13 times for 24 yards. Unlike last week at Cornell, however, his longest run was only 13 yards, and Brown keyed on him to some extent.
“I’m just amazed this kid is a freshman and playing like he’s playing,” Estes said. “But towards the end of the game, he had to get out of the pocket and that’s when he struggled a bit.”
While Dartmouth’s last three drives ended in two punts and time expiring, Brown scored touchdowns the last two times it had the ball. The Big Green started a drive from its own 22-yard line with 12 minutes remaining but went three-and-out, Brown returning a punt 20 yards to the Dartmouth 21.
Five plays later, Big Green defensive end Teddy Reed was on the verge of sacking Donnelly before the quarterback somehow eluded him and finished a madcap scramble around the backfield on what was recorded as a 3-yard touchdown run. Even then, Dartmouth led 24-21 with 6:39 to play and earned a first down at the Brown 32 with four minutes remaining.
At that point, however, the wheels fell off. Pierre ran for a yard and Williams threw for two more, but on third down the quarterback absorbed a 4-yard sack and Lyons was sent out on fourth-and-11. He initially lined up as if to attempt a 50-yard field goal, but then took the snap directly and pooch-punted with the hope of pinning the Bears deep in their own end. Instead, the ball rocketed off Lyons’ foot and into the end zone for a touchback with 3:30 on the clock.
“He just overhit it,” said Teevens, adding that he didn’t want to risk getting a long field goal attempt blocked. “Making them go 90 yards instead of 80 could have made a difference.”
The game was now in Donnelly’s hands and the 6-foot-3 senior, who also plays for the Brown men’s basketball team, made the most of his last chance. Dartmouth was prevented from a shot at its first seven-win season since 1996 and will try to avoid a second consecutive 5-5 record in New Jersey on Saturday.
“You’re always going to remember your last game, and sending our senior class out with a triumphant feeling would be the most I could ask for,” Wymore said. “I want to feel that coming home on the bus next week.”
Notes: Alex Park, Dartmouth’s starting quarterback for most of the season, played a few snaps after Williams was shaken up in the first half. The sophomore is recovering from a shoulder injury. ... Reilly led Dartmouth with five catches for 47 yards and a touchdown and Ryan McManus had four catches for 76 yards. … Strong safety Dazzo continued a fine season with a game-high 13 tackles and freshman cornerback Vernon Harris, who’s started every game, made nine. … Pierre ran for 100 or more yards for the third time this season and the fourth time in his three-year career. … Reilly became the 10th Dartmouth player to catch at least 100 passes. His touchdown grab was his 101st. Two years ago, Brown rallied from eight points down in the fourth quarter to win at Memorial Field. … Dartmouth played for a second consecutive week without stalwart linebacker Bronson Green, who’s nursing a neck injury. Also remaining out is defensive end John Golio, who hurt a shoulder against Harvard, and linebacker Eric Wickham, who hurt a knee at Holy Cross.
Tris Wykes can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3227.