Bison Bamboozle Big Green
Dartmouth College football coach Buddy Teevens paces the sidelines in the final minutes of Saturday's 17-14 to visiting Bucknell. The Bison entered the nonconference contest with only one victory this season.
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Bucknell cornerback Tajh Turner (23) accepts congratulations after laying out Dartmouth receiver Huston Brown with a tackle Saturday. The visiting Bison won the nonconference game, 17-14.
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Hanover — Midway through the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game with visiting Bucknell, Dartmouth College running backs coach Kiely Nagle shouted angrily at the Big Green’s gathered offensive players on the sideline.
“This is bull(crap)!” Nagle bellowed, his eyes flashing and his team down by 10 points. “We are better than this! We know it!”
Unfortunately for Dartmouth, that supposed advantage never showed up during a 17-14 nonconference loss. Bucknell, picked to finish last in the Patriot League, entered with only one victory, was on a four-game losing streak and had scored only nine second-half points all season. But the Bison, who lost to Cornell by 32 points and to Holy Cross by 34, not only beat their hosts, they beat them up.
From the opening kickoff, when Big Green return man Kyle Bramble suffered a broken nose, Bucknell was the aggressor. The Bison piled up seven sacks, produced two fumbles and forced Dartmouth’s previously potent offense into six series of three downs and out.
“We played flat football,” said Dartmouth head coach Buddy Teevens, whose team was touted by some to challenge for the Ivy League title. “There wasn’t the buzz that we’ve had. It’s my responsibility to get the guys ready to play, and we didn’t play at an emotional pitch.”
Dartmouth (2-3) played without receivers Ryan McManus and Kirby Schoenthaler, guard A.J. Dillione, tight end Cole Marcoux, linebacker Bronson Green and cornerback A.J. Dettorre, all injured starters. Guard Cohle Fowler went down for a bit during the game, as did receivers Victor Williams and Houston Brown.
Quarterback Dalyn Williams didn’t suffer any obvious injuries, but he struggled to regain his feet on several occasions and was doubtless aching all over once his adrenaline wore off. The sophomore’s elusiveness was a big part of his earning the Ivy League’s 2012 rookie of the year award but, after averaging 83 yards rushing in Dartmouth’s first four games this fall, he was held to nine Saturday. Backup Alex Park played during Dartmouth’s final four drives.
“We tried to keep the quarterback in the pocket and make him throw the ball quick,” said Bucknell defender Sean Sellers. “We wanted to get hits on him and rattle him a bit.”
Bison coach Joe Susan said his team discombobulated Dartmouth’s read-option attack by constantly switching its formations and reactions. Williams couldn’t consistently interpret what Bucknell’s linebackers and defensive ends were going to do, which made the offense sputter.
“If you take them out of their timing, whether with (blitzes) or just the front four, it condenses the time to throw and causes problems for the receiver running specific routes,” said Susan, a former Rutgers assistant. Williams “makes plays with his feet by breaking containment, but I thought our kids did a good job to keep him in the pocket, and when he got outside, we brought him down.”
Teevens, who appears to be flirting with the loss of his job for a sixth consecutive season, said his offensive line simply didn’t show up.
“We didn’t pass protect, and our run blocking was poor,” the coach said. “Dalyn was getting beat up because we were turning (rushers) loose left and right, and we were erratic with our routes and dropped passes.”
Dartmouth had a 7-0 lead at halftime after Dominick Pierre’s seventh rushing touchdown of the season came 10 minutes before the break. Bucknell produced a 32-yard field goal in the third quarter, and got touchdown runs of 15 and 11 yards in the fourth, the latter coming when C.J. Williams trampled strong safety Troy Donahue at the goal line. A Dalyn Williams fumble following a sack had handed the Bison the ball on the previous play.
Bucknell (2-4) forced Dartmouth to punt from its end zone with nine minutes remaining but fumbled the return because of a Chase Womack tackle. Will McNamara recovered, but the Big Green had to kick the ball away again three plays later, its progress hampered when tight end Dean Bakes committed a personal foul after catching a pass for a first down in Bison territory.
“It was a foolish penalty, unnecessary and selfish, and it derailed an offensive drive,” said Teevens, who gave Bakes a tongue-lashing after the play. “It was a retaliation deal. No one calls the first guy; they call the second guy.”
Bucknell chewed up four minutes with its subsequent possession, punted, then got the ball back after Dartmouth turned the ball over on downs. The Bison had a punt blocked by Donahue and recovered by McNamara with a minute left, which led to a 21-yard touchdown pass from Park to Bo Patterson. Riley Lyons’ second conversion kick of the day cut his team’s deficit to 17-14, but the visitors recovered an onsides kick and ran out the clock.
“You can’t look at a team’s record and expect to win based on that,’’ said Dartmouth defensive end Evan Chrustic. “All week, the coaches were telling us that it’s a trap game, that their record doesn’t indicate how good they are.”
Bucknell had the ball for two-thirds of the second half and for 10 minutes more than Dartmouth during the game. The Bison defense held Dartmouth to a 3-of-16 day on third-down chances and allowed just 76 yards rushing.
Pierre carried 19 times for 75 yards, and he and Bakes each had four receptions for a combined 64 yards. Patterson had three catches for 42 yards and a touchdown despite playing with an injured thumb. Dalyn Williams completed 10 of 21 passes for 104 yards, and Park hit on 7 of 13 tosses for 72 yards and a score.
Teevens said Williams will start in the next game, against winless Ivy League foe Columbia in Hanover.
“Dalyn’s our starter,” the coach said. “He’s a competitive guy, and I think (being replaced) shocked him a bit. I feel good about Alex’s capabilities, but Dalyn’s a dynamic player. Now, he needs some help when we have opportunities to move the ball down the field.”
Tris Wykes can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3227.