Oh, It’s So On Now: Dartmouth Beats Brown, Has Shot at Ivy Football Title

Sunday, November 15, 2015
Providence, r.i. — It’s a tradition after Dartmouth College football games that the Big Green players and coaches link arms and sway together while singing their school’s alma mater. Saturday’s rendition, coming after a 34-18 victory at Brown, was abandoned partway through amid screaming, leaping about and general mayhem.

The cause? Shouted news from the stands that Pennsylvania had upset Harvard, meaning the Big Green will play for a share of its 18th Ivy League title when Princeton visits on Saturday for the teams’ season finale.

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Should Dartmouth, 8-1 overall and 5-1 in league play, beat the Tigers, Harvard win at struggling Yale and Penn best one-win Cornell, the Big Green, Crimson and Quakers will finish in a three-way tie for the Ancient Eight crown. Princeton is 5-4 and 2-4, Harvard is 8-1 and 5-1, Yale is 6-3, 3-3 and Penn is 6-3, 5-1.

“As an incoming freshman, you hope you can do it and after four years, we’ll get a chance to do it for the big man,” said senior cornerback Vernon Harris during a postgame press conference, slapping head coach Buddy Teevens on the shoulder. “I hope we can go out next week and prove ourselves.”

Dartmouth could only pray for such a break after losing at Harvard in heartbreaking fashion on Oct. 30. The Crimson is the two-time defending league champion, and it seemed a long shot that they’d stumble. All it means now, however, is that the Big Green once again controls its own destiny. Princeton, however, won’t be lacking any motivation for, two years ago, it was a loss at Dartmouth during the season finale and in a snowstorm that cost the Tigers the outright Ivy title.

“We want to win a ring and Princeton’s a good team, but they’re standing in our way,” said long snapper Graydon Peterson. “They’re going to remember the snow game and they’re going to come to play, but so will we. It’s going to be a fun but busy week, because we’re taking finals, too.”

It will be difficult to study without daydreaming about capturing Dartmouth’s first championship since the 1996 team went undefeated. A few puzzling memories from the Brown contest may also intrude, for it was one of the strangest games anyone present had ever witnessed. For one, there were 13 turnovers, six by the Big Green. Add in blocked and missed kicks, a fumble recovered in the end zone for a touchdown, a kickoff return for a score and two passes intercepted off deflections, and the statisticians were certainly kept busy.

There were pregame reports that some of aging Brown Stadium’s toilets had backed up. The chain used to measure first downs broke during the third quarter. Was a witch doctor in the house?

“It was just a weird game,” said Teevens, who seemed in something of a happy daze after the final horn. “Although it was sloppy from an offensive standpoint, I guess there is a football god and he was looking down on us today.

“As hard as we’ve worked and as long as we’ve worked, to get a second chance is pretty special. It doesn’t happen in life many times.”

Saturday’s weather was fairly clear and sunny, but the wind was brutal at times. Sudden gusts blew the sideline coverings about and caused two strong passing teams to struggle in that facet of the game. Dartmouth quarterback Dalyn Williams completed 11 of 22 passes for a season-low 122 yards and a touchdown. The senior had three tosses intercepted and was clearly unhappy after the contest.

Opponents had picked off only one Williams pass all season entering the game. However, the Big Green defense held the third-ranked passing offense in the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision to 95 yards and intercepted four throws.

Dartmouth began the day leading the nation in rushing defense, but the Bears — among the bottom 10 in FCS rushing — used misdirection and option-read plays to gain 179 yards on the ground. The Big Green produced 171 rushing yards, with Kyle Bramble carrying 17 times for 93 yards and a touchdown and senior classmate Brian Grove rushing eight times for 90 yards and a score.

Dartmouth took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter thanks to two of the four Brown turnovers. Junior Lucas Bavaro jarred the ball loose from a Bear, and senior Zach Slafsky recovered 10 minutes into the game. On the next play, Grove sprinted 61 yards for the touchdown. Alex Gakenheimer booted the first of his four extra points.

When junior Alex McCrory forced a Brown fumble on the ensuing kickoff, Dartmouth enjoyed terrific field position at the Bears’ 19-yard line. Kyran McKinney-Crudden recovered. Three Ryder Stone rushes later, the Big Green had its second touchdown and a 14-0 lead.

Dartmouth squandered a golden opportunity when Vernon Harris picked off his second pass of the game and returned it to the Bears’ 25. After advancing to the 2, a Williams pass was tipped and intercepted.

Brown had possession for all but three minutes of the second quarter, yet was still outscored during the stanza. The Bears produced a 13-play, 80-yard drive with the wind, spanning more than half of the quarter, capped by Seth Rosenbauer’s 5-yard burst up the middle. However, Dartmouth’s A.J. Zuttah deflected the extra-point attempt to keep the score 14-6. Shortly thereafter, Stone returned a kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown. Brown drove to the Big Green’s 10 in the half’s final seconds but missed a field goal attempt.

The second half saw Williams throw a 24-yard slant to Houston Brown for a touchdown. A high snap on the conversion kick attempt didn’t allow Gakenheimer to swing his leg, and the score was 27-6. Bramble later capped an eight-play, 32-yard drive with a 2-yard scoring run, and Brown capitalized on three Dartmouth turnovers, including a fumble in the end zone that resulted in a Bears touchdown. The hosts tried an unsuccessful onsides kick with four minutes remaining, and the Big Green ran out the clock.

The final quarter saw Dartmouth staffers on the sidelines and fans in the stands gazing intently at their smart phones, checking the online play-by-play from Boston. Teevens was told of Penn’s victory just before his team began singing, but to that point had not paid any attention, so firmly was he focused on the contest in front of him.

“I was oblivious,” he said. “I’m the kind of guy who would rather not know. It’s very surreal. We went out and played our best, and we got a stroke of luck and we have to take it.

“We’re happy to be going back to Hanover, but we’ll have to play a lot better against Princeton than we did today.”

Notes: Attendance was announced at 4,072. … Dartmouth’s David Caldwell led all players with 10 tackles, while Will McNamara, playing with a cast on his right hand, had eight. … Brown’s possession time was 35:30. … Drew Galbraith, a Dartmouth associate athletic director, broke out a pair of gleaming, green-and-white saddle shoes for the contest. The golf footgear features the athletic department’s stylized D on the sides and cleats on the bottom, which Galbraith said, tongue firmly planted in cheek, gave him required traction on the natural grass surface. … Mark Bavaro, a onetime star tight end for the NFL’s New York Giants, attended the game to watch son Lucas, a Dartmouth safety.

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

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