Dartmouth races past Brown for 20th Ivy League football championship

  • Dartmouth College tight end Robbie Mangas (21) and linebacker Tanner Cross (5) join quarterback Derek Kyler in hoisting the Class of 1925 trophy emblematic of an Ivy League football champion as teammate celebrate Saturday's 52-31 win over Brown that secured the program's 20th league crown. Dartmouth Athletics — Matt Risley

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/20/2021 3:13:55 PM
Modified: 11/21/2021 6:21:27 AM

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — By the fourth quarter of the Dartmouth College football team’s Ivy League finale with Brown, it was plainly evident which squad was playing for a title and which was at the bottom of the standings.

While Brown scored more points than any Dartmouth opponent had this season, the Big Green relatively limited the Bears’ high-powered offense. Meanwhile, Dartmouth’s offense racked up a season high in points itself.

The high-scoring affair resulted in Dartmouth’s 20th Ivy League championship. The Big Green pulled away with a 52-31 victory on Saturday at Brown Stadium.

Dartmouth (9-1, 6-1 Ivy League) shares the league title with Princeton (9-1, 6-1), which defeated Penn (3-6, 1-5) on Saturday, 34-14.

The Big Green won their fifth league title under coach Buddy Teevens, split between two stints leading the program.

“With all these guys have gone through over the past two years — COVID’s hit everybody — but not having the sport that you love, having the fifth-year seniors give up basically a year of their lives to come back because football meant that much to them, and then to see the camaraderie and the cohesiveness and have it rewarded with a championship, it’s pretty special,” Teevens said.

Dartmouth scored on its opening possession of the game, on a touchdown run by junior quarterback Nick Howard. He added a second touchdown — which tied the program single-season record for rushing touchdowns, 15, initially set in 1929 — on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Brown (2-8, 1-6 Ivy) answered on the possession immediately following Dartmouth’s opening touchdown and later took the lead early in the second quarter.

The Big Green were fully aware of Brown’s offensive potency. Entering the game, the Bears were the third-highest scoring team in the Ivy League. Teevens did not want to get into a scoring contest with a team like that.

And even when the game was tied and when the Big Green trailed, they never strayed from what got them to this point. Teevens trusted his defense to make plays and mostly stayed with the run game and short passes.

They tied the game less than a minute after Brown took the lead, as fifth-year quarterback Derek Kyler hit junior running back Noah Roper on a wheel route on the left side. The Bears’ defense completely lost Roper — nobody was within 10 yards of him. And he took it 60 yards to the house.

Brown, playing with nothing to lose, was aggressive throughout the game. They went for it on fourth down eight times and converted six of them. One of the two stops, however, came just after Dartmouth tied the game — senior lineman Luca Di Leo led the push as the Big Green defense drove Brown in the wrong direction on fourth and short. Four plays later, the Big Green converted the short field into a 15-yard touchdown pass from Kyler to junior wideout Jonny Barrett.

Kyler wrapped his decorated career fittingly. He completed 18 of 24 pass attempts on Saturday for 215 yards and three touchdowns — the third was to fifth-year tight end J.J. Jones III on the first drive of the third quarter to put Dartmouth ahead, 31-17.

He raised eyebrows with his legs as well, rushing for 79 yards on six carries with a touchdown. He juked out several defenders on some runs.

“My mindset was, ‘It’s my last game of my career. No more worries about getting hurt or anything like that,’ ” Kyler said. “So I figured I’d try and show some moves that I knew I had but maybe they didn’t.”

The Big Green’s defense rose to the occasion in the third quarter. The Bears ran 14 plays in the period but gained just 45 yards. Meanwhile, Dartmouth’s offense ran 18 plays for 210.

Dartmouth pulled away in the third quarter because of that effort on both sides.

Though the Bears scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to become the first team to notch 30 or more points against Dartmouth this season, the Big Green’s defense came up with many big stops throughout the game and mostly kept Brown in check. Prolific Brown quarterback E.J. Perry threw for 258 yards on a 35-of-48 line with one touchdown, but he was playing from behind for more than half the game.

Dartmouth was missing three defensive starters — senior cornerback Isaiah Johnson, senior linebacker and Ivy League-leading tackler Jalen Mackie and fifth-year safety and team captain Niko Mermigas — due to COVID-19 concerns.

Those key absences could’ve been problematic, but Teevens was pleased with the way his defense made up for the losses. He praised fifth-year linebacker Thomas Hennessy, senior safety Landon McDermott and senior cornerback Robert Crockett III, who all stepped into the lineup for this big game.

“When you talk guys that were not there, you’re concerned. But we also have great confidence in the guys that stepped up,” Teevens said. “The thing I’m proud of is nobody blinked an eye. You feel bad that guys that weren’t here, but we’re just very proud of the guys who stepped in, and they played hard. Guys that hadn’t seen a lot of action came in, and played well.”

Dartmouth’s run game, as a whole, was very effective Saturday. Howard was the team’s leading rusher with 80 yards. The longest run of the day was from an unlikely source: Senior running back Keegan McHugh broke off a 65-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter — his first career TD. His teammates mobbed him in the end zone and on the sideline.

As a team, the Big Green averaged 9.8 yards per carry — the program’s highest single-game mark in at least 50 years.

Fifth-year center Evan Hecimovich said the offensive line’s camaraderie and communication led to the unit’s success in this big game and all season. He also credited the team’s runners for taking advantage of the blocking.

“They did a great job this week, and honestly, this year in general,” Hecimovich said. “We’re out there every week grinding away. They’re finding the holes, working, laying hits on people (and) not taking them.”

Seth Tow can be reached at stow@vnews.com.

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