Dartmouth football: Goal line stand was among big plays

  • Teammates surround Dartmouth kicker Connor Davis (6), whose 25-yard field goal with 49 seconds to play provided the margin of Saturday’s 20-17 win at Harvard. Gil Talbot photograph

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/31/2021 2:03:57 PM
Modified: 10/31/2021 9:39:14 PM

ALLSTON, Mass. — The Dartmouth College football team’s win over Harvard on Saturday was its biggest of the season so far.

Dartmouth was coming off its worst performance of the season against Columbia. The Big Green needed a victory to stay in the Ivy League title race. And they found a way, edging out Harvard for a 20-17 win.

It now sets up a showdown on Friday against undefeated Princeton, which could be the biggest game of the season in the entire league.

Here are three players who were key in Dartmouth’s big victory in Massachusetts.

John Pupel

Junior safety Quinten Arello has a case for the biggest defensive play of the day, with his interception late in the third quarter. That led to Harvard changing quarterbacks.

But Pupel’s big play was more critical to the outcome.

Midway through the fourth quarter, after that QB change, Harvard faced 3rd and goal from the Dartmouth 1. The Crimson attempted to punch it in on a handoff. But the senior nickel back burst into the backfield on a blitz, and brought him down for a 3-yard loss.

It forced a field goal attempt, which Harvard kicker Jonah Lipel missed from 21 yards. That swing, between not scoring the touchdown from a yard out and missing the short field goal, ended up being the difference in the game.

Fifth-year safety Niko Mermigas praised Pupel’s consistent effort.

“That was a big play. He called it too,” Mermigas said. “Before we went out there, he was like, I’m gonna make this play. And sure enough. John usually predicts what he’s gonna do pretty well. He went and tracked it down. He’s a really good player.”

Derek Kyler

Kyler rebounded from a tough game against Columbia with a strong performance against Harvard.

He posted his third-best completion percentage of the season, 74.1 percent, on a 20-for-27 line. His 230 passing yards are his second-highest of the season.

“I thought DK had a real good day,” said Dartmouth head coach Buddy Teevens. “He was on, and made good choices. Receivers were effective.”

Dartmouth’s balanced offensive attack set up that success. The Big Green made more of a commitment to the run game after getting away from it against Columbia. They ran 37 run plays and 33 pass plays (junior Nick Howard accounted for four pass attempts, plus two sacks). Mixing things up offensively allowed for more success in what Dartmouth typically leans on in the passing game – the short routes. Kyler also improvised well on several occasions.

Connor Davis

Dartmouth’s senior kicker came through in the clutch, as he’s done on several occasions this season. Davis drilled two go-ahead field goals, with the latter ultimately being the game-winning points.

Davis capped a two-minute drill at the end of the first half with a 34-yard field goal to give the Big Green a 10-7 lead. He was nearly given a chance at a career-long from 54 yards earlier in the drive, but Teevens opted to go for it on 4th and 3 after a sequence of four straight timeouts between both teams.

The bigger kick was a shorter one — just a 25-yard field goal. But he made it with 49 seconds remaining and put Dartmouth ahead 20-17.

Davis credited his teammates for his calm and collected mindset on pressure kicks like that.

“I knew DK would get us down there,” Davis said. I think I have the best snapper (and) holder in the league, for sure. I had so much confidence in those guys. Got the best group of guys on the sideline, getting me right, they have full faith in me. I have full faith in Coach T, so when he called it, (I) just go out there, try to treat it like any other (kick). Thankfully, it went our way.”

This was his first game-winning field goal of the season, but not his first field goal in a big moment. He made a key kick against Yale to get the game to overtime.

He moved into 10th place on the program’s all-time scoring list Saturday.

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

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