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Fifth-year QB Kyler guides Dartmouth to OT win

  • Dartmouth's Griff Lehman (67) celebrates after the Big Green's 24-17 overtime win over Yale at Memorial Field in Hanover, N.H., on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021. Rick Russell photograph

  • Dartmouth's 24-17 overtime win over Yale gave Big Green linebacker Patrick Wright (16) and his teammates something to yell about at Memorial Field in Hanover, N.H., on Saturday, Oct. 9. 2021. Rick Russell photograph—

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/10/2021 9:34:39 PM
Modified: 10/10/2021 9:34:42 PM

HANOVER — The Dartmouth College football team had just given up the lead. But the Big Green weren’t nervous.

Yale successfully converted on fourth down for the third time on a critical fourth-quarter drive, and the last one was a five-yard touchdown pass to put the Bulldogs ahead, 17-14, on Saturday at Memorial Field. Dartmouth would have 2:34 to drive downfield and score to tie or win.

Yale’s defense had held Dartmouth scoreless in the second half to that point. The Big Green had punted on five consecutive drives.

But with fifth-year quarterback Derek Kyler about to lead the Big Green in a two-minute drill, the Dartmouth sideline felt good about its chances. Ultimately, they were right. Dartmouth pulled out a 24-17 win in overtime.

“(I have) as much (confidence in Kyler in that situation) as you possibly can have. You put the ball in his hands, he’ll make a play,” said fifth-year guard Jake Guidone. “He’s done it before. He continues to do it. Frickin’ love the guy. I’d block for him for the rest of my life.”

Yale head coach Tony Reno felt like he left Kyler a little more time to work with than he wanted to, but he said scoring the go-ahead touchdown was more important than the clock on the big plays inside the 20-yard line.

Kyler instills late-game confidence in his teammates through his track record of clutch drives previously in his career, but also through his demeanor.

“I feel like that’s what I live for when I play this game,” Kyler said. “I think that’s what this team lives for. I was never shying away from that moment. I wanted that.”

The key drive, beginning at the Dartmouth 17-yard line, started off rocky. The Big Green faced a fourth-and-one, and Kyler’s pass to sophomore wide receiver Isaac Boston was broken up. A stop would’ve put the Bulldogs in prime position to win the game. But the officials called a targeting penalty on Yale junior cornerback Wande Owens for the hit on Boston. The penalty gave Dartmouth a first down — and new life.

And that’s when Kyler took over.

He hit sophomore wide receiver Paxton Scott, who found an open seam from the slot on the right side, for a 25-yard gain with a little over a minute remaining. That put Dartmouth at the Yale 34-yard line.

Two plays later, he found Scott again for 10 more yards to give Dartmouth a first down at the 24-yard line with about 50 seconds to play.

“DK was back there just slinging it,” Scott said. “DK made a lot of plays and put us in good positions. He just kept us moving down the field. We work (on the two-minute drill) every Thursday, and we know he’s gonna put us in the best spot.”

Senior kicker Connor Davis said after the game that his target for field goal range is inside the 35, if necessary, but more comfortably inside the 30. Dartmouth was in field goal range, but head coach Buddy Teevens wasn’t satisfied with just being there. He said that when he had the conversation on the sideline about where they’d need to get to, he said, “How about the end zone?”

As the clock continued to tick down, Kyler completed a six-yard pass on second down to freshman wide receiver Painter Richards-Baker with about 40 seconds left. He then scrambled on third down for three yards, coming up just short of a first down with 18 seconds left.

But he’d taken the Big Green to the Yale 15-yard line, well within Davis’ range.

After two timeouts, one from Yale and one from Dartmouth, Davis drilled the clutch field goal to tie the game.

The Big Green hadn’t entered Yale territory in the second half until that drive. The Bulldog defense had clamped down on Dartmouth’s offense up to then. But Kyler’s poise in the big spot led his team down the field when it was most needed.

“Derek, he is unflappable,” Teevens said. “He is just the same, always. Just the look in his eye, he was going to make some stuff happen. Guys believed in him, and we did what we needed to do, and then we got to overtime.”

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




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