Davis, Dartmouth give Harvard a late kick

  • Dartmouth quarterback Derek Kyler (12) fires a pass during Saturday’s 20-17 win at Harvard. The fifth-year signal caller completed 20 of 27 passes for 230 yards and a touchdown. Gil Talbot photograph

  • Green-clad Dartmouth supporters take in the rain-soaked action at Harvard Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Gil Talbot photograph

  • Gil Talbot photograph—

  • With sophomore quarterback Dylan Cadwallader (10) holding, Dartmouth kicker Connor Davis (6) boots the go-ahead 25-yard field goal with 49 seconds left in regulation that ultimately gave the Big Green a 20-17 Ivy League win over Harvard on Saturday. Gil Talbot photographs

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/30/2021 3:34:07 PM
Modified: 10/30/2021 10:49:09 PM

ALLSTON, Mass. — In what essentially amounted to an elimination game, the Dartmouth College football team survived on Saturday.

With both Dartmouth and Harvard 5-1 going into the matchup, the loser would see its Ivy League title chances significantly reduced. Dartmouth senior kicker Connor Davis booted a 25-yard field goal with less than a minute to play, and Harvard counterpart Jonah Lipel missed from 53 yards as time expired to seal a 20-17 victory for the Big Green.

After seven straight losses at Harvard Stadium, Dartmouth (6-1, 3-1 Ivy) has now won in dramatic fashion on back-to-back occasions. The Big Green completed a Hail Mary pass for a 9-6 win in 2019.

“We were walking over here and I was like, ‘Man, I don’t mind this place,’ ” Davis said. “It’s a great place to play. Incredible atmosphere.”

Harvard (5-2, 2-2 Ivy) tied the game at 17 with 4:31 remaining, before Dartmouth put together a systematic drive to work down the field and kill clock time. Big Green head coach Buddy Teevens said he and his staff felt their best chance to win was a long drive that left Harvard without much time.

“We pretty much felt it was a one-drive game,” Teevens said. “You don’t want to do things too quickly, and they’re a good enough defense; you don’t want to just chuck one up. So I think it was a very methodical (drive).

“I think our team does a good job managing clock. We’ve been in a bunch of those situations, and you don’t want to leave that much time for them.”

Harvard opened the scoring with 6:49 left in the second quarter. Crimson senior quarterback Jake Smith scrambled to avoid Dartmouth’s pressure and found junior tailback Aaron Shampklin in the middle of the field. Shampklin evaded Dartmouth defenders for a 9-yard touchdown.

The Big Green answered on the ensuing possession. Fifth-year quarterback Derek Kyler rolled right to draw the Harvard defense that way, before senior tight end Robbie Mangas slipped out left. The Crimson lost him, and Kyler hit him for an easy 5-yard score.

Kyler finished 20-of-27 for 230 yards and the touchdown.

Dartmouth’s defense allowed only three more points the rest of the game. The unit made seven tackles for loss, with several coming in big moments. Run defense was a notable strength for the Big Green, as Harvard rushed for just 68 yards on 29 attempts as a team. That was the Crimson’s second-worst yards per carry output of the season.

Fifth-year safety Niko Mermigas said Dartmouth’s defense set the tone early, when the game was more of a defensive battle.

“I thought from the first series, the defense was playing really fast, playing really physical,” Mermigas said. “And I thought we held that for the majority of the game.”

Harvard opened the second half with a bang, when Crimson junior DeMarkes Stradford returned the opening kick 89 yards for a touchdown.

The Big Green defense continued to hold strong during the second half, which allowed the offense to respond near the end of the quarter. Freshman wide receiver Painter Richards-Baker made a diving catch across the goal line for a 31-yard touchdown from junior quarterback Nick Howard, who’s typically Dartmouth’s running QB.

Teevens praised Howard’s throw and said he’s looking to work him into the pass game like that on occasions to mix things up.

“He put it on the money,” Teevens said. “It was a nice throw. (He) stood in there. He was a very good passing quarterback in high school as well. We forgot that for a little bit.”

On Harvard’s next play, Smith threw into double coverage and Dartmouth’s Quinten Arello picked it off. Smith didn’t see the field again, as Harvard put junior Luke Emge in at quarterback on its next series.

That move proved successful. On the Crimson’s next drive, in the fourth quarter, Harvard marched to the Dartmouth 1-yard line, but the visitors came up with a stop. Big Green senior nickel back John Pupel made a critical tackle for loss on third and goal, and then Lipel missed a 21-yard field goal.

But the Big Green went three-and-out and punted, Emge completed a 43-yard pass to senior B.J. Watson. That led to Lipel’s game-tying field goal.

Dartmouth uncharacteristically found more success in the passing game than in the running game Saturday. Junior running back Noah Roper finished with 55 yards on nine carries, and Howard picked up 31 on nine attempts. Senior back Zack Bair added 30 yards on 13 rushes.

Meanwhile, junior receiver Dale Chesson — who made his season debut after recovering from a preseason injury — led Dartmouth in receiving with 72 yards on five catches. Sophomore Paxton Scott led the team in catches with seven, for 67 yards.

The Big Green all but abandoned the rushing attack during their previous game, a shutout loss against Columbia. After that performance, Teevens knew the run game’s importance to the offense — even if Dartmouth wasn’t breaking off big plays.

“The game plan was we were going to stay with the run. We got away from it against Columbia early and just had struggled,” Teevens said. “We thought, ‘Let’s just stay with it. And we’re gonna hit something.’

“We have some decent backs. I think it keeps people a little bit more balanced. If you just go solely one way or another. It’s a little bit difficult to be productive.”

Dartmouth will return home next for a Friday night battle against undefeated Princeton.

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

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