Dartmouth comes up big in 31-7 trouncing of No. 16 Princeton

  • Dartmouth's Jonny Barrett pulls a touchdown pass with Princeton's Trevor Forbes trying to intercept in the third half of their game in Hanover, N.H., on Friday, Oct. 5, 2021. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Jennifer Hauck

  • Dartmouth's Dale Chesson (83), Noah Roper (8) and Jonny Barrett (88) celebrate Barrett's touchdown during their game with Princeton in Hanover, N.H., on Friday, Oct. 5, 2021. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News photographs — Jennifer Hauck

  • Dartmouth's Shane Cokes (0) and Marques White (44) take down Princeton's Cole Smith in the first half of their game in Hanover, N.H., on Friday, Oct. 5, 2021. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Jennifer Hauck

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/5/2021 9:03:29 PM
Modified: 11/5/2021 11:20:13 PM

HANOVER — In its most important game of the season, the Dartmouth College football team may have exhibited its best performance of the year.

The Big Green set the tone early in Friday’s showdown against first-place Princeton at Memorial Field. And Dartmouth clung to that lead, pounced on its later opportunities and earned a convincing 31-7win.

Dartmouth (7-1, 4-1 Ivy) needed a victory to give itself a real chance at an Ivy League championship. A win for Princeton (7-1, 4-1) would’ve put the Tigers firmly in the driver’s seat. While the Big Green would’ve technically still been alive with a loss, they would’ve needed a lot of help. Those stakes made this the biggest game of Dartmouth’s season.

“It was a must-win situation. Everybody knew it,” Dartmouth head coach Buddy Teevens said. “We talked about it openly. (We have) tremendous respect for them. We knew we had to play A-plus football, and we did.”

After Dartmouth’s defense held on Princeton’s first possession of the game, the offense stuck swiftly. Fifth-year quarterback Derek Kyler hit sophomore wide receiver Paxton Scott for a 37-yard touchdown to put Dartmouth ahead, 7-0, with 8:50 to go in the first quarter.

Dartmouth doubled its lead on its second possession. The Big Green drove into the red zone with several big gains on running plays, and then Kyler hit junior receiver Dale Chesson for a 4-yard touchdown. Chesson was injured for the first half of the season and was playing in just his second game of the year Friday. The touchdown was the first of his Dartmouth career.

Teevens said it was critical for his team to set the tone early and credited his defensive front’s physicality in doing so.

“We knew that we (had) to be physical, and that was the push all week long,” Teevens said. “They knew they had to bring it all, and they did.”

The Big Green’s third possession, and first in the second quarter, nearly ended in disaster. Scott didn’t turn around on a quick-hitter, and a Princeton defensive back dropped what would’ve been a pick-six. Junior quarterback Nick Howard also coughed it up later in the drive, but the fumble was overturned on review. The drive ended with a 33-yard field goal by senior Connor Davis.

Princeton’s next possession was crucial to keep the game within reach, and the Tigers finally broke through. They played with more tempo and ran shorter pass plays, giving Dartmouth’s defensive line less time to produce like it had early on. The Tigers rode that shift to a 13-play drive resulting in a 1-yard touchdown run by running back John Volker.

The Tigers got the ball back with around two minutes left in the first half and had a chance to cut the Dartmouth lead to single digits. But kicker Jeffrey Sexton hit the right upright on a 27-yard field goal attempt on the final play of the half.

The third quarter presented big opportunities for both sides. A Princeton score would’ve put real pressure on Dartmouth to hold the lead. And a Big Green score would put the Tigers in a difficult position for a comeback.

Dartmouth was the team to break through. Kyler continued his strong game with a 23-yard touchdown pass to junior receiver Jonny Barrett.

Kyler completed 84.2% of his passes — he went 16-for-19 — for his second-best completion percentage of the season. Dartmouth started taking a few more shots downfield and working more intermediate routes into the offense at Harvard last week, and it continued against Princeton. Kyler said that’s been huge for the offense.

“I think we’re very, very balanced right now. And I think that’s very hard for teams to defend against that,” Kyler said. “I just think we’ve been doing a good job not forcing the ball down the field or anything like that, taking it when those opportunities present themselves.”

On the ensuing Princeton possession, the Big Green’s defense made the play the Tigers had desperately needed. Senior cornerback Isaiah Johnson jumped in front of a short out route, intercepted the pass and was gone. He ran it 71 yards to the house, putting Dartmouth up, 31-7, near the end of the third quarter.

Johnson said his big moment was a product of his film study during the week.

“Every week, (Teevens) says the same thing: Know your opponents better than they know themselves,” Johnson said. “Going into the film, I told (secondary) coach (Sammy McCorkle) that anytime I see a receiver two yards outside the hash, they were running a hitch. They came out for the play — I saw the receiver go two yards outside the hash. I guessed hitch, and I was right. Worked out for the best.”

That pick-six put the game out of reach. And for good measure, in the fourth quarter, Dartmouth’s defense stopped Princeton on a fourth down inside the Big Green’s 10-yard line.

Dartmouth will host Cornell next Saturday in the Big Green’s home finale.

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




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