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Fourth-quarter rally gives Dartmouth a shared Ivy League football crown

  • Dartmouth College football players Thomas Hennessy, left, Derek Kyler, center, and Caleb Martin celebrate Saturday after the No. 21 Big Green rallied to beat Brown, 29-23. Yale's subsequent defeat of visiting Harvard meant Dartmouth and the Bulldogs shared the Ivy League title. (Tris Wykes - Valley News) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. » Buy this Image

  • Dartmouth College defensive linemen Seth Simmer (96) and David Chalmers hug Saturday after their team rallied for a 29-23 defeat of Brown and earned a share of the Ivy League title. (Tris Wykes - Valley News) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. » Buy this Image

  • Dartmouth College center Ben Culmer, right, talks with offensive line coach Keith Clark and Clark's son, Kaelan, in the aftermath of Saturday's 29-23 defeat of Brown in the teams' season finale. The victory boosted the Big Green to 9-1 overall and 6-1 in Ivy League play, earning it a share of the Ancient Eight title. (Tris Wykes - Valley News) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. » Buy this Image

  • Dartmouth College receiver Hunter Hagdorn (1) celebrates his touchdown catch Saturday against Brown. Connor Rempel (42) and Dakari Falconer join in the fun. The Big Green won, 29-23, and earned a share of the Ivy League title. (Tris Wykes - Valley News) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. » Buy this Image

  • Dartmouth College cornerback Isiah Swann (25) is escorted off Brown Stadium's field Saturday by Nigel Alexander (9) and Niko Lalos after sealing the visitors' 29-23 victory with his 17th career interception, a school record. The result allowed the No. 21 Big Green to share its 19th Ivy League title, this time with Yale. (Tris Wykes - Valley News) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. » Buy this Image

  • Dartmouth College linebackers Naeem Morgan, left, and Jalen Mackie, ham it up in their Ivy League champions hats Saturday after the No. 21 Big Green's 29-23 victory at Brown. The result earned the visitors their record 19th Ivy League title, this time shared with Yale, which beat Harvard in overtime. (Tris Wykes - Valley News) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. » Buy this Image

  • Dartmouth College quarterback Derek Kyler (12) scrambles out of traffic, including Brown's Anthony Mastroni (46) during the teams' Ivy League contest on Saturday. The No. 21 Big Green's 29-23 victory earned it a share of its record 19th league title and Kyler completed 19 of 23 passes for 303 yards and four touchdowns. (Tris Wykes - Valley News) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. » Buy this Image

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/23/2019 9:56:11 PM
Modified: 11/24/2019 10:15:43 PM

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Ben Culmer knew the 2019 Dartmouth College football season was going to be special from the start. The day before preseason practice began, the senior center discovered a four-leaf clover in the grass near Floren Varsity House.

Not wanting to part with his good-luck charm, Culmer carefully spread the clover flat and adhered it inside his helmet with a strip of clear tape, just below one ear hole. On Saturday, the leaves paid their final dividends as the No. 21 Big Green rallied to beat Brown, 29-23, and share the Ivy League title with Yale.

Derek Kyler competed 19 of 23 passes for 303 yards and four touchdowns, connecting on 10 of 12 throws for 162 yards and two touchdowns during the final stanza alone. Drew Estrada caught both of those scoring tosses, finishing with 14 receptions for 193 yards. Hunter Hagdorn caught 12 passes for 152 yards and a touchdown as the rushing attack managed only 31 yards.

The championship is Dartmouth’s record 19th, one ahead of Ancient Eight rival Pennsylvania. The Big Green finished 9-1 overall and 6-1 in league play for a second consecutive year but earned championship rings for the first time since 2015, when it shared first place with the Quakers and Harvard.

It was a Crimson collapse on Saturday that denied Dartmouth an outright crown. A huddle of coaches, players and support staff members huddled around a phone screen an hour after the Big Green game concluded, unhappily watching Yale score two touchdowns during the final 90 seconds against visiting Harvard, then win, 50-43, in double overtime.

The result took little shine off Dartmouth’s achievement, however. The Big Green trailed, 10-0, in the second quarter, 10-7 at halftime and 23-14 entering the final stanza.

“I thought our players showed some courage and resilience,” said Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens, who became his alma mater’s career leader in victories with 105, passing Bob Blackman. “It wasn’t looking good that first half, and we came back and played hard.”

Brown (2-8, 1-6) had all of the momentum after it sacked Kyler on fourth down during the fourth quarter’s initial play. Despite having the ball at Dartmouth’s 39-yard line, the Bears soon had to punt for the first time.

Kyler threw three consecutive completions to Hagdorn and two more to Estrada, the last a 9-yard touchdown to pull the visitors within 23-21 after Connor Davis’ extra point. Brown went three-and-out on its next possession, and the Big Green got the ball back at its 32-yard line with 8 minutes, 50 seconds remaining.

“You get a little antsy there at the end with the time trickling away, but we had put drives together all game and just weren’t executing down in the red zone,” Estrada said. “You don’t want to be worried; you just want to go out there and makes plays.”

This time, Kyler proved mortal, completing only four of six passes on the drive, the last a 39-yard touchdown to Estrada, who beat press coverage at the line and left his defender in the dust of Brown Stadium’s battered, grass field. Kyler threw to Hagdorn for a 2-point conversion that closed the day’s scoring against a defense ranked last in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.

Teevens cited his offense’s ability to succeed almost exclusively through the air as the difference on Saturday.

“We protected the passer well, and Kyler was on point and made some critical throws for us,” the coach said. “Our defense did a good job of bend-but-don’t-break and forced a couple of field goals. We had to open the offense up and go for it.”

The teams exchanged punts before Brown drove into Dartmouth territory with fewer than two minutes to play. A pass interference call moved the Bears to the 14-yard line. However, diving defensive end Niko Lalos tripped up quarterback E.J. Perry for a 15-yard loss, and Isiah Swann intercepted a pass on the next play with 17 seconds remaining.

“At the start of any possession, I think I’m going to get an interception,” Swann said. “Niko Mermigas was on the receiver and tipped it up and right into my lap. Just right place at the right time.”

The outcome elicited a collective sigh of relief for Big Green fans. Last weekend’s upset loss to visiting Cornell could have been the start of an unforgettable season collapse, but Dartmouth bounced back strong.

“There’s nothing like winning,” Estrada said. “The seniors made a commitment to … winning a championship, but it’s all the little things leading up to it that we had to make sure we did. Now, it’s joy and happiness.”

Dartmouth quarterback Jared Gerbino completed 10 of 14 passes for 105 yards and ran three times for 2 yards. Caylin Parker ran six times for a team-high 23 yards and Jack Traynor made nine tackles. Lalos had seven tackles and two sacks.

Brown had 75 yards rushing and 412 yards passing to Dartmouth’s 408. The Bears had 439 offensive yards, and the Big Green had 487.

Perry, a junior transfer from Boston College and a nephew of first-year Brown coach James Perry, completed 31 of 45 passes for 412 yards and a touchdown and had one throw intercepted. Allen Smith led the Bears with 28 yards rushing.

Teevens was welcomed into a raucous locker room after the postgame news conference with chants and bellows. He gave his troops a short speech before the gathering was showered with various, celebratory liquids. As is customary, the  players sang As the Backs Go Tearing By and Dear Old Dartmouth, aothough perhaps this time with a bit more gusto.

“I’m so happy to see our kids so happy,” Teevens said. “I’d like to enjoy it for a bit. All the work they and the coaching staff and the managers and film guys and everyone else.

“Everybody put time in to be rewarded collectively. They’ll remember this the rest of their lives.”

Notes: Defensive line standout Jackson Perry played only the first half before a dislocated shoulder suffered last week could no longer be ignored. He spent the second half on the sidelines. … Swann’s interception was his school-record 17th. … The “trophy” hoisted aloft by Dartmouth players after the game was a plastic cup resembling a toy and attached to a shabby wood base. The actual hardware remains at 2018 champion Princeton for the moment, said Big Green sports information director Rick Bender. … Dartmouth has won seven of its last nine meetings with Brown and is 29-10-1 at Brown Stadium, where it’s won its last four games. … Dartmouth leads the teams’ series 63-32-4. … Teevens is 12-8 against Brown as Dartmouth’s coach. … The Big Green’s record through 138 seasons: 715-458-46. … Equipment manager Steve Ward worked his final game for the football program. The Oxbow High graduate plans to retire next summer. … The Big Green has posted nine victories in three of its last five seasons. … Hagdorn entered the game needing 137 receiving yards to reach 2,000 for his career, and he became the sixth Dartmouth player to reach the milestone (2,015). … Davis ended the season having made 45 consecutive extra points, six shy of the school record held by 18-year NFL veteran Nick Lowery, a 1978 Dartmouth graduate. … Estrada finished the year with 822 receiving yards, just the 12th time a Big Green player has topped 800. … Dartmouth completed more than 68 percent of its passes this season, a new program record. … James Perry, previously the head coach at Bryant (R.I.) University, is a former star star quarterback at Brown who was a Dartmouth assistant coach in 2001.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com.




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