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Dartmouth overcomes errors in football return

  • Dartmouth College running back Zack Bair (22) looks off a Valparaiso defender during the Big Green’s 28-18 nonleague football victory over the Beacons on Saturday. Bair had two touchdowns — one on the ground, one through the air — in the win. Valpo Athletics — Jon Hendricks

  • Dartmouth College wide receiver Paxton Scott (86) celebrates a touchdown during the Big Green's 28-18 non-league football win over Valparaiso on Sept. 18, 2021, in Valparaiso, Ind. Valpo Athletics — Jon Hendricks—

  • Dartmouth College linebacker Marques White, center, tries to tackle Valparaiso quarterback Teryn Berry (8) during the Big Green's 28-18 win over the Beacons in non-conference football action on Sept. 18, 2021, in Valparaiso, Ind. Valpo Athletics — Jon Hendricks—

  • Dartmouth College quarterback Derek Kyler (12) has wide receiver Paxton Scott (86) in his sights during the Big Green's 28-18 non-league football win over Valparaiso on Sept. 18, 2021, in Valparaiso, Ind. Kyler and Scott connected on a first-half touchdown pass that gave Dartmouth a 14-5 lead at the time. Valpo Athletics — Jon Hendricks—

Special to the Valley News
Published: 9/18/2021 10:13:17 PM
Modified: 9/18/2021 10:13:16 PM

VALPARAISO, Ind. — After waiting 665 days between games, Dartmouth College football coach Buddy Teevens was both thrilled to be back on the sidelines and eager to put Saturday’s season opener in the rearview mirror.

There were highs and lows on Saturday as the Big Green looked every bit like a team that hadn’t played a competitive game in nearly two years, turning the ball over three times and giving up two safeties.

Dartmouth also looked like a team that can make some noise in the Ivy League this year as fifth-year quarterback Derek Kyler threw three touchdowns and Jalen Mackie added 11 tackles in a 28-18 road victory over Valparaiso.

“All of us had some (nerves),” Teevens said. “What do you say to a team that hasn’t really played together before? It was a comedy of errors for a period of time. We’ll be fine, but I’m happy this one is over with.”

Playing with largely a new group of skill players around him, Kyler was a steadying presence for the Big Green, completing 15 of 22 passes for 177 yards and three touchdowns. Paxton Scott had eight receptions for 87 yards and a touchdown in his first career game, while Jonny Barrett added his first career touchdown catch.

The emotions of playing in his first game since 2019 came early and often for Kyler.

“To be honest, during breakfast I started to tear up a little bit,” Kyler said. “Being able to play again, it’s taught me never to take this game for granted. Going into it, there were probably a little bit of nerves. We haven’t played in two years, and we were a little rusty.”

Kyler was sacked in the end zone on Dartmouth’s first offensive possession of the game for a safety. He settled down on the next possession, completing all four of his passes, including a 41-yard touchdown to Zack Bair to give the Big Green a 7-5 lead at the end of the first quarter. Kyler started to connect with Scott on the next drive, and a 6-yard strike extended Dartmouth’s lead to 14-5.

“This was Paxton’s first opportunity for us,” Kyler said. “We had quite a few (new) guys show out for us today.”

As dialed-in as Dartmouth’s offense looked at times, there were plenty of miscues to serve as a stark reminder of how long the Big Green have gone without competition.

Dartmouth fumbled the football five times, losing three of them and giving up a safety on another. Three possessions ended in fumbles stretching from the middle of the third quarter until the early fourth quarter as Valparaiso, a 30-point underdog, was able to cut the deficit to 21-18.

“There were a lot of correctables for us,” Teevens said. “It was a win. That’s the best thing we can probably say.”

The Beacons (0-3) reached midfield in the fourth quarter, only for Mackie to deliver his biggest defensive play of the game when he intercepted Valparaiso quarterback Teryn Berry and returned the ball 28 yards. Bair scored a key insurance touchdown two plays later, and Valparaiso never threatened again.

“It was great being out there on the field,” Mackie said. “I’ve been waiting patiently. After two years, it’s all that’s on your mind. I was very nervous in the beginning, but after the first quarter the jitters went away.”

Mackie finished with a team-high 11 tackles, including four solo stops and two tackles for a loss. Marques White added a sack. Bair scored a pair of touchdowns for the Big Green and ended the game with 148 all-purpose yards.

Dartmouth returns to Memorial Field for the first time since Nov. 16, 2019, on Saturday for a nonconference game against Sacred Heart and will open Ivy League play at Penn on Oct. 1.

“I’m so happy for our players,” Teevens said. “They didn’t really know how to react. Two classes had never taken a trip before. Emotionally, they weren’t sure how it all operated. It was a lot of fun to see, but I’m really glad it’s over.”




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