Dartmouth 23, Penn 20 (OT): Freshman kicker sends Big Green past Quakers

Above: Dartmouth tight end Jace Henry (11) lets his inner lion roar.

Above: Dartmouth tight end Jace Henry (11) lets his inner lion roar. CHLOE BROEKER—@DARTMOUTHSPORTS

Dartmouth freshman kicker Owen Zalc, left, follows through on a kick during the Big Green’s 23-20 overtime win over Penn in Philadelphia on Saturday. Zalc hit his final three field goals after having one blocked early, winning the game with a 37-yarder in overtime.

Dartmouth freshman kicker Owen Zalc, left, follows through on a kick during the Big Green’s 23-20 overtime win over Penn in Philadelphia on Saturday. Zalc hit his final three field goals after having one blocked early, winning the game with a 37-yarder in overtime. Dartmouth sports information — Kyle Relf

CHLOE BROEKER—@DARTMOUTHSPORTS

CHLOE BROEKER—@DARTMOUTHSPORTS

Left: Dartmouth quarterback Nick Howard escapes the clutches of Penn’s John Lista (44) and Kendren Smith (4). Howard ran for one touchdown and threw for another.

Left: Dartmouth quarterback Nick Howard escapes the clutches of Penn’s John Lista (44) and Kendren Smith (4). Howard ran for one touchdown and threw for another. CHLOE BROEKER—@DARTMOUTHSPORTS

Dartmouth junior linebacker Braden Mullen holds aloft one of the three fumbles recovered by the Big Green during its 23-20 overtime victory over Penn at Franklin Field in Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon.

Dartmouth junior linebacker Braden Mullen holds aloft one of the three fumbles recovered by the Big Green during its 23-20 overtime victory over Penn at Franklin Field in Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon. DARTMOUTH SPORTS information photographs — Kyle Relf

By JON MARKS

For the Valley News

Published: 10-01-2023 1:34 AM

PHILADELPHIA — It may have taken nine hours for the Dartmouth College buses to trek their way from Hanover due to weather on Friday. But thanks to their persistence and resilience — especially after blowing a 10-point fourth-quarter lead — it would be a joyride on the trip back home for the Big Green.

“I’m super proud of our guys,” said relieved Big Green football coach Sammy McCorkle.

Owen Zalc’s 37-yard field goal gave the Big Green a 23-20 overtime win over Penn, flipping the script from last year when the Quakers won in OT in Hanover.

“We knew it was going to be a battle and there’d be some bad plays,” McCorkle said. “But you have to forget about it and move on. And our guys did a very good job of that. Dartmouth-Penn games always go down to the wire.”

Until the closing stages, it didn’t seem likely Dartmouth would need late heroics to give their interim coach his first Ivy win. The Big Green needed just 63 seconds to grab a 7-0 lead when Nico Schwikal blocked a punt and fell on it at the Quaker 1-yard line, setting the stage for Nick Howard to score on the next play.

Then the defense took over, forcing three first-half fumbles that were turned into 10 points. Dartmouth went to the locker room up 20-10 when Zalc hit from 26 yards out at the gun.

“The defensive backs and the safeties were locking down and getting in the right spots, which allowed the defensive line to get home,” said linebacker Braden Mullen, who had four tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery for the day. “So we had a good handle on them the first half and were able to shut them down as much as we could.

“But in the fourth quarter, we just had some mental mistakes, bad reads. So we have a lot of things to work on.”

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The Big Green seemed in control, still up 20-10, headed to the fourth. They appeared to put it away when third-stringer Jackson Proctor, forced into action in Dartmouth’s game of musical quarterbacks, took it to the house on an apparent 74-yard run, only to have it called back on a holding penalty.

Eventually the Big Green had to punt, but when Davis Golick’s kick was downed at the 1, Dartmouth still seemed to have the game in hand. Someone forgot to tell that to the Quakers, who proceeded to drive 99 yards in 10 plays to close the gap to 20-17 on Aldin Sayin’s 16 yard touchdown pass to Malone Howley with 5:52 left.

McCorkle wasn’t surprised.

“Penn’s a good football team, picked by some to win the Ivy League championship,” he said. “They’re not just going to go away.”

McCorkle’s club promptly gave the ball back to the Quakers with 3:13 left

“We obviously had a couple of busts on defense, and it cost us. But we work on different scenarios, so if we are in certain situations we don’t panic,” he said “There was a sense of calm on the sidelines.”

That remained even after Penn drove 33 yards in eight plays to get the 20-20 equalizer on Albert Jang’s 51-yard field goal with just 57 seconds left.

Moments later, it was overtime. Dartmouth’s defense responded to the challenge by stopping Penn, which proceeded to miss a 42-yard field goal.

That meant all the Big Green needed to do was set up the freshman Zalc for the game-winner. He did the rest.

“I wanted it badly,” smiled Zalc. “I knew the offense would put it in the best position for me.”

“He was awesome,” added Howard, who rushed for 58 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries, while throwing for 74 yards and a 14-yard score to Chris Corbo. “There was never a doubt.”

That kick set off a wild celebration on the Dartmouth sidelines and in the stands at venerable Franklin Field, where a large contingent of fans were wearing green.

Chances are the party was still going strong all the way home.