Dartmouth Drops a Heartbreaker at Harvard

Quarterback Dalyn Williams had a stellar first half, and finished the night with 311 passing yards.

Quarterback Dalyn Williams had a stellar first half, and finished the night with 311 passing yards.

It was supposed to be our night. It was supposed to be our chance to finally get over the hump. We had more fans in the stadium. We had our moments. We had our shot. Then, we got blocked and just could not make it.

At Harvard Stadium on the clear, chilly night of October 30, the battle of the undefeated brewed between Dartmouth and Harvard. Although the game was at Cambridge, the Crimson surprisingly did not have much of a crowd attending. Thanks to the Big Green fan buses of many fraternities, sororities, and the Programming Board, Dartmouth nearly filled their side of the stadium to support their team. At kickoff and throughout the game, the stadium was loud, and it was all for Dartmouth.

The Big Green received the kick to start the game and moved the ball efficiently. The 43 yard completion from quarterback Dalyn Williams to receiver Ryan McManus helped as well. Alex Gakenheimer made his field goal attempt from 33 yards to put Dartmouth up 3-0. Running back Ryder Stone added a touchdown run later in the first quarter to put the Green up 10-0. The Big Green defense was stout and played admirably. The Crimson punted on their opening drive and had their field goal blocked by cornerback Chai Reece on the next. For the most part, the Dartmouth defense frustrated Harvard quarterback Scott Hosch and swarmed highly touted running back Paul Stanton (who gashed the Big Green for 180 yards last year). Near the end of the half, Harvard was in the red zone, but a great interception by linebacker Will McNamara stopped the attack. Harvard was held scoreless in the first half for the first time in nearly five seasons.

The trend seemed to continue in the next half. Harvard started the second half the same way they ended the first with an interception to “Willie Mac”. This time, on a 4th-and-12, Hosch panicked and threw the ball across his body, where McNamara picked it off with one hand. Dartmouth moved the ball but failed to make the most of the takeaway. On the ensuing Harvard drive, the Crimson seemed to be moving the ball just fine. They were in the red zone again when out of nowhere, linebacker Folarin Orimolade forced a fumble from Paul Stanton. Safety David Caldwell recovered and Dartmouth once again had life. Dalyn Williams drove the offense downfield with stellar passing. A great 29-yard completion to McManus helped greatly as McManus adjusted from the one-on-one coverage to make the spectacular catch. The next play would have made the Mad Hatter down in Baton Rouge proud. Dalyn threw a lateral to McManus on what looked like a screen play until McManus pulled up like Steph Curry and took a shot downfield. Receiver Victor Williams was wide open when McManus threw. An instant touchdown was in sight. The real heartbreaker here was that Victor dropped the wide open pass. After more incompletions, Dartmouth settled for a field goal increasing the lead to 13-0. After, Harvard starting getting into a rhythm. The Crimson methodically ran the ball all the way to the goal line, but Dartmouth refused to yield. First and goal, Paul Stanton ran up the middle, no gain. Second and goal, Scott Hosch on the quarterback sneak, no gain. Third and goal, Seitu Smith up the middle, no gain. Finally, on fourth and goal, Hosch tried an option run to the left, no gain. The Dartmouth defense pulled off the goal line stand!

Following an ensuing Dartmouth punt, Harvard suddenly got a spark. After a sack by A.J. Zuttah and more incompletions, Harvard faced a 4th-and-12. Hosch threw a perfect back-shoulder fade to Crimson receiver Seitu Smith for a 29 yard touchdown cutting the lead to 13-7. On the ensuing Dartmouth drive, offensive struggles and penalty problems from the Columbia game arose once again. Incompletions and a false start forced Dartmouth to punt. Luckily, the Crimson stalled on offense as well, so Dartmouth had a chance to ice the game. However, the football gods had other plans. On the 50-yard line, Dalyn took the snap and ran right on the option play. He pitched the ball to Ryder Stone who coughed up the ball. Harvard recovered with 2:54 left in the game. Fatigue had hit the Dartmouth defense as Hosch willed his offense into Dartmouth territory. Prayers for another defensive stop were left unanswered as Hosch hit his receiver for a touchdown. The extra point put Harvard up 14-13 with only 38 seconds left. All was not lost however as on the ensuing kickoff, Harvard kicked the ball out of bounds putting the Dartmouth on their own 40 yard line. There was a chance. Big passes to Victor Williams and Ryan McManus put Dartmouth on the Harvard 29 yard line. Oddly, Head Coach Buddy Teevens elected not to use any of his two remaining timeouts. On second and ten with eight seconds left, Williams took the snap, but held onto the ball way too long. Time ticked off until Williams heaved the ball into the back of the end zone into double coverage. Incomplete. With one second left, Alex Gakenheimer was tasked with a 46 yard field goal from the right hash to win it all. With a career long of 41, the junior kicker would become a hero or goat in a mere second. Sadly, he never got the chance as Harvard blocked the kick and effectively ended the game with a 21 game win streak. To paraphrase the late great Larry Munson: They just stepped on our face with a hobnail boot and broke our nose.

It was a hard fought battle. The Dartmouth defense stepped up tremendously as they held Paul Stanton to only 67 yards on 21 carries and forced three turnovers to give the offense many chances. On paper, the Dartmouth offense played well. Dalyn Williams threw for 311 yards and was sacked only once. Ryan McManus led all receivers with 9 grabs for 135 yards. Sadly, incompletions and penalties in key moments hindered the group and opportunities were not taken advantage of. The offense’s failure to make first downs forced the defense to constantly come on the field. Fatigue set in and the defense just could not carry the team in the fourth quarter. It was sad. It was heartbreaking. Everything seemed to be in Dartmouth’s favor, but it just was not meant to be.

Now, all Dartmouth can do is hope Harvard loses two games. The Crimson plays Penn next week before finishing the year against annual rival Yale. For the next two weeks, Dartmouth students will be rooting for both Penn and Yale. Harvard must lose both games for Dartmouth to win the Ivy championship. Even if Harvard loses one, the Crimson own the head-to-head tiebreaker on Dartmouth.

Though that outlook looks a little bleak, the season is not over. There are still games and the team still needs support. The Big Green can take out their frustration next week against Cornell (0-6) and then finish strong against Brown and Princeton. To add more positivity, Dalyn Williams is now the school’s all-time passing leader with 6,883 yards. He eclipses former NFL quarterback Jay Fiedler for the distinction. Ryan McManus became the 5th Big Green receiver to reach 2,000 career yards after the game. He has 2,065 yards. Both still have opportunities to add on yardage. Championship hopes may have dwindled, but passion and support must now be stronger than ever. The team fought hard and with a great amount of pride. Now is not the time to sit in sorrow. It is time to get up and brush off the dust. We’re onto Cornell.