In 2015, Dartmouth won its 18th Ivy League Championship – the first in 10 years. When it was all said and done, players graduated and many moved onto the NFL. Quarterback Dalyn Williams and wide receiver Ryan McManus were invited to tryouts to the Chicago Bears and New England Patriots, but did not make the teams. In the end, only center Jacob Flores and cornerback Vernon Harris earned contracts from the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs. Back at Dartmouth, head coach Buddy Teevens had the unenviable task of reloading and replacing 17 out of the 22 starters. For the whole summer and fall camp, nearly every position was up for grabs, from quarterback to wide receiver to corner and even kicker. The returning starters included leading rusher Ryder Stone ’18), tight end Cameron Skaff ’18, and outside linebacker Flo Orimolade ’17.
After an offseason myriad in questions and relentless competitions in fall camp, week 1 finally arrived. The opponent was #22 University of New Hampshire. In what was historically known as the “Granite Bowl,” Dartmouth’s Big Green faced adversity while breaking in new personnel, They overcame a two touchdown deficit in the fourth quarter, and ultimately won the game 22-21. It marked the first victory over UNH by Head Coach Buddy Teevens and Dartmouth’s first victory over the team since 1976. New quarterback, Jack Heneghan ’18 had big shoes to fill as his predecessor, Dalyn Williams, being Dartmouth’s all-time leader in offensive yards. Heneghan did not start things very well in the beginning, throwing an interception 49 seconds into the game; he ended the first half 9 of 23 for 86 yards, a touchdown pass, and two picks (one of which went back for a touchdown). Dartmouth did earn the first score, however, on a touchdown pass to Houston Brown ’17. Despite Heneghan’s first half jitters, the Big Green defense clamped down on the Wildcats and held the offense to only seven points. Senior linebacker and preseason All-American Flo Orimolade forced a fumble which Brennen Cascarano ‘18 recovered. A muffed punt and a missed field goal were among the many errors of UNH. The first half ended at only 14-7. In the second half, UNH quarterback Trevor Knight led a solid 11-play touchdown drive making the score 21-7. However, the Dartmouth defense was as resilient and solid as granite, forcing a quick three and out. The offense marched down the field chipping away at the UNH defense. New kicker David Smith ’18 booted one for three at the top of the fourth quarter, cutting the deficit to 21-10. After forcing another punt, the Big Green looked to be in business. The offense was moving down the field until some bad luck struck. On a Heneghan scramble, he appeared to fall to the ground and fumble with UNH recovering. Looking back on the replay, it appeared that Heneghan was down by contact but the refs already ruled the fumble. Fortunately, momentum was kind to the Big Green as junior safety Colin Boit picked off a pass from UNH. Heneghan in a show of growth and unwavering determination, led Dartmouth on a 7-play drive and threw the touchdown to receiver Emory Thompson (the first of the junior’s career). They failed on the two-point conversion leaving the score 21-16. With another great stop by the Dartmouth defense, UNH went nowhere and punted. With 3:35 left in the game, Heneghan marched his offense down the field on a 7-play 80-yard drive. Big pass plays to Charles Mack ’18 and Thompson got them into the red zone with 2:15 left. On 2nd and goal, Heneghan looked to scramble then suddenly set his feet and threw a strike to Charles Mack in the end zone. The two-point failed again but Dartmouth now led 22-21 with 1:40 left to play. With the game on the line, the Big Green defense once again held UNH, who only managed 12 yards in the final drive. Brennen Cascarano came up with the game winning sack on 4th and six as the Dartmouth crowd went wild. Dartmouth had beaten its instate rival for the first time since 1976.
Coming into this game, many expected UNH to act as a good benchmark to see how the new team would fare. Though there were many new faces on the team, they all showed resilience and poise. Credit goes Coach Teevens for having faith in new starter Jack Heneghan, who had a rough first half. Heneghan ultimately finished 22-46 for 229 yards, 3 TDs, and two picks. He also rushed 14 times for 80 yards. Ryder Stone led the team with seven carries and 90 yards while Houston Brown led all receivers with 8 catches, 99 yards, and a touchdown. Brown has some experience in the past, having played behind Victor Williams and Brandon McManus, and looks to be the go-to guy in the coming weeks. Ultimately, however, the star of this show was the defense, which frustrated UNH all night. Flo Orimolade led the team with nine total tackles, a tack for loss, a forced fumble, and two pass breakups. Defensive end Brennan Cascarano was a force to be reckoned with, collecting two sacks including the game winner. Starting at safety, Colin Boit made a huge interception to turn the tide of the game. Overall, Dartmouth outgained UNH with 435 yards of total offense to 338. Both teams had significant miscues and turnovers, which is to be expected early in the season. However, the Big Green never gave up and rallied beautifully for an exciting win. The fans at Memorial Stadium were definitely treated to a spectacle. As the season goes on, Coach Buddy Teevens will make his necessary adjustments looking to the season ahead.
Week 2 featured longtime rival Holy Cross. This time around, Dartmouth’s defense suffocated Holy Cross and forced four turnovers en route to a 35-10 triumph. The Holy Cross Crusaders could only muster 285 yards of total offense and were forced to use three different quarterbacks. None of them were effective as they combined for 163 yards through the air. Flo Orimolade completely dominated the Crusaders, collecting a total of eight tackles, four tackles for loss, and two sacks. His performance earned him the Johnny Turco Award as the game’s MVP. Sophomore Bun Stratton made the start at safety and caught two interceptions while senior corner Darius George forced a fumble and picked one up for a touchdown. Offensively, the Big Green gained over 200 yards both passing and rushing and outgained Holy Cross 453 to 285. Heneghan seemed more comfortable in the role this week as he went 18-29 for 240 yards and a touchdown to tight end Cameron Skaff. He did not turn the ball over and also spread the ball around, as 11 different receivers caught a pass. Of those 11 receivers, three of them gained at least 50 yards. The aforementioned Houston Brown and Emory Thompson both caught two to three balls for about 51 yards each but it was newcomer Hunter Hagdorn ’20 who led all receivers with 62 yards. Hagdorn also carried the ball three times for 16 yards and a Dartmouth’s first score of the game. Speaking of rushing, Coach Teevens opted for a running back committee approach and it seemed to work pretty well. Miles Smith ’19 led all rushers with eight carries and 72 yards with a 35-yard touchdown scamper. Incumbent starter Ryder Stone had 11 carries for 35 yards and a score while sophomore Rashaad Cooper ran 11 times for 49 yards and caught 4 passes for 25 yards. For their efforts, Flo Orimolade and Hunter Hagdorn earned Ivy League Player of the Week Honors (Defensive POTW for Flor and Rookie POTW for Hunter). After this game, Dartmouth leads the series against Holy Cross 38-37-4.
In the next game against Penn, however, the inexperience caught up to the Big Green. Dartmouth dropped the Ivy League opener 37-24 to the previously winless Quakers. Penn scored four touchdowns on their first four possessions. The Big Green simply could not keep up with the Quaker running game, giving up 207 rush yards. Penn running back Tre Soloman ran for 147 yards and two scores while quarterback Alex Torgerson ran for 47 yards and another two scores. Offensively, Dartmouth could not find any rhythm. Too many times the offense had to punt, forcing the defense onto the field. Thus, Penn handily won the possession battle, holding onto the ball for 38:19 compared to Dartmouth’s 21:41. However, the nail in the coffin was a series of turnovers near the end of the third quarter. On a 2nd and 4 on his own 13-yard line, Heneghan threw a costly interception putting Penn on the 17. They would subsequently get the touchdown making the score 35-10. Then, on the next drive, Heneghan was picked off again. Although the defense forced a punt, Penn was able to pin the offense down at the 4 yard line. Unfortunately, on the very next play, Heneghan was sacked for a safety making the score 37-10. Receivers Hunter Hagdorn and Drew Hunnicutt both had career highs with 86 and 108 yards respectively along with a touchdown catch each. Unfortunately, this time there was no comeback. Although Dartmouth outgained Penn 411 to 395, the hole was just too deep to dig out of, especially when the defense did not force a single turnover. However, one positive point to come out of the loss is the possible emergence of Miles Smith who ran five times for 95 yards. He provided the offense a spark with two big runs for over 40 yards each, and will likely factor into the game plan more in the future.
The next game would be the 100th meeting between Dartmouth and Yale. At the Yale Bowl, the Big Green looked to wash away the sting of the previous loss. After punts by both teams to start the game, Flo Orimolade sacked Yale quarterback Tre Moore and forced a fumble. Dartmouth recovered and turned that into a touchdown pass to tight end Stephen Johnston ’18. After a missed field goal by Yale, the Big Green drove down the field where David Smith made his field goal, bringing the scoreline to 10-0. Things were starting to look up for Dartmouth as defensive lineman Charlie Pontarelli ’18 recovered another Yale fumble. However, on the ensuing drive Miles Smith could not convert the 4th and 3. After some punts, Yale got their running game in order and was able to score two touchdowns before the half, making the score 14-10. The third quarter consisted of the teams turning the ball over as Heneghan threw an interception, but got it right back when linebacker Eric Meile ’18 recovered another Yale fumble. David Smith then cut the deficit to 14-13 with another field goal. In the fourth quarter, Dartmouth could not contain Yale’s freshman running back Alan Lamar as he sprinted for a 43-yard touchdown bringing the score to 21-13. Later in the quarter, the Big Green was able to get all the way to the Yale 6-yard line. But on 4th and goal, Heneghan’s pass fell incomplete. They would however get another chance. With 2:26 left on the clock, Dartmouth marched downfield all the way to the Yale 19-yard line. Heneghan threw a pass intended for Hagdorn but was intercepted, ending Dartmouth’s four-game win streak against Yale. Heneghan finished the game with a career high 348 yards on 57 attempts. However, Dartmouth’s run game was nearly nonexistent, with only 69 yards on the ground. The red zone seemed to be an issue, as Dartmouth had six opportunities but only came away with two touchdowns and a field goal. Going 1 of 4 on 4th down conversions also did not help.
Through four games, the Dartmouth Big Green are beginning to figure out their personnel. Replacing 17 starters on both sides of the ball is no easy task, but Coach Teevens has mentioned before how each and every one of his players has some game time experience, whether they started or not. In this case, Coach Teevens is looking toward the younger members of the squad for their talent, with Hunter Hagdorn ’20 and Miles Smith ’19 starting to get more reps and touches. The first game against UNH served as a great benchmark of how much talent this Dartmouth team has. The tough win showcased the team’s unwavering determination. Against Holy Cross, Coach Teevens allowed all his players to gain that coveted experience. It was here where Miles Smith and Hunter Hagdorn had their coming out party and earned their future reps. Quarterback Bruce Dixon (who some people thought would be this year’s starter) also got some plays in, completing one pass and running twice for 19 yards. This 2016 squad appeared to take a similar approach to last year’s championship team: strong, suffocating defense with a good offense. The Big Green looked to again lean on their defense to keep them in games, while their offense will perform just enough to win. Unfortunately, Ivy League play for now has gotten the best of them. Penn rocked the defense, and too many mistakes stalled Dartmouth’s offense. Against Yale, the Big Green showed fight, but ultimately could not pull out the win. With a little seasoning and practice, however, Dartmouth will only improve. Although the defense went toe-to-toe with perennial FCS playoff contender UNH, and the offense ran all over Holy Cross, there is still room for improvement. Containing the run would seem to be the priority, as over 200 yards were given up on the ground against both Ivy League teams. Offensively, quarterback Jack Heneghan needs to work on his decision-making and cut down on the interceptions. Many of the players are new, but there is certainly enough talent to win games for Dartmouth.
Next on the team’s schedule is the matchup against the Towson Tigers (1-3). The rest of the slate consists of Ivy League opponents. However, potentially the biggest game is the homecoming game on October 29th against Harvard. This season, Harvard was again picked to win the League Championship for the sixth time in nine years. They are also currently ranked 16th in the FCS polls. Cornell also appears to be up-and-coming, with their quarterback Dalton Banks leading the Ivy League in passing yards per game (294.3) and touchdowns (9). That game will be the second to last one on November 12th. Harvard currently leads the Ivy League with a 4-0 (2-0) record. With Dartmouth dropping two Ivy League games already, another League Championship seems a little less likely now, but crazier things have happened in college football. Anything can happen in six games.