New Hampshire Football Report

Dartmouth suffers first loss

HANOVER — Many people expected a historic battle between the 20th-ranked Dartmouth Big Green and the 14th-ranked Princeton Tigers, both of which entered Saturday’s showdown at Princeton Stadium with perfect 7-0 records and tied atop the Ivy League standings. But perhaps no one expected the defensive struggle the game turned into with Princeton prevailing, 14-9, thanks to a John Lovett 5-yard touchdown run with 6:33 left in the game.

The Tigers (8-0, 5-0 Ivy) entered the game averaging more than 50 points a game, while Dartmouth (7-1, 4-1 Ivy) was topping 35, which put them 16th nationally. But it was the defenses (both ranked in the top five) that came through more often than not. The Big Green defense held Princeton to 310 yards, 240 below its season average, while the Tiger defense limited Dartmouth to 213 with just 43 coming after halftime.

The Big Green held a 9-7 lead through three quarters before Princeton threatened to take the lead early in the stanza. Starting at their own 3-yard line with 4:31 left in the third quarter, the Tigers embarked on 23-play drive that lasted nearly nine minutes. When the 22nd play left Princeton facing a fourth-and-1 at the Dartmouth 5, head coach Bob Surace eschewed a chip-shot field goal into a swirling, 20-mile-an-hour wind, and elected to go for it, having already converted two fourth-down plays on the extended drive.

This time, however, the Dartmouth defense held its ground as linebacker Nigel Alexander and lineman Jackson Perry stuffed Lovett in the backfield for a 1-yard loss and a turnover on downs with 10:32 still to play.

The emotional lift was short-lived as Princeton denied the Big Green from gaining any ground. The ensuing punt from the back of the end zone was fielded by Tiger Bech and returned 7 yards to the Dartmouth 34, giving the hosts a short field with which to work.

Princeton did not let this opportunity pass it by, thanks in part to a facemask penalty on the Big Green that turned a 4-yard loss into a 15-yard gain to the 19-yard line. Four plays later, Lovett scooted into the end zone from 5 yards out for his second touchdown of the day and a 14-9 lead with 6:33 remaining.

Tiger linebacker Mike Wagner came up with a third-down sack on Dartmouth’s next possession, forcing a punt. Princeton once again had great field position when the punt was returned into Big Green territory with another facemask penalty at the end of the play. Yet the defense came up big one more time, stopping Lovett on a fourth-and-4 run a yard shy of the sticks, giving Dartmouth once last chance.

It was not to be on this day, though, as two completions netted just 5 yards before the next two passes fell to the turf with 2:29 on the clock. The Tigers then picked up a first down on a 6-yard run by Ryan Quigley, then took a knee twice to run out the clock.

The game began as expected, with both teams marching 75 yards for touchdowns. Dartmouth received the opening kick after losing the coin toss for the first time all season, but methodically covered the distance in 14 plays, only two of which went at least 10 yards, both on passes to tight ends. The second one was a 13-yard toss from Jared Gerbino to freshman Robbie Mangas in the end zone for a 7-0 lead following the drive that lasted more than seven minutes.

Princeton answered right back, needing just 12 plays to score. Lovett completed 7-of-8 passes on the drive, but saved the touchdown for himself, barreling in from 3 yards out.

A Dartmouth punt by Davis Brief pinned the Tigers back at their own 8, and on 3rd-and-10, Seth Simmer and Jake Moen broke through the line and dropped Lovett in his own end zone for a safety and a 9-7 lead.

Both teams threatened to score before the end of the half, but were denied. First, Princeton drove down to the Big Green 9 before safety Ryan Roegge picked off a Lovett pass in the end zone, just the second thrown by the Tigers this season. After a Lovett fumble was recovered by Simmer near midfield on the next Princeton possession, Dartmouth got a 23-yard completion to Hunter Hagdorn and a 16-yard run by Miles Smith down to the Tiger 2, only to suffer a pair of false start penalties, then misfire on a 28-yard field goal attempt.

In the third quarter, the Big Green had the best opportunity to score when they took over at the Princeton 41 following a 10-yard punt return by Hagdorn. But the Tigers held Dartmouth without a first down for the rest of the game.

Lovett finished the day 22-of-30 for 161 yards and an interception while leading the team with 53 rushing yards on 22 carries plus the two touchdowns. Jesper Horsted led all players with nine grabs for 88 yards.

Dartmouth’s quarterback tandem, Gerbino and Derek Kyler, combined to complete 13-of-21 throws for 103 yards and a score, while senior Rashaad Cooper led the rushing attack with 60 of the team’s 110 yards on 12 carries. Gerbino, who ran for 202 yards and four scores against the Tigers in last year’s 54-44 victory, was limited to 36 yards on 14 carries.

Big Green linebacker Jack Traynor led all players with 14 tackles while Roegge made 10 stops. Tom Johnson led Princeton with 10 tackles of his own.

Dartmouth will attempt to regroup next week in its final road game at Cornell (3-6, 2-3 Ivy) on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. The Big Green will not only need to win its last two games, but also some help from either of the last two Princeton opponents — Yale next week or Penn in the season finale — to have a shot at sharing the Ivy League title with the Tigers.


Notes: The Big Green were last held to single-digit points in a 9-7 loss at Columbia two years ago. … Dartmouth still holds the all-time lead in the series, 49-45-4. … The two teams will play the 99th game in the series next year at Yankee Stadium as part of the 150th anniversary celebration of college football and the 250th anniversary of the founding of Dartmouth College. … The Green had not been held to 213 yards in seven years.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login