New Hampshire Football Report

Dartmouth 35, Valparaiso 13

HANOVER — Led by a career-high 169 rushing yards from fifth-year senior Zack Bair, Dartmouth rolled to a 35-13 victory over visiting Valparaiso on Saturday afternoon at Memorial Field.

Dartmouth (1-0) piled up 308 yards on the ground to carry it to its 12th straight season-opening victory — the longest active streak in the FCS — and 20th consecutive non-conference victory dating back to 2014. The Beacons dropped their second straight game to fall to 1-2.


Bair needed 16 carries to pick up those 169 yards. He scored on a 5-yard jaunt late in the third quarter to give the Big Green a 15-point lead at 28-13.

One year after sharing snaps behind center as mostly a Wildcat quarterback, senior Nick Howard took the reins until the final minute, running for 57 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 15 carries, and completed 8-of-10 throws for 85 yards, giving the Big Green 393 total yards. The longest throw was a 42-yard strike to junior tight end Jace Henry to the 1, setting up the first of Howard’s two scores early in the second quarter.

“I can’t say enough about the offensive line with a lot of new faces coming in,” Bair said. “They made a great statement today, and with our great defensive line going up against them in practice, it has helped prepare them very well for the season.”

Valparaiso was limited to 263 total yards, 189 of which came through the air. Quarterback Mikey Appel connected on 21-of-35 throws. The Dartmouth defense that has been among the top 20 teams in the FCS against the rush the last four seasons once again proved to be stout, holding the Beacons to 74 yards on 25 carries as Aaron Dawson went for 38 yards on 13 attempts. Penalties proved to be Dartmouth’s biggest problem with 11 whistles that added up to 113 yards.

The Big Green took control from the start, forcing Valparaiso to punt on the opening drive before embarking on 88-yard touchdown drive that ate up nearly half of the first quarter. All but 14 of those yards came on the ground with a Bair 22-yard pickup, which sent Dartmouth into Beacon territory. Howard, who was sixth among FCS players last year with 15 rushing touchdowns, bulled his way through the line from 1 yard out to give the Green its first points of the season, and senior Ryan Bloch provided the PAT for a 7-0 lead.

Valparaiso answered with a 39-yard field goal by Brian Bartholomew, only to have Dartmouth cover 75 yards in five plays thanks to a Bair 24-yard sprint — the longest run of the game — and the 42-yard connection between Howard and Henry to set up another 1-yard score by Howard to make it a 14-3 contest.

Again the Beacons battled back, beginning with a 48-yard kickoff return by Jeffery Vercher to the Big Green 39. A pass interference penalty helped Valparaiso along, and Dawson helped his team take advantage of the penalty on a 2-yard touchdown run.

While the first quarter was nearly penalty-free, the flags started flying on the next possession as the Big Green made it three touchdowns in three drives. The Beacons were whistled for two unnecessary roughness penalties with a pass interference sandwiched between, which added up to 38 of the 70 yards covered on the drive. Senior Noah Roper made sure those Valparaiso penalties were costly as he found a hole for an 8-yard run into the end zone for a 21-10 lead, which is how it remained when the intermission arrived.

In the second half, the Beacons initially turned the tables on the Green, forcing a punt before methodically driving 70 yards on 16 plays that gobbled up more than seven minutes of action. But all Valparaiso could muster was a 37-yard Bartholomew field goal, closing the gap to 21-13.

The Beacons gave Dartmouth 25 yards in penalties on the ensuing drive on a defensive holding call and a personal foul. Bair provided 30 yards of his own on four carries, the last of which took him across the goal line from 5 yards out for a 28-13 lead with 1:50 remaining in the third quarter.

A couple of long passes before the end of the third quarter left Valparaiso in Big Green territory, and soon the Beacons were threatening to score with 1st-and-goal from the 5. But junior safety Cam Maddox took matters into his own hands, stuffing two runs at the line of scrimmage, tackling a receiver for a 2-yard loss on third down, then breaking up a pass in the end zone to give the ball back to Dartmouth.

The Big Green made the only miscue of the game on a snap over Howard’s head a few plays later, giving the Beacons the ball back on the Dartmouth 11. After a 7-yard completion, the Green would bend no more, breaking up two passes and dropping a receiver for a 1-yard loss to once again force a turnover on downs, this time with 8:43 to play.

More than eight minutes later, Dartmouth still had the ball. On 3rd-and-goal from the 1, Henry took the snap and found space up the middle to cross the threshold for his first career touchdown and a 35-13 lead, the icing on the cake of the Big Green’s victory.

“We ran the ball effectively, mixed in some passes,” Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens said. “Coming into the season, a big question mark was our offensive line, and I thought they performed well as we put nine different guys out there throughout the day. Our defense was a little slow coming out of the blocks, but they certainly rallied with their backs against the wall twice in the fourth quarter. One score and it would have been a one-score game. That helped us play with a lot more confidence.”

Junior linebacker Macklin Ayers led the Dartmouth defense with a career-high 11 tackles and broke up a pass, while junior lineman Shane Cokes posted the lone sack of the day for either team. The secondary had six more pass break-ups, with Maddox and fifth-year senior corner Robert Crockett III batting away two tosses.

Valparaiso linebacker James Doerer was everywhere on the field by putting up a game-high 15 stops. But not once did the Beacons drop a Big Green ball carrier for a loss.

Dartmouth hits the road next Saturday to play at Sacred Heart (1-2), which suffered 41-3 defeat in Hanover last year and a 24-7 loss at Morgan State today. Kickoff for the Pioneers’ homecoming game is slated for 2 p.m. at Campus Field and will be streamed on NEC Front Row.


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