Thursday, March 05, 2015

The Princeton Game Revisited

Editor's Note: Each day while Team BGA is soaking up some warm weather this site will repost game stories that appeared on the BGA Premium site last fall. Typos have been fixed and minor editing has cleaned up what was deadline writing ;-)

PRINCETON, N.J. – As the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game wound down Dartmouth quarterback Dalyn Williams borrowed a cell phone from a recent graduate and watched streaming video of what was happening in the Harvard-Yale contest.

If the only drama left for Williams at that point was in Cambridge he had himself largely to blame.

Dartmouth’s junior quarterback completed 30-of-35 passes for 305 yards and four touchdowns without a hint of an interception to help the Big Green thoroughly overwhelm the preseason Ivy League favorite, 41-10, in a game that was more lopsided than the final score would suggest.

With the game well in hand, Williams was hardly the only one watching the Harvard-Yale score as everywhere you looked green-clad fans with cell phones were sharing the play-by-play with their neighbors. In the end it took a Crimson touchdown with 55 seconds remaining and an interception at the Harvard 15 with 10 seconds left to finally eliminate Dartmouth from the Ivy League championship hunt.

Dartmouth finishes the season alone in second place with an 8-2 overall record and a 6-1 Ivy League campaign marred only by a 23-12 loss to Harvard on Nov. 1. The Big Green reached the 40-point plateau in its final three games, the first time it has accomplished that hat trick since 1935.

“We had a great season,” said senior Bo Patterson, who caught three touchdown passes and topped the century mark for the first time with 129 receiving yards in his final college game. “Obviously, not exactly what we wanted, but at the end of the day we are 8-2 and we lost to two nationally ranked teams. You can’t be too upset about that.

“To come out and win in such a big way at Princeton for the seniors … everyone is ecstatic right now.”

And it didn’t take long for the happiness to kick in.

On Dartmouth’s fourth play of the game Williams hit a well-covered Patterson deep down the left sideline with a perfectly thrown ball that went for a 58-yard touchdown. After the Tigers (5-5, 4-3 Ivy) responded with a 46-yard field goal to make it 7-3, the Big Green took total control.

Dartmouth would reel off the next 34 points on the way to its best season since the 1997 team also finished 8-2 and 6-1. Only an undefeated Ivy League season stood between that Big Green team and a championship as well.

“From the beginning of the season we knew that we were championship contenders and that we were in every game,” said senior defensive end Evan Chrustic. “We only had two losses. The Harvard game, a few plays go the other way and it is our game. It’s definitely hard finishing 6-1, 8-2 and not getting a piece of the title. I don’t know how often that happens, but it seems since I’ve been here that 6-1 gives you a share every time.

“It’s definitely tough, but we played our best. I think we left everything out there.”

Chrustic, fellow defensive end Cody Fulleton, senior Jeff Winthrop and the rest of the Big Green front helped limit Princeton to a season-low 228 yards of total offense. The Tigers’ lone touchdown came with 9:34 remaining. Only Harvard, which beat Princeton, 49-7, held them to fewer points.

Princeton coach Bob Surace knew after film study that the Tigers were going to have their hands full against the Big Green’s physical front.

“I watched all nine games, 10 games counting our game last year,” he said. “And (I saw) the improvement they made on their defensive line. They have always been big and strong. We have had our trouble with them because they are big and strong.

“But (you could see) the athleticism that they showed in their pass rush, really the last few weeks. I said to someone they are the equal if not a little better than Harvard.”

After Princeton got the field goal on its first drive, the Tigers managed a total of just 55 yards of offense on their next seven possessions.

Dartmouth, meanwhile, was steadily adding to its lead. It went to 14-3 early in the second quarter when Williams hit Ryan McManus (10 catches for 96 yards) all alone under the goal post from four yards out.

Alex Gakenheimer’s 22-yard field goal with six seconds remaining in the second quarter made it 17-3 at the half.

Any chance that there would be drama in New Jersey to match what was happening in Massachusetts disappeared early in the third quarter.

Dartmouth forced a quick three-and-out to start the second half and then it was Williams and Patterson doing their thing. On the Big Green’s first play after forcing a three-and-out, Williams hit the receiver in stride on a post pattern for a 38-yard touchdown and a 24-3 lead.

After Gakenheimer booted a 29-yard field goal to close out the third-quarter scoring it was Williams and Patterson hooking up one final time. And again it didn’t take long.

With Kyle Bramble out with the knee injury he suffered last week, Brian Grove stepped in and on Dartmouth’s first play of the fourth quarter the speedy junior exploded for 61 yards down the left sideline. A minute later it was Patterson hauling in a back-shoulder throw from Williams to make it 34-3.

While the usually elusive Williams was held to minus-four yards rushing on 10 carries he made Princeton pay dearly by completing 85.7 percent of his passes.

“It’s one of those darned if you do, darned if you don’t,” Surace said about picking his defensive poison against the Dartmouth quarterback. “You want to stop him from running and he’s become such an accurate passer he beats you that way. You want to stop his running game, which for about 2½ quarters I thought we slowed down really well.

“I told Buddy, I don’t know how the player of the year will go, but he’s certainly one of the best players we’ve played against.”

The Big Green closed out its scoring just seconds after the final Patterson TD catch.

On Princeton’s second play after the TD Sawyer Whalen forced a fumble that Vernon Harris returned four yards to midfield and Williams promptly hit McManus for 42 yards. Freshman Ryder Stone gained two yards on first down and then slashed in from the 6 while the Dartmouth sideline went crazy.

“Everybody was all smiles,” said Chrustic of the fun afternoon. “It was just a great atmosphere to finish off this season, finish off the  seniors’ careers. You can’t draw it up any better than that.”

The only plot change would have been Yale somehow pulling off a win in Cambridge to help Dartmouth win its 18th Ivy League title.

“We had our chance to control our own destiny and we didn’t come away with it when we played Harvard this year,” said Teevens. “They are all championship games and we had to play and depend on someone else. It didn’t happen, but it doesn’t detract from the way we finished our season.”

His standout quarterback, who was sneaking a peek at what was happening up in New England while Princeton was scoring a meaningless touchdown agreed. Even if he could almost feel the championship ring on his finger.

“It is extremely tough,” Williams said of the near miss. “But we know that the seniors got a ‘dub’ leaving, and my class has another year. But still it was a great year. We got eight wins. We sent the seniors out right. It’s the best season we've had in a long time.

“There are a lot of positives to take away from this and I think we’re just going to build on this and expect to do bigger things next year.”

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

The Brown Game Revisited

Editor's Note: Each day while Team BGA is soaking up some warm weather this site will repost game stories that appeared on the BGA Premium site last fall. Typos have been fixed and minor editing has cleaned up what was deadline writing ;-)

HANOVER – Late in the second quarter of Dartmouth’s 44-21 win over Brown Saturday afternoon the visitors had the ball at the Dartmouth 48 with the score tied at 14.

On a second-down play quarterback Marcus Fuller hit Alex Jette with a five-yard completion.

The Bears’ previous possession had ended when they came up short on a fourth-and-two at the Dartmouth 7 with a chance to take the lead, and Brown coach Phil Estes felt that was a key play in the game. He was right. It was big.

But the second-down completion by Fuller might have been even bigger because just as he got rid of the ball he took a crushing body blow from Dartmouth defensive end Cody Fulleton. The Brown quarterback had engineered two long scoring drives to that point, but after being flattened by Fulleton he would never be the same. In fact, after the big hit the Bears would have harmless drives of just three, four, three, three and seven plays before their starting quarterback took a seat – in part for his own safety.

“We couldn’t protect him,” admitted Estes. “We tried to move the pocket and the launch point a little bit and we still were taking hits.”

Was there a point when Fulleton could see in the visitors’ eyes that they knew they were in for a long afternoon?

“Absolutely,” he said. “After I hit the quarterback the first time.”

Dartmouth quarterback Dalyn Williams had no such problems as he completed 25-of-33 passes for 248 yards and three touchdowns while also running for 100 yards.

Ryan McManus hauled in a career-high 13 passes for 154 yards and three touchdowns for the Big Green and freshman tailback Ryder Stone, who came on when Kyle Bramble left the game with an injury early in the second quarter, exploded on the scene with 114 yards and three touchdowns on just 10 carries.

Dartmouth (7-2) improved to 5-1 in the Ivy League with a shot at the Ivy League title on the line at Princeton next week. Brown is now 4-5 overall and 2-4 in the Ivies with a visit from Columbia on tap.

While Dartmouth was beating Brown, Harvard was coming from behind to post a hard-fought 34-24 victory at Penn Saturday that brought the Crimson a share of the championship. A Dartmouth win combined with a Yale win in The Game next week would bring about a three-way tie for the crown with Dartmouth, Yale and Harvard each having a share.

The Big Green kept its title hopes alive despite losing Bramble to a knee injury, with Abrm McQuarters – playing in place of Brian Grove – going out with an injury, and with starting lineman Ben Spiritos being carted off the field all in the second quarter.

“A&I,” head coach Buddy Teevens said. “Adjust and improvise. It’s kind of a saying on the team. Whatever happens, don’t worry about it. Adjust and improvise and move forward.

“We’re just very, very resilient. We had a couple of guys, a couple of backs go down and Ryder pops up and we didn’t miss a beat. An offensive lineman goes down, Ben Spiritos, and Josh Clark comes in. We don’t skip a beat. That’s what you need.”

Brown came out like a house afire on Dartmouth’s Senior Day, holding the ball for 14 plays and driving 75 yards for a 7-0 lead on its first possession.

The Big Green answered with a lengthy march of its own as Williams completed all seven of his passes on an 11-play, 81-yard drive that culminated with a 25-yard rainbow to a wide-open McManus to knot the score.

Brown came right back with a seven-play, 62-yard drive that saw Fuller go 4-for-4, including a 15-yard TD throw that made it 14-7 four seconds into the second quarter.

Once again, Dartmouth held serve. Once again it was Williams hitting an open McManus, this time from 10 yards out to tie the score at 14.

Brown then drove from its own 14 to the Dartmouth 7 in a bid to make it three touchdowns in its first three possessions. But on fourth down with a long one yard to go AJ Zuttah, Zach Slafsky and the middle of the Big Green defense rose up and stopped Brian Strachan one yard shot of a first.

“I thought we had a chance in the first half,” said Estes. “I thought we played pretty well offensively. We moved the ball and did some nice things. I think it hurt when we went for it on fourth-and-one and didn’t come away with points.”

Dartmouth finally went in front after taking over at its own 11 with 2:14 remaining in the first half. The Big Green drove to the Brown 13 before Alex Gakenheimer came on to boot a 30-yard field goal that made it 17-14 at the half.

The key play in the drive was a weaving 25-yard run by Williams that ended with the usually reserved quarterback pumping his fist like Tigers Woods after a clinching birdie at the Masters.

“We got a big dose of Williams,” said Estes. “That was tough. We didn’t handle that very well. Not that most teams have. He can beat you with his arm. He can beat you with his feet. But he beat us with his feet, and he did a great job.”

Still, it was just a three-point game at the break.

“In the locker room definitely guys were a little disappointed with how we were playing,” said McManus. “We just felt like we had to keep the ball rolling. Going into the second half once we made a couple plays we just felt the momentum shift in our direction and snowball out of control.”

It did exactly that as Dartmouth reeled off 27 consecutive points in the second half.

It didn’t take long for the onslaught to begin. On Brown’s third play after taking the second-half kickoff linebacker Will McNamara picked off the harried Fuller at the 28 and returned it to the Brown 9.

Once again it was Williams hooking up with McManus from four yards out for the Big Green senior’s third touchdown catch of the day. McManus became the first Dartmouth receiver to have the hat trick since Tom Parker caught four in a 1989 win over Boston University.

Stone scored the next two Big Green touchdowns on runs of one and four yards to make it 37-14 after three quarters.

The freshman from Calgary, who had just two carries for two yards coming into the game, wrapped up his storybook day by breaking through the Brown defensive front and winning a footrace to the end zone for a 63-yard touchdown with 7:51 remaining.

Brown finally ended the 30-0 Dartmouth run on an 18-yard touchdown pass with 3:21 left after recovering a fumble at the Big Green 18.

With the win over Brown well in hand attention at Memorial Field turned to Philadelphia, where Penn was giving Harvard fits. The Quakers held a 24-20 lead almost five minutes into the fourth quarter and were down just three points with seven minutes left.

While Teevens’ attention was on what was happening in front of him even he had a hard time ignoring what was happening behind him as Dartmouth fans responded to regular PA announcements of Harvard’s difficulty putting Penn away.

“I heard screams and yells and I wasn’t quite sure what was going on,” Teevens said with a laugh. “I kind of zone out a little bit. At the end of the day we will figure out where it is.

“The big thing is, we control what we can control. We talked about it for this ballgame. They came out and they played hard. And whatever happens, we control next week. We’ve got to go out and play well against a good Princeton team.”

Which is exactly what they did to win the Tussle in The Woods on the final afternoon of football ever played in front of the historic home stands at Memorial Field, which will be torn down at season’s end and replaced in time for the 2015 campaign.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

The Cornell Game Revisited

Editor's Note: Each day while Team BGA is soaking up some warm weather this site will repost game stories that appeared on the BGA Premium site last fall. Typos have been fixed and minor editing has cleaned up what was deadline writing ;-)

ITHACA, N.Y. – Dartmouth’s game at winless Cornell, coach Buddy Teevens said during the week, was all about “taking care of business.”

Although the Big Green punched the clock a little late, it took care of business with alacrity Saturday afternoon before a chilled crowd of 4,212 at Schoellkopf Field.

Dalyn Williams threw for 381 yards and four touchdowns while running for 62 yards and another score as Dartmouth kept its Ivy League title hopes alive with an overpowering 42-7 win.

The Big Green improved to 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the Ivy League with its sixth consecutive triumph in the series while Cornell stumbled to 0-8 overall and 0-5 in the conference.

The Big Green piled up 583 yards of total offense and recorded a season-high points total despite Williams and much of the starting cast watching the final five and a half minutes of the third quarter and the entire fourth from the sidelines.

“The guys played hard,” Teevens said. “We made some mistakes but we were able to overcome them. It is a long bus ride back, and at least we will be smiling on the trip.”

There weren’t many smiles in the early going as a Cornell team that had managed just one first-quarter touchdown in seven games drove 75 yards for a TD on its opening drive. The Big Red would have had another one just two minutes later if quarterback Robert Somborn hadn’t overthrown a wide-open receiver in the end zone following a rare Williams interception.

“We could have been down 14-zip without blinking our eyes,” Teevens said. “Then we kind of kicked into gear and started to make some plays on both sides of the football.”

Kind of kicked it into gear? Dartmouth went into overdrive starting with its second possession of the game. In order the Big Green:

• Marched 78 yards in nine plays for a touchdown. Kyle Bramble got the points when he took a swing pass from Williams 24 yards down the left sideline and into the end zone with help from a nice block at the end by receiver Bo Patterson.

• Marched 83 yards in nine plays for a touchdown. Williams capped the drive by running nine yards to the left pylon.

• Marched 69 yards in eight plays, the last a 32-yard strike to Victor Williams.

• Marched 77 yards in nine plays before Cornell finally made a stop on a fourth-and-one option pitch from the Big Red 1 to keep it 21-7 at the half. (Teevens: “I should have kicked the field goal.”)

After the only real marching band in the Ivy League left the field following its halftime show Dartmouth went right back to work. The Big Green took the opening kickoff of the second half and:

• Marched 75 yards in nine plays, the last a 30-yard strike to a well-covered Ryan McManus on the left side of the end zone.

• Marched 48 yards in three plays with Bramble sprinting 39 yards through a gaping hole in the middle of the Cornell defense to make it 35-7 just 5:08 into the third quarter.

Even when things finally went right for the Big Red they went wrong.

Two plays after Cornell blocked Alex Gakenheimer’s 40-yard field goal attempt Vernon Harris intercepted a Somborn pass at the Dartmouth 37. Abrm McQuarters then rambled 60 yards with a screen pass and scored his first career touchdown escorted most of the way by lineman Jacob Flores.

With the Big Green’s backup offense sputtering in the fourth quarter, Cornell three times had the ball in the red zone in the final period and all three times Dartmouth slammed the door as it surrendered just seven points for the second time in three games.

“We came out a little flatter than usual but after that we stepped it up,” said Big Green defensive end Sawyer Whalen, who tied for the team lead with six tackles, including a sack. “We would have loved to get a shutout, but we bowed up after they scored and didn’t let them get anything else.”

Cornell finished with 308 yards of total offense but managed just 188 yards until its final two drives with the outcome long-since decided.

“I thought our defense responded well,” said Teevens. “We didn’t tackle well in the first half. We allowed some big plays. We got after the quarterback a little bit more in the second half. I thought we had more success pressuring the QB in the second half. We need to play like that for four quarters.”

They looked pretty good from second-year Cornell coach David Archer’s vantage point. “Obviously, Dartmouth is a really good team,” he said. “They have one loss in this league for a reason. They beat Yale at Yale for a reason.”

Five different players recorded touchdowns for Dartmouth with only Bramble scoring twice. After rushing just two times for three yards in the first half, he carried six times for 86 yards in the second, twice making a nifty shuffle step to the side to be able to duck into a hole and take off.

Victor Williams led Dartmouth with seven catches for 101 yards while Patterson caught five balls for 47 yards and Bramble four for 50. Nine different Big Green players caught passes.

“We did a good job spreading the ball around,” said Dalyn Williams. “It is fun when you’re throwing to many different receivers and the defense is unable to key on one guy. It’s extremely hard to defend. … It is fun to spread the ball around and see everybody have fun. It’s the reason I play the position. Trying to feed everybody.”

Williams finished 24-for-34 for 381 yards, just seven yards short of his career-high of 388 yards set in last month’s win over Yale. It was on Schoellkopf Field two years ago that he made his first career start in place of the injured Alex Park, leading Dartmouth to a 44-28 win.

“I would put him up there in terms of special offensive weapons in the Ivy League,” said Archer. “You’ve got (tailback Tyler) Varga and (receiver Deon) Randall at Yale that are very tough. Harvard’s tailback (Paul Stanton, Jr.), (quarterback Quinn) Epperly at Princeton and then Dalyn Williams at Dartmouth. Because he can extend plays, even if you have him, when you call exactly what you think should. He’s a kind of an X factor that way.

“The faster they can get him to graduate, that would be great.”

Williams still has another year left but he’s not looking any further ahead than Saturday’s game against Brown when the Big Green will be back at the business of taking care of business. Which the quarterback feels it accomplished Saturday.

“I would say that we did,” he said. “Offensively we hurt ourselves more than we should have with two interceptions. We left some yards out there, some points off the board…

 “We’ve got two more games and it’s two crucial games. We’ve got to stay prepared and go out there expecting to win and playing well. We did what we needed to do. We came away with a victory, and now it’s time to go home and do some homework.”

Smiling the whole way.

Monday, March 02, 2015

The Harvard Game Revisited

Editor's Note: Each day while Team BGA is soaking up some warm weather this site will repost game stories that appeared on the BGA Premium site last fall. Typos have been fixed and minor editing has cleaned up what was deadline writing ;-)

HANOVER – After Harvard rolled up 698 yards of offense and held Princeton scoreless until the final minute of last week’s romp in New Jersey it became clear that to beat the Crimson Saturday Dartmouth would have to play its best game.

Plain and simple, it didn’t.

The Big Green lost two fumbles and an interception while managing just one touchdown and a season-low 15 first downs against the Ivy League’s stingiest defense as the undefeated Crimson powered its way to a 23-12 win.

Harvard (7-0) took over sole possession of the Ivy League lead with its 11th consecutive win over Dartmouth. The Big Green dropped to 5-2 overall and into a three-way logjam for second in the Ivies with a 3-1 record.

“A game like this you’ve got to make a play,” a hoarse Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens said afterward. “They made more than we did, and that’s the end result.”

Making the most plays for Harvard was hard-running Paul Stanton, who carried 24 times for 180 yards and two touchdowns without being taken down behind the line even one time.

Stanton, a 5-foot-9, 190-pound junior with a terrific burst and surprising strength, exploded for a career-high behind the Crimson’s overpowering offensive line. Ironically, his previous career high of 145 yards came in last year’s win over Dartmouth.

 “He’s powerful, he’s explosive, he’ll kind of stay behind those big guys and then all of a sudden …  he’s off the edge,” said Teevens. “He will exploit a hole real quickly and he’s very powerful. You see him in a pile and the pile moves, and we’ve got big guys falling off him.”

Harvard set the tone for the game on its opening possession, driving 75 yards in nine plays to take an early 7-0 lead. The Crimson showed excellent balance, passing for 38 yards and running for 37 on the first drive, with Stanton going over from the 3.

“That was huge,” said Harvard coach Tim Murphy of the opening score. “It gave us, obviously, the distinct impression that as good a defensive unit as they are, we’ve got an outstanding offensive line. Paul is an outstanding back.

“We are a very balanced team so you have to defend the pass on every single snap and that combination allowed us to run the football against a team that was really doing a good job in the pass coverage today.”

Harvard finished with 237 yards rushing and 179 yards passing.

After going three-and-out on its first possession, Dartmouth scored its only touchdown of the day on its second. Dalyn Williams (16-of-26 for 210 yards and 37 net yards rushing) converted two third-down runs and passed for another as Dartmouth drove 72 yards on 14 plays.

Teaming with Williams on the drive was tailback, Kyle Bramble who caught a 20-yard pass on third-and-four, ran for 10 yards on a fourth-and-one at the Harvard 13, and then scored the touchdown on a two-yard run over right tackle to make it 7-6 with 52 seconds remaining in the opening quarter. It stayed that way when Ryan Delisle blocked the extra point.

Harvard, which shared the title with Princeton last year, then did what championship teams do and answered right back. Well-aware of Murphy’s fondness for trick plays, Dartmouth practiced defending the handoff-and-option pass during the week but the Crimson still managed to pull the play off for a touchdown against the Big Green for the second year in a row.

This time it was Semar Smith taking a handoff and running left, only to hand the ball to brother Seitu coming back across the field. The receiver pulled up near the hash marks to toss a 37-yard scoring pass to wide open tight end Anthony Firkser.

“We’d seen it in practice,” Teevens said of the play. “It wasn’t a complete surprise. It just surprised us at the moment. You’ve got to play each play and play your responsibility. Guys get excited and they want to do a little bit more than they should.”

Evan Chrustic blocked the Harvard PAT, leaving Dartmouth still within a touchdown at 13-6.

Although the Crimson lost dangerous dual-threat quarterback Conner Hempel to a shoulder injury early in the second quarter, it was the Crimson who would score next.

After a hard hit on a first-down completion to Victor Williams brought a fumble that turned the ball over to Harvard at the Dartmouth 23, Stanton and the Crimson’s big line took over again.

Following a short gain on a wide receiver reverse, Stanton carried four consecutive times, the last a two-yard run for a touchdown that made it 20-6 with the PAT.

Dartmouth responded with a 65-yard drive that lost momentum with a six-yard sack from the Harvard 12, and the Big Green had to settle for a 30-yard field goal by Alex Gakenheimer that made it 20-9 at the break.

Dartmouth had trailed previously unbeaten Yale, 24-14, at intermission earlier this season and gone on to a 38-31 win so no one in green was panicking.

“The thought at halftime was, we have been in this situation before,” said corner Vernon Harris. “We’ve been down before. We’ve certainly been in this situation plenty of times. We were just ready. We were hungry to go back out there and prove that we can definitely come back and win this game.”

The second half began with promise that they might do just that.

Aided by a 37-yard completion to Bramble down the right sideline, Dartmouth took the third-quarter kickoff and marched to the Harvard 6. But Dalyn Williams lost the ball on a third-down run and while the Big Green recovered it had to settle for a 22-yard field goal by Gakenheimer that made it a one-possession game again, at 20-12.

When Troy Donahue made a diving interception in front of the Dartmouth sideline to stop a Harvard drive at the Big Green 28, Murphy pulled backup quarterback Scott Hosch and reinserted Hempel, who had returned to the field after an X-ray proved negative. He would play the rest of the way.

Like Harvard, Dartmouth had to go to backup quarterback Alex Park when Williams was poked in the eye on the first series of the fourth quarter. Ironically the junior, who usually plays with a clear visor on his helmet, had taken it off after warmups because it was fogging up in the light rain.

Williams returned to the game for two plays after being hurt, but following a run of 12 yards and another for no gain he went to the sidelines for good.

He could only watch helplessly as Harvard restored the two-possession margin by driving 68 yards in 11 plays, the last a 33-yard field goal by Andrew Flesher with exactly six minutes remaining.

Dartmouth tried to answer as Park completed four-of-six throws to drive the Big Green to midfield, but Harvard linebacker Matt Koran’s hit jarred the ball loose from Bo Patterson a fraction of a second before he hit the ground on 12-yard completion and the Crimson recovered with 4:27 showing.

Dartmouth forced a three-and-out to get the ball with 2:37 left but after two Park completions Harvard’s Jordan Becerra sealed the Crimson win with an interception near midfield with 1:56 left.

“Harvard is a good football team,” said Teevens. “We had certainly high expectations and are disappointed with the outcome. I thought my guys played hard. We did some very good things, but just not enough of them.”

Dartmouth will return to action Saturday at 0-7 Cornell, which gave Princeton a surprisingly good game before falling, 38-27. Harvard, meanwhile, will be home to face winless Columbia, which dropped a 25-7 decision to Yale.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

The Columbia Game Revisited

Editor's Note: Each day while Team BGA is soaking up some warm weather this site will repost game stories that appeared on the BGA Premium site last fall. Typos have been fixed and minor editing has cleaned up what was deadline writing ;-)

NEW YORK CITY -- Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens didn’t waste any syllables summing up Dartmouth’s 27-7 win over Columbia on a gorgeous day at the northern tip of Manhattan.

“It was a win,” he said. “Every win is a good one. So now we head back home.”

Sixteen words issued in a clipped voice should tell you everything you need to know about what might have been an undistinguished performance, but one that lifted the Big Green (5-1) to 3-0 in the Ivy League heading into Saturday’s showdown with Harvard (6-0, 3-0). The winner will have sole possession of first place in the conference.

Columbia, which is in the midst of its worst stretch of football since going winless in 44 games in the mid-1980s, fell to 0-6 and 0-3 with its 17th consecutive loss.

With starting quarterback Dalyn Williams sidelined by a slight pull, Alex Park started his first game since Harvard two years ago. The senior played the whole way, completing 29-of-42 passes for 268 yards with two touchdowns for the Big Green, which scored on every first-half possession except two that were ended by interceptions.

But after building a 24-7 lead over the first 30 minutes Dartmouth could muster only a field goal in the second half against a Columbia team that had surrendered 44.2 points per game in the first half of the season.

In Dartmouth’s defense, it marched to the Lion 1 and 2 on its final two drives of the game, coming up short on a fourth-down run the first time, and letting the clock run out to end the game on the second.

For the first time all season the Big Green collected more yards (432-326) and more first downs (28-16) than an opponent, but for the second week in row it struggled to land that final knockout blow.

“We went out the first drive of the game and did really well,” said offensive lineman Jacob Flores. “Then I think we got complacent. We didn’t have that same attacking edge after that. But give them credit. They did some good things on defense, switching things up in the second half.”

Big Green junior Kyle Bramble topped the 100-yard mark for the second week in a row, running for a career-high 126 yards and one touchdown and catching six passes. Ryan McManus once again led Dartmouth with seven grabs for 76 yards while Victor Williams caught six passes for 68 yards and the first two touchdowns of his career.

While Park took the first-team snaps during practice leading up to the game, he didn’t learn for sure he would be stepping in for Williams until the bus ride down from Hanover on Friday. Williams probably could have played, Teevens acknowledged, but with Harvard on the horizon the Columbia game was a perfect opportunity to get Williams healthy and get Park some much-needed action.

“I give Alex a lot of credit,” the coach said. “He’s been watching Dalyn for a number of years now. … He was plugged in the whole time in support of the team, in support of his teammates. He’s a good leader for us. … To have him have an opportunity his senior year, I was happy for him.”

So was classmate Bo Patterson, who was on the receiving end of four Park aerials for 58 yards.

“I honestly think we have the two best quarterbacks in the league,” he said. “Alex did a great job out there.”

Park completed four of his first five passes before Bramble took an option pitch and tiptoed down the right sideline 33 yards for a 7-0 lead just 3:19 into the game.

Dartmouth’s second drive was shortcircuited when Park’s long throw toward Williams hung up in the breeze and was picked off. But after a three-and-out and a shanked Columbia punt that covered just 10 yards Park hit four consecutive passes, engineering a 54-yard march that was capped by Alex Gakenheimer’s 29-yard field goal.

Another three-and-out for the Lions and six consecutive Park completions later -- the last an 11-yarder to Victor Williams on a slant over the middle for the touchdown -- and Dartmouth had a 17-point bulge.

But just when it seemed the rout was on, Trevor Bell returned his second interception 32 yards to the Dartmouth 23. Columbia did its best to hurt itself with three penalties but quarterback Trevor McDonagh gunned a nine-yard pass to Andrew Dobitsch to make it a 10-point game again.

Dartmouth answered right back after a 56-yard Kirby Schoenthaler kickoff return. With 47 seconds left in the half, Park found Williams again, this time from 13 yards out to restore the 17-point lead.

Park finished the half 19-of-25 for 159 yards.

“I thought he played well,” said Teevens, who felt the quarterback was intercepted trying to make a play when a play wasn’t there to be made. “Sometimes a guy is just so excited to have an opportunity and wants to do so well. And then he settled down in the second half.”

The only points of the second half came after Vernon Harris picked off McDonagh in front of the Dartmouth bench and returned the interception 29 yard to the Columbia 24 late in the third period. Six plays and 17 yards later Gakenheimer came out and knocked a 24-yarder through the wickets.

The Lions marched twice deep into Big Green territory in the fourth quarter, but Will McNamara ended the first drive with an interception and Dartmouth’s bend-don’t-break defense kicked in and stopped the second after Columbia had driven from its own 1 to the 6 with 5:26 left.

The Lions didn’t exactly help their own cause with 10 penalties and two interceptions while going two-of-13 on third down conversions.

“Too many penalties in critical situations put us behind on downs,” said an embattled but proud Columbia coach Pete Mangurian. “A couple of drops. Turnovers at the wrong end of the field, not that there’s a good end. … But there are spots in the game that we can build on, feel good about. Things that happened out there that haven’t happened around here in a while. I certainly can’t fault their effort.

“I think this quells any rumors about this team not being committed to turning this thing and getting it the way we want it to go. I challenge anybody to say that they didn’t see every kid on the field playing as hard as he could possibly play and doing everything he could do until the end of the game. So we’ll take that for what it’s worth. To me it’s worth a lot, but ultimately the goal is to win the game and that didn’t happen.”

It did for Dartmouth, which is why Teevens wasn’t complaining despite the Big Green struggling more than he would have liked seven days before a critical contest against the defending Ivy League co-champions.

“We come away with a win and at the end of the day that’s what we’ll look at,” the glass-is-always-half-full coach said. “There are teaching points we will enforce with our players and we’ll play better next weekend.”

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Holy Cross Game Revisited

Editor's Note: Each day while Team BGA is soaking up some warm weather this site will repost game stories that appeared on the BGA Premium site last fall. Typos have been fixed and minor editing has cleaned up what was deadline writing ;-)
HANOVER — While he was pleased with Saturday’s 24-21 win over Holy Cross, don’t for a second think that Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens was happy with the way the Homecoming game over Holy Cross finished.
That said, there was a certain utility to the hard-luck Crusaders (2-6) battling back to turn a solid Big Green (4-1) win into a nailbiter.
“The way the game ended up today, our guys are not going to feel good about that,” said Teevens. “… When you win like this, sometimes it’s almost a blessing in disguise. You are happy that you won, but there’s a lot of things that you can use to really drive points home.”
Such as letting a game that the Big Green could have put away in the third quarter turn into something that had Dartmouth fans with heart issues reaching for their nitroglycerin pills. 
Clinging to a 10-6 halftime lead thanks to a 27-yard Alex Gakenheimer field goal and an 8-yard Ryan McManus touchdown reception, Dartmouth went three-and-out to start the second half. But the Big Green did get a little breathing room when Dalyn Williams hit tailback Kyle Bramble with a seven-yard touchdown pass on the ensuing 81-yard drive.
After a couple of penalties sabotaged a Holy Cross possession, the Big Green took advantage of a short field to march 48 yards for another score, with Brian Grove going in untouched from the 6 for an 18-point lead.
Then things got interesting.
Sophomore quarterback Peter Pujals ran and passed the Crusaders 93 yards in a marathon 17-play march for a touchdown that made it 24-13 with 8:30 left on the clock.
Dartmouth came right back and drove to the Holy Cross 42 where Teevens opted for what would have been the kill shot, going for it on a fourth-and-short-three at the Crusaders’ 42. The decision backfired when Holy Cross stopped Williams one yard short, and Dartmouth was tagged with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty on the play.
Instead of the Big Green icing the game, the Crusaders were back in business at the Dartmouth 45 with 3:48 remaining.
After Pujals completions of 25, 14 and six yards moved the Crusaders to the 7, the Holy Cross quarterback hit Brendan Flaherty for a touchdown to make it 24-19 with 2:15 left.
Needing a two-point conversion to be able to force overtime with a field goal, Pujals gave the ball to Flaherty sweeping the right side. A step or less from the sideline and a solid wall of green in front of him, Flaherty stopped, started back toward the middle of the field and then turned and burrowed through the Dartmouth defense for the two points.
Holy Cross coach Tom Gilmore would say later that the play was botched, but it didn’t matter because suddenly the Crusaders were an onside kick away from really making things interesting.
Hanover High School graduate Daniel Gorman recovered the Holy Cross kick but still the game wasn’t over. Two Crusader timeouts and a run that went out of bounds later, Dartmouth was punting from the Holy Cross 42.
Ben Kepley, who has turned punting inside the 20 into an art form, lobbed his kick to the Holy Cross 8 where it was fair caught with 1:25 remaining.
Stung by the back-to-back Crusader scoring drives, the Dartmouth defense finally slammed the door. Cody Fulleton and Corbin Stall sacked Pujals for a loss of three on first down. On second down heavy pressure forced Pujals to throw the ball away from his own end zone.
Kalif Raymond was open for a first down on the next snap but Pujals missed him and when the quarterback’s fourth-down pass was off target all Dartmouth had to do was run out the final 45 seconds to claim the win.
Although Dartmouth fans in the crowd of 7,335 were celebrating, Holy Cross still wasn’t giving up.
In their opener at Albany, the Crusaders lost the ball while running out the clock, with the Great Danes returning the fumble 79 yards for the winning touchdown. They knew the game wasn’t over.
Unlike Holy Cross, which handed the ball off at the end of its opener, Dartmouth was in a victory formation with Williams needing only to kneel twice to seal the win.
As it turned out, he had to kneel once and Kyle Bramble had to fall on the ball the other time to keep a Crusader from recovering it.
“It wasn’t a fumble,” said center Sean Ronan of the loose ball. “They actually slapped the ball out of my hand. I’m pretty sure that’s supposed to be a penalty on that. But it wasn’t called.”
It didn’t matter because a week after Dartmouth struggled to run the ball, Ronan and his mates up front paved the way for the Big Green to pile up 196 yards on the ground –a point of emphasis coming into the contest. Kyle Bramble led the way with 113 yards on 23 carries, his second 100-yard game of the season and third of his career.
Williams carried 14 times for 64 yards and hit 15-of-23 passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns. McManus again led the receiving corps with eight catches for 89 yards and the touchdown late in the first half.
Pujlas ran for 82 yards and completed 24-of-38 passes for 208 yards for Holy Cross but was intercepted by Frankie Hernandez and Troy Donahue.
For the fifth time in as many games this fall, the opposition outgained the Big Green (396 yards to 352) but for the fourth time in five games Dartmouth came out ahead anyway.
The Big Green evened the all-time series at 37-37-4 with a win that paid the Crusaders back for beating them on a last-minute field goal a year ago, 31-28.
 “That one left a really bad taste in our mouth,” said Donahue,“especially as a defense. That was one of our worst games of the year and we blew it at the end.
“We were kind of put back in that same situation – (stopping the) two-minute offense and this year we were able to get the stop. And as a result get the win. It’s a little bit of redemption because ever since I’ve been here we have had trouble with Holy Cross.”
Now it’s on to winless Columbia before returning to Hanover for a showdown with Harvard, which improved to 5-0 Saturday with a win over Lafayette.
Ronan isn’t concerned about a letdown in New York City Saturday against a team that has lost 16 consecutive games and the Big Green defeated a year ago, 56-0.
“It’s going to be a cliché, but that’s in the past,” he said. “We move on to the future. We’re going to prepare for every team as hard as we can, each and every week. It doesn’t matter if they are on a losing streak on a winning streak. We are going to come out there with 110 percent.”

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Yale Game Revisited

Editor's Note: Each day while Team BGA is soaking up some warm weather this site will repost game stories that appeared on the BGA Premium site last fall. Typos have been fixed and minor editing has cleaned up what was deadline writing ;-)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Dalyn Williams wasn’t in a mood to celebrate.

Don’t get the wrong idea. Williams was feeling pretty good about things after throwing for 388 yards and three touchdowns, running for one TD and thoroughly frustrating Yale defenders with critical third-down runs while helping Dartmouth ring up a 38-31 victory Saturday afternoon.

It’s just that Big Green’s junior quarterback, who cracked up the postgame press conference by mentioning he was hungry, didn’t think anyone should have expected a different outcome.

Even if Yale had been undefeated.

Even if the Big Green found itself in an early 21-7 hole.

Even if the Bulldogs had knocked off FBS Army the last time they played at the Yale Bowl.

Even if the Big Green just beat a Yale team that came into the game averaging 51 points a game and 631 yards of total offense, both tops in the nation.

Even if a 2-0 Ivy League record positions Dartmouth very nicely in the conference race and the 3-1 overall record matches the Big Green’s best four-game start since 1997.

“It’s two down, we’ve got five more to go,” said a ho-hum Williams. “There’s no time to celebrate…. This was expected.”

Dartmouth tied a back-and-forth game on a 35-yard field goal by Alex Gakenheimer with 7:30 remaining, got the ball back by forcing a three-and-out, and then took the lead for good on an 11-play, 63-yard drive capped by Williams' two-yard run with 2:20 to go.

Yale made things interesting by driving from its own 19 to the Dartmouth 37 with 1:15 left before three consecutive incompletions sealed the Bulldogs’ fate.

“Yale is a good football team,” said Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens. “Certainly they are ranked No. 1 in the country in terms of point production and yardage. We knew it was going to be a great challenge. We had to play well.”

Which they did, although the Bulldogs looked as good as their press clippings at the start, driving 59, 59 and 80 yards for touchdowns on their first three possessions

Williams’ 39-yard throw to Bo Patterson in the right corner of the end zone drew Dartmouth into a 7-7 tie midway through the first quarter, but as the midway point of the second quarter approached the Big Green was back down, 21-7.

Lighting the fuse for the Dartmouth comeback was senior Ryan McManus (12 catches for 188 yards and one touchdown), who fielded a Yale punt at the Big Green 40, squirted through the first line of tacklers and sprinted down the right side for a 60-yard return that made it 21-14 with 7:08 left in the half.

Although a 36-yard field goal would give Yale the 24-14 lead it would take into the locker room no one in a Dartmouth uniform was raising a white flag.

“The big thing at the half was just, hey, settle down,” Teevens said. “It’s not a panic state. There’s 30 more minutes to play. We have the ability to do the things we talked about. Just do your job.”

Which they hadn’t done particularly well in the first 30 minutes.

“We had a couple of picks we dropped,” Teevens said of the Big Green’s play in the opening half. “We had a penalty down in the end zone which ended up resulting in a Yale score. Don’t hurt ourselves. And then offensively, settle down. We got a little jittery and weren’t throwing the ball real well. We weren’t protecting real well. We just couldn’t run the ball an inch.

“It was, take a deep breath, get back to basics and fundamentals and execute. That’s what we did.”

Dartmouth got the first points of the second half after Vernon Harris intercepted Morgan Roberts (25-for-41 for 302 yards, three interceptions) at the Big Green 29 on a fourth-and-two pass. Five plays after a 42-yard completion to McManus, Williams found tailback Kyle Bramble wide open on a second-and-goal play from the 4, and that quickly Dartmouth was within 24-21.

Four minutes and a Yale three-and-out later, the Big Green had its first lead of the day.

Taking over at it own 17, Dartmouth got a 27-yard completion to Brian Grove on one play and a 17-yard run by the speedy tailback on the next, advancing the ball to the Yale 31.

After a one-yard completion to McManus, the sure-handed receiver got a step on Yale corner Dale Harris and Williams floated the ball into his arms for a 30-yard TD. With Gakenheimer’s kick Dartmouth was finally in front, 28-24, late in the third period.

The lead wouldn’t last long.

Aided by a blown coverage that saw tight end Leo Haenni get free down the middle for a 47-yard completion, Yale drove 84 yards for a one-yard touchdown run by Tyler Varga (20 carries for 105 yards) and a 31-28 lead two plays into the fourth quarter.

Stephen Dazzo’s diving interception of a batted pass at the Yale 46 set up the drive that led to Gakenheimer’s field goal that tied the game at 21, setting the stage for the final drama.

Three Yale plays that netted no yards and an offside penalty left Bulldogs punter Brian Holmes kicking with his back to the goal line and the Big Green with the potential of getting excellent field position. But Holmes’ kick soared 48 yards and with excellent coverage pushing return man McManus back four more yards, Dartmouth was forced to start at its own 37.

Three plays keyed what would be the winning drive.

On third-and-10 from the 37, Williams tossed a 40-yard pass to a well-covered McManus on the left sideline for a first down at the Yale 25.

On third-and-five at the 20, Williams tucked and ran for a seven yards and a first down at the 13.

And after a third-down completion to Kirby Schoenthaler came up one yard short of a first down it was Teevens and offensive coordinator Keith Clark calling Williams’ number and the solid 210-yard QB burying himself into the line, and, after at first appearing to be stopped, picking up the first down on a big second effort.

A nifty fake on a run from the three and Williams was crossing into the end zone. Dartmouth then made the final stop that sealed its biggest win in 17 years.

“We put ourselves in a hole and were able to climb out of it,” said Teevens. “We made some plays. It was fun just to see the maturation. Rather than panic it was, OK, we’ve got to go back and execute. We really could have said, Hey, we’re in trouble.

“It was just execution on both sides of the ball and certainly special teams. It was a big win for Dartmouth.”

And a bitter loss for Yale, which now has its back against the wall in a league that has seen a team with two conference losses win the championship just a couple of times.

“We had a chance at the start of the second half to put them away and we didn’t do it,” said Yale coach Tony Reno in a statement that might raise a few Dartmouth eyebrows. “So we let them hang around and they made some plays in the second half. We didn’t get off the field on defense and we didn’t convert on offense in some situations.

“It’s a tie game and they made a play at the end and we don’t…. They are a very good football team and when you have a chance to put a team like that away you’ve got to do it.”

Which is exactly what Dartmouth did.

The Big Green now returns home to face Holy Cross in a Homecoming matchup Saturday. Yale will be home against Colgate.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Penn Game Revisited

Editor's Note: Each day while Team BGA is soaking up some warm weather this site will repost game stories that appeared on the BGA Premium site last fall. Typos have been fixed and minor editing has cleaned up what was deadline writing ;-)

HANOVER – Granite helmets and gray pants aside, the hard-hitting, Dartmouth-Penn Ivy League opener had a familiar feel.

Except for the ending.

Quarterback Dalyn Williams scampered for three touchdowns, tailback Kyle Bramble for for 113 yards and another touchdown and the Dartmouth defense limited the Quakers to one touchdown and a couple of field goals as the Big Green posted a rain-soaked, 31-13 victory.

The game marked Dartmouth’s first win over Penn since 2007 and just the second in 16 years. The Big Green is now 2-1 overall and 1-0 in the Ivy League.

Penn, which dropped its final four games last year, is 0-3 this fall (0-1 Ivy League) and in the midst of its longest losing streak in retiring coach Al Bagnoli’s 23 years at the helm.

After surrendering the first points of the afternoon on a 54-yard pass to fullback Matt Schwartz midway through the first quarter, Dartmouth reeled off four touchdowns on a two-yard Bramble run and keepers of 9, 24 and 11 yards by Williams, to build a 28-7 lead with time running down in the second quarter.

A 28-yard field goal by Jimmy Gammill made it 28-10 at the half and while Dartmouth was held without a touchdown in the final 30 minutes, the defense made the lead stand up by allowing just a 37-yard Gammill field goal the rest of the way.

The win gives Dartmouth a head of steam as it heads to New Haven, Conn., next week for a key showdown with surprising Yale, which improved to 3-0 on the strength of a 51-13 walkover against Cornell.

“I think it’s huge,” Williams said of riding a 1-0 Ivy League record into the Yale Bowl. “Our coaches always say, `Win the first.’ You win the first and you put yourself in a good position to chase the title. You can look at last year. If we win that first game against Penn, it’s more than likely that we win the league. So this is huge.

“We not only control our destiny, but our morale is high, we are confident, and we are ready to face Yale.”

Coming off a 41-7 embarrassment at No. 6 Villanova – which rolled up the sidewalk after scoring all of its points in the first half – Penn got off to a much better start against Dartmouth.

The Quakers took the opening kickoff and hit seven short passes without a drop while marching to the Dartmouth 28, only to miss a 45-yard field goal attempt. Undaunted, after forcing a three-and-out they came right back and grabbed a 7-0 lead when first-year starting quarterback Alek Torgersen hit Schwartz with a short pass down the middle and the 220-pound fullback had just enough in the tank to hold off hard-charging safeties Steve Dazzo and Troy Donahue for the touchdown.

Torgersen finished the day completing 40-of-58 passes for 350 yards and one touchdown, but he was intercepted twice and sacked four times by Dartmouth’s bend-don’t-break defense.

The Big Green answered Penn’s opening score by immediately driving 79 yards on 11 plays, the last a 2-yard Bramble run with 4:56 left in the first quarter.

Dartmouth’s next two touchdowns came on short fields.

Donahue jumped a receiver and intercepted a pass in front of the Big Green sideline on Penn’s second play after the Dartmouth touchdown to set the home team up at the plus-39.

Five plays later Williams ran left and beat the last Quaker defender for a 14-7 lead before time ran out in the first quarter.

A fumble recovery by Frankie Hernandez at the plus-42 and a roughing-the-passer penalty for hitting Ryan McManus on an option throw set the Big Green up early in the second quarter for a 24-yard TD run by Williams, who stepped out of a shoestring tackle on his way to the end zone for a 21-7 lead.

Then it was Williams’ third-and-goal run from the 11 with 3:33 remaining in the first half capping a 70-yard drive and completing Dartmouth’s 28-point blitz.

“He’s always been an elusive kid,” said Bagnoli of Dartmouth's junior quarterback. “I think he was the difference in the game. Especially in the first half. We didn’t have as many answers for him. A lot of his plays were either quarterback draws or designed quarterback plays. We had him three times, third-and-10, and we couldn’t get off the field. He scored touchdowns on two of them.

“As result, instead of getting off the field, instead of having field goals, you scored two touchdowns in scenarios that statistically overwhelmingly favored the defensive side. It’s a credit to him.”

Penn drove from its 19 to the Dartmouth 1 at the end of the first half but couldn’t punch it and and had to settle for the field goal that left the visitors trailing by 18 heading into the locker room.

The Dartmouth defense rose up again early in the third quarter after a 53-yard completion got the Quakers into the red zone but all Penn could manage was Gammill’s 37-yard field goal.

With the rain getting heavier and the Big Green unable to pad its lead, the Quakers were lurking in two-possession range until Alex Gakenheimer’s 35-yard field goal with 14:35 left on the afternoon gave Dartmouth an 18-point lead.

And still Penn wasn’t done.

Torgersen completed all five of his passes to quickly drive the Quakers deep into Dartmouth territory. With 10:30 remaining, Penn was in position to cut the lead to a manageable 11 points when the Big Green caught a break . . . and the ball.

On first-and-goal from the 6, Torgersen’s pass to the goal line caromed off Donahue and back toward the line of scrimmage. An alert Brandon Cooper dove and caught it just off the ground for the interception that ended the march.

“A good football team, on the road,” summarized Bagnoli said. “Obviously, the elements they handled better than we did. We had our chances. Made some mistakes on both sides. Gave up some critical third-and-longs that ended up scoring plays, and weren’t able to get off the field. And then we turned the ball over and didn’t convert when we had opportunities down deep. So, we are still a work in progress.”

Although Penn finished with two more first downs than Dartmouth and outgained the Big Green, 383-325, the home team's defense held the Quakers to 39 net yards rushing and forced the mistakes that played a large part in the final result.

“I like their front four,” said Bagnoli. “I think they are pretty stout. It allows those second- and third-level guys to really get involved in the pass game. Their down kids are good. They are deep. They are physical kids. They do a nice job of playing run defense. They are a talented group.”

Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens was understandably pleased by his team’s performance although he would have breathed a little easier if the offense had tacked on another score or two in the second half.

“One of the things we talked about at the half was, just playing hard football,” he said. “Don’t worry about the score. Just learn to finish.… You kind of learn stuff like that. You are in a position to do it, now do it. Don’t get giddy that hey, we are ahead and we might win. Go finish the game.

“We didn’t do what we needed to do. The first two (drives of the second half) were three-and-out, three-and-out with the offense, and we allowed the ball to be driven the length of the field. You can’t do that. But we bowed up and ended up doing some nice things from that point forward.”