Wednesday, February 19, 2014

As Tough At It Gets

Editor's note: The regular BGA blog returns tomorrow. In the meantime, here's the full BGA Premium game story from last fall because 1) the game deserved it, and 2) so you get a sense about what you'll find on BGA Premium in the fall. This story was posted, along with a sidebar, the night of the game. There was a follow story about the game on Sunday.

Oct. 5, 2013, Philadelphia, Pa. – Penn 37, Dartmouth 31 (4 ot)

PHILADELPHIA – If you thought Dartmouth couldn’t suffer a more agonizing loss to Penn than it did two years ago when the Quakers drove 89 yards on their final possession to win on a touchdown with 17 seconds remaining, think again.

If you thought battling back from a 20-0 deficit to get within one possession last fall only to see Penn run out the clock just when the game was in reach was as painful as it could get for the Big Green, think again.

If you thought nothing that could happen in Philly that would ever hurt any more than it hurt when the Quakers beat Dartmouth on a quarterback sneak in overtime the last time the teams played here, think again.

On the brutally hot Franklin Field turf, the Big Green had the presumptive Ivy League favorites seemingly beaten three times during the longest game in conference history Saturday only to see the Quakers wriggle away with a 37-31 win in four overtimes.

Reserve running back Kyle Wilcox matched his season rushing total coming into the game with a 20-yard sprint around right end on a third-and-five play for the touchdown that put an end to a 3-hour, 49-minute marathon that kept Dartmouth winless in Philadelphia since 1997.

“It doesn’t feel good,” said Dartmouth linebacker Michael Runger, who led both teams with 13 tackles and his first interception of the year. “I mean, yeah, it kind of hasn’t really sunk in yet what the result is. It just kept on going. . . .  A lot of guys played well and it will hurt a little bit more as it starts to sink in.”

Dartmouth drops to 1-2 overall and 0-1 in the Ivy League with its third one-possession game in as many tries this fall. Penn, which is bidding for its fourth Ivy title in five years and to tie the Big Green’s record of 17 conference championships, improved to 2-1 overall and 1-0 in the league after Dartmouth let three golden opportunities to win the game slip through its collective fingers.

• Given a life when a 51-yard Penn field goal fluttered harmlessly short with 1:21 remaining, the Big Green used five consecutive completions by Dalyn Williams (26-of-46 for 292 yards and two touchdowns) and a four-yard run by the quarterback to move the ball to the Penn 20. On second-and-six, Williams carried to the four only to be stopped on a saving tackle by Penn’s Dylan Muscat. With no timeouts left and the final seconds winding down, Williams had to spike the ball to stop the clock and send Riley Lyons out for a 21-yard field goal to win the game.

But Penn linebacker David Park, who had rumbled 84-yards for a touchdown after a Williams fumble midway through the second quarter, rose up and blocked the chip shot field goal to force overtime.

• Winning the coin flip for the overtime, Dartmouth stopped Penn short of a first down on third-and-one at the five and yet again on fourth-and-one.

Needing just a field goal to win after the defensive stand, the Big Green could only look on in disbelief as a 34-yarder sailed wide left.

• Dartmouth’s third chance to win the game came after Dominick Pierre (151 yards rushing, 43 receiving) rumbled 12 yards for a first down at the 12. One play later Williams hit Kirby Schoenthaler (team-high eight catches for 65 yards) with a 12-yard strike and a 28-21 lead with the PAT.

But once again the Quakers dodged the bullet. Facing a third-and-12 at the 27 on an obvious passing down, Penn quarterback Billy Ragone dropped back, took off to the right and turned upfield. Big Green defenders finally closed in on him as he neared the goal line but the fifth-year senior plowed through for the touchdown that tied the game yet again with the PAT.

• Dartmouth appeared to take the lead in the fourth overtime when Pierre escaped a tackler on the left side on a throw-back and scored from the 11. But a personal foul call nullified the play. A a six-yard completion and a five-yard sack later, the Big Green’s 43-yard field goal attempt was wide left.

Even if the kick had split the uprights, though, it wouldn’t have helped as Penn’s Wilcox, who was switched to defensive back in spring ball a couple of years ago and then returned to the offense that fall, took a handoff intended to go over tackle, broke it outside and sprinted down the sideline for the winning touchdown.

Penn ended Dartmouth’s seven-game winning streak – second-longest in the nation – by defeating the Big Green for the 14th time in the last 15 meetings.

“We came down and we played hard,” said Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens. “I am very proud of our offense, our defense, our special teams effort across the board. They did everything they could. A couple of opportunities we just misfired on cost us a ballgame.

 “But we came down and played the way I anticipated, and I expect us to continue that style of play from this point forward.”

So does Penn coach Al Bagnoli.

“It was two good football teams,” said the dean of Ivy League coaches. “I give Dartmouth a lot of credit.. . .  I thought they played well enough to win. We caught a couple breaks. I thought our kids hung in there really well. We have kids that somehow, some way, find a way to get things done. . . .  We were very fortunate.

“I think Dartmouth is a legitimate football team that is going to cause everybody problems this year. I think they do a lot of really good things from a coaching perspective, how they utilize their personnel. It was a great game if you are a spectator. If you are a coach on either side, it had so many highs and lows and peaks and valleys, you don’t know how to react. Really, it was the last man standing.”

Dartmouth opened the scoring after Andrew “Troy” Donahue picked off Ragone’s second pass to give the Green possession at the Penn 26. Six plays later Pierre burst over from the 1.

Penn answered on the ensuing series with help from a 52-yard Ryan Mitchell pass from Ragone (17-of-28 for 213 yards with one TD and two interceptions). Ragone hit Ty Taylor from four yards out to make it 7-7 after one period.

Penn took a 14-7 lead when Williams dropped back to pass at the Quakers’ 16 and his arm was hit by defensive back Sam Chwarzynski. Park, who would block the potential gamewinning field goal, grabbed the bounding ball on one bounce and set off toward the Big Green end zone. Well ahead of the chasing Dartmouth players with an escort between him and the would-be tacklers, the 240-pound linebacker slowed to a crawl with about 20 yards to go but somehow made it the rest of the way.

The Big Green had a golden opportunity to tie the game before halftime after a defensive three-and-out, a short punt and Bo Patterson’s 10-yard return set the visitors up midfield with 2:38 remaining.

But after a 17-yard Williams run for a first down, the quarterback and Dean Bakes just missed on a pass in the end zone. On fourth-and-two at the Penn 25 the Big Green eschwered the field goal, rolled the dice and saw Penn’s Evan Jackson knock away a pass intended for Victor Williams as the half ended with Penn leading, 14-7.

The Big Green made it 14-all after Runger’s interception gave Dartmouth the ball at the Penn 44 early in the third period. Pierre did the bulk of the work with consecutive carries of 8, 14, 6 and 3 yards on the drive before Williams hit a tumbling Bakes from the 11.

Penn answered right back with a 78-yard march capped by a three-yard run by reserve tailback Mike Elespuru to make it 21-14 after three quarters.

Dartmouth evened the score at after Pierre exploded up the middle on a 58-yard burst before being hauled down at the two. On the next snap Williams kept on a run to the right to tie the game with 10:18 to play.

The Big Green seemed poised to break the tie when Williams drove Dartmouth from its own 20 to the Penn 22 on its next possession only to see the Big Green quarterback throw the first interception of his career.

Undaunted, he marched Dartmouth right back down the field the next time he touched the ball only to see the winning field goal blocked.