Monday, March 31, 2014

A Couple Of Classics*

The course is still covered by snow but it's not too early to start thinking about the annual Dartmouth Football Golf Classic,* which is slated for Saturday, June 14, on campus at Hanover Country Club.

Reunion classes in town will be 1973, '74, '75, '84, '89, '03, '04, '05 and '09.

If you are interested in helping out with one of the Classic* sponsorships or providing auction or raffle prizes, contact Curt Oberg '78.

To view or download a PDF copy of the Classic* golf flyer with information on sponsorship opportunities or to sign up and play, CLICK HERE.

* Um, it's not really a Classic. It's more of a fun afternoon and evening ;-)

With a week and a day until the start of spring football, here's a look back at how the 2013 season ended as reported on Big Green Alert Premium hours after the win over Princeton on Nov. 23. (Be sure to visit BGA Premium after each spring practice for a full report.)

Dartmouth States Its Case

HANOVER – Dartmouth football is back.

Although that elusive 18th Ivy League championship eluded the Big Green by inches this fall, the 28-24 win Saturday over a 19th-ranked Princeton team that ruined the Tigers’ hopes for the second perfect conference season in school history told the story.

Paced by a hard-hitting defense that held the nation’s second-highest scoring offense to a season-low point total, and a 239-yard, three-touchdown effort on the ground, Dartmouth denied Princeton the outright Ivy League title and forced the Tigers to share the trophy with Harvard, an easy winner over Yale earlier in the day.

A game that began under blue skies and finished with a blanket of snow on Memorial Field saw the Big Green improve to 6-4 overall and 5-2 in the Ivy League, the best conference record since 1997. Princeton, which had won eight consecutive games and topped 50 points in five of them, finished 8-2 overall and 6-1 in the conference.

“I told the guys, this was a statement game,” a hoarse coach Buddy Teevens said afterward. “It wasn’t the championship game (but) I believed we were a championship-caliber team. There were some things we didn’t do in (earlier losses) but it was a championship-environment. That’s how we prepared. I told them straight up, ‘You are going to send a message.’ ”

Dominick Pierre ran for 112 yards and one touchdown and quarterback Dalyn Williams slithered his way to 57 yards (82 before sacks and lost yardage) and two touchdowns for the Big Green. Princeton quarterback Quinn Epperly, who was completing a whopping 71.8 percent of his passes coming into the half, slipped below the 50 percent mark (26-for-53 with an interception) in a loss that clearly hurt.

Asked if the sting of the loss would go away with time given how far Princeton had come from a 1-9 season two years ago, Epperly didn’t even let the questioner finish before saying, “No.”

Caraun Reid, Princeton’s 305-pound defensive lineman who had three sacks and four tackles for loss, was equally dismayed with having to share the Ivy League trophy.

“It’s not what we wanted to do,” he said. “But we have to live with it.”

Princeton has made a habit of coming from behind this fall and Dartmouth made sure the Tigers would have to do it again by jumping out to a 21-0 lead by the early minutes of the second quarter.

After the Big Green went three-and-out on its first possession, Evan Chrustic and Cody Fulleton dropped Epperly for a 14-yard loss before a 28-yard punt into the wind set Dartmouth up at midfield. Pierre then set the tone for the game by battering Princeton with consecutive carries of 12, 35 and two yards before crashing over left tackle from the 1 for a 7-0 lead.

Dartmouth made it 14-0 before the Tigers  managed their second first down.

Facing a third-and-six at his own 44, Williams lofted a pass toward Bo Patterson down the right sideline. Dartmouth’s big-play receiver, who was strapped up because of a shoulder separation suffered just Thursday, got behind the Princeton corner and outraced safety Matt Arends for a 56-yard score.

The Big Green stretched its lead to 21-0 on its first possession of the second quarter as Princeton coach Bob Surace gambled on fourth-and-three at the Dartmouth 17 and Chrustic batted a pass at the line to end the threat.

A 41-yard burst on first down by Kyle Bramble – aided by a Patterson block – got the ball back across midfield and on his third carry of the drive from the 5, Williams started up the middle, darted left and ran in against the grain for the score.

Although Princeton was down three touchdowns, a team that trailed Brown, 17-0, only to roar back for a 39-17 win didn’t figure to panic. And a team that was down against Penn, 16-0, before coming win 38-26, didn’t.

A 75-yard drive capped by a five-yard Epperly touchdown pass got the Tigers on the board with 4:43 left in the second quarter. After Dartmouth went three-and-out to give the ball back to Princeton, the Tigers drove 65 yards in 12 plays, making it 21-14 at the half on Epperly’s one-yard run with 10 seconds to play.

Teevens’ message to his team during the break was to stay the course.

“Just relax fellas,” he told his players. “You are a better football team. Physically, do what we do, and they did. Earlier times guys would panic or get too excited about something. It’s a long game. As we said, ’30 hard, that’s what we need to do. Give 30-hard minutes of football.’ ”

After going three-and-out on the first possession of the second half, Princeton knotted the score on its second series, driving 73 yards in 14 plays, the last a 30-yard Epperly pass to Matt Costello.

With momentum on the Princeton side, Surace rolled the dice on the Tigers’ next possession, going for it on fourth-and-one at his own 44 only to see AJ Zuttah stonewall the 220-pound Epperly for no gain.

It took just four plays for Dartmouth to make the roll of the dice hurt as Williams hit Robbie Anthony for 16 yards and Pierre rushed twice for 11. Then, on first down at the 17, Williams kept up the middle, found open space to the left and dove for the pylon just ahead of would-be tackler Anthony Gaffney. 

With Alex Gakenheimer’s fourth extra point, Dartmouth had a 28-21 lead.

The Big Green defense made the lead hold up with a fourth-quarter stand that would have made the legendary 1970 team proud.

After Princeton got a first down at the 2 midway through the final period, Michael Runger (15 tackles) broke up Epperly’s first-down pass. On second down it was Elliot Kastner stopping Epperly at the 1. On third down it was Bronson Green stopping Epperly short, only to have a false-start penalty reset third down at the 6. This time it was a tip in the end zone and near interception that saved the day.

Facing a fourth-and-six, Surace sent in Nolan Bieck to kick a 23-yard field goal that drew the Tigers within four with 6:36 left. The Princeton coach made the decision to kick knowing that, with a strong wind in Dartmouth’s face, the Tigers would get excellent field position and have a chance for the go-ahead or winning score if their defense held.

But Dartmouth senior Chase Womack spoiled those plans by picking the perfect time to reel off the Big Green’s best kickoff return of the season. His 36-yard burst set Dartmouth up at the 39. While the home team could not manage a first down, Ben Kepley’s 36-yard punt into the wind and a fair catch turned the field around, forcing Princeton to start at its 23 with 5:36 on the clock.

After the Tigers made it into Dartmouth territory, Chrustic batted away another pass at the line, bringing up a fourth-and-seven from the Big Green 47. With 4:22 left, Surace opted for the punt and the field position game.

A Patterson fair catch on the 10, and the wind and snow blowing in Williams’ face made the Princeton decision to kick look smart. But Williams quickly got the Big Green out of jail by running for 37 yards on first down. It wasn’t until a 22-yard Brian Grove carry on a third-and-six pitch and three Princeton timeouts later that the Tigers finally got the ball back at their 24.

But with no timeouts, just 45 seconds remaining and snow so heavy that Epperly admitted he couldn’t see the signal from the sideline on one play, Princeton was going nowhere.

A Garrett Waggoner interception at the Dartmouth 37 on third-and-10 left the Big Green needing just one snap in victory formation to finish off arguably its biggest win in 16 years, a victory that came a week after a big win over Brown and just days after Teevens learned he would be back as coach next fall.

“It’s special, and it’s special for the players,” Teevens said. “It has been a good week. I am excited, relieved and I am certainly appreciative to have an opportunity to come back with guys like this. We have a number graduating. We have an awful lot of guys coming back that have played a lot of football. But with the culture that we have developed and formed, there is a toughness to these guys. There is a resilience. The last two games we could have gone either way against two pretty good opponents and we won two football games.

“There was never any doubt. We are past that point. We had to confront that years ago. And the guys believe they’re going to go out (and win). I told a bunch of people, and I’m not like this, I expected to win today.”

Because they did, the message was written in the snow on Memorial Field.

The Big Green is indeed back.