Lyons ’15 nails clutch field goal
By Brett Drucker, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Monday, September 24, 2012
With a last-second field goal by Riley Lyons ’15, the Big Green overcame a 10-point deficit to defeat the College of the Holy Cross, 13-10, on Saturday at Fritton Field in Worcester, Mass., during the Crusaders’ homecoming game. The Big Green (2-0) and the Crusaders (0-3) played in a defensive battle for most of the contest, failing to break a 10-10 deadlock in the second half until the final field goal as time nearly expired.
The contest seemed destined for overtime as Holy Cross had possession of the football on its own 28-yard line with 22 seconds left in the game. On third-and-14, Crusaders backup quarterback Ryan Laughlin dumped the ball off to receiver Sam Auffant, who was met by Dartmouth cornerback Vernon Harris ’16. Harris knocked the ball loose and gave the Big Green the ball at the Crusader’s 31-yard line.
“That’s what we call a ‘splash play’ because it makes a splash in the game,” co-captain and safety Garrett Waggoner ’13 said. “It’s a huge momentum changer and it energizes the team.”
Dartmouth signal-caller Alex Park ’14 quickly completed a surgical strike for 17 yards to Ryan McManus ’15 to set the stage for a field goal try by Lyons, who had connected on a 34-yard attempt earlier in the game. After a timeout from Holy Cross, Lyons drove the kick straight through the uprights from 31 yards out to give Dartmouth the win with just one second left on the clock. For his clutch kick, Lyons was awarded the Johnny Turco Memorial Trophy as the Most Valuable Player of Holy Cross’ homecoming.
“I’ve never had the opportunity to kick a game-winner, even in high school,” Lyons said. “Coach [Buddy] Teevens told me during the timeout, ‘This is why you play the game.’ I had been hoping for an opportunity like this.”
The victory snapped the Big Green’s four-game losing streak in Worcester while also evening up the all-time series against the Crusaders at 36-36-4. The win also extended Dartmouth’s current winning streak to five games, which dates back to last season and is the Big Green’s longest winning streak since 1997.
“It was a great team win,” co-captain and offensive lineman Pat Lahey ’12 said. “It’s especially nice to see young players like Harris make really big plays.”
Holy Cross got off to a strong start as quarterback Laughlin — who was replacing the injured Kevin Watson — methodically drove the ball 59 yards in 14 plays for a touchdown. The Crusaders scored again on their next drive to take a quick 10-0 lead by the end of the first quarter.
“We made a lot of mistakes in the first half,” Lahey said. “It was also a tough atmosphere to play in — homecoming at their place.”
In the start of the second quarter, the Big Green had a scare as quarterback Park was hit hard and left the game. Backup Dalyn Williams ’16 stepped in and provided the Dartmouth offense with a spark in the form of a 39-yard completion to a diving Michael Reilly ’12 on a third-and-13 play, giving the Big Green its first trip of the afternoon into the red zone. The drive was finished off by a three-yard touchdown run from Dominick Pierre ’14 to bring Dartmouth within three.
On the next drive, the Big Green defense came up with a huge stop, stuffing Laughlin on a quarterback-sneak on fourth-and-one to get the ball back for the Big Green offense. After the first quarter, the Big Green defense buckled down and allowed just six Holy Cross first downs for the final three quarters. Led again by Williams, the offense helped set up a Lyons field goal to knot the score at 10. Thanks to two more stops on fourth downs by the Dartmouth defense, the score remained tied at halftime.
“The defense made a great stand at the end of the first half and kept it going for the rest of the game,” Lahey said. “They really showed up and slowed the Holy Cross offense a lot and kept us in the game.”
Both offenses struggled to move the ball in the second half, repeatedly wasting good field position. Dartmouth had consecutive drives starting at midfield and at its own 45-yard line but could not come away with points.
“We shot ourselves in the foot a few times because it really comes down to execution,” Lahey said. “You have to learn how to capitalize on those opportunities.”
The Big Green is off to a 2-0 start for only the second time since the turn of the century, with the only other instance coming in 2010.
Coming for for Dartmouth is a clash against the University of Pennsylvania in Hanover next weekend. The Quakers (0-2) narrowly defeated the Big Green last season, 22-20, in Memorial Field’s inaugural night game. The game will kick off at noon on Saturday and will be nationally televised on NBC Sports Network.
The original version of this article incorrectly referred to the College of the Holy Cross as Holy Cross University.