Football leaves it late vs. Columbia
By Brett Drucker, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Monday, October 22, 2012
Thanks to a dramatic 91-yard touchdown drive in the final three minutes of the game, the Dartmouth football team left Columbia University with a 21-16 win on Saturday. The Big Green (4-2, 2-1 Ivy) ruined the Lions’ (1-5, 0-3 Ivy) homecoming celebration with a come-from-behind victory that kept the team in contention for a conference title. With perennial powers the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University being upset on Saturday by Yale University and Princeton University, respectively — the latter a shocking 39-34 loss in which Princeton scored four touchdowns in the final 12 minutes to erase a 24-point fourth-quarter deficit — Dartmouth now sits in a three-way tie for second in the Ancient Eight behind only the league-leading Tigers (3-0 Ivy).
While the Big Green did not overcome a double-digit fourth quarter deficit, Dartmouth did stage a comeback of its own, as a touchdown from Columbia running back Marcorus Garrett gave the Lions a 16-14 lead with 2:46 to play. Quarterback Alex Park ’14 and the Big Green offense got the ball at the Dartmouth nine-yard line down 16-14, and while the Big Green only needed a field goal for the win, the team still needed a significant drive to get into range for an attempt. After an incomplete pass on first down, Park began a streak of four consecutive completions to Ryan McManus ’15 that was only broken by his own 13-yard run. McManus displayed his athleticism on several of the catches, including a 31-yard reception in which McManus streaked down the right sideline and fought off a defender to catch the ball.
McManus’ final catch took the Big Green down to the Columbia 15, but instead of killing the clock and waiting for a field goal try, Dartmouth continued to press, and a seven-yard completion to Victor Williams ’16, coupled with a roughing the passer penalty, gave Dartmouth first and goal at the Columbia four-yard line.
“Ryan is one of the best receivers in the league, and he has really developed this year,” Park said. “I know I can trust him in tough situations.”
After an illegal procedure penalty, Park found tight end Dean Bakes ’14 in the end zone on the next play to give Dartmouth a 21-16 lead with 1:09 to play. It was Bakes’ first reception of the season.
“It was a really strong team effort and an emotionally charged [final] drive,” co-captain Patrick Lahey ’12 said. “Park made some good decisions, the wide receivers made some good plays and the offensive line played solid as well.”
Park added that the Big Green was prepared to seize the moment when it came.
“We had worked on those situations in practice a lot,” Park said. “It was just one play at a time and trying to move the chains.”
The Big Green was not out of danger yet, however, as an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for spiking the ball and a kickoff out of bounds gave Columbia the ball back at midfield with 1:09 remaining. The Lions were looking to mount their own dramatic touchdown drive.
When it came down to crunch time, though, the Dartmouth defense made the plays that counted, most importantly when defensive lineman John Golio ’13 dropped Columbia quarterback Sean Brackett for a 10-yard loss to set up a third and 30 from the Columbia 40. Two plays later, Stephen Dazzo ’15 grabbed the Big Green’s first interception of the season on a hopeless fourth and 30 heave from Brackett to seal the win.
“We know that we have the capability to close out games,” Lahey said. “When we weren’t making plays as an offense, luckily we were able to lean on the defense who played great all day.”
The game started on a difficult note for Dartmouth, as Park was intercepted on the team’s first drive, but the junior regained control, finishing the day 20-for-28 for 197 yards, a touchdown and no further interceptions.
Both offenses could not get going in the early stretch of the game, and the teams headed into the second quarter scoreless. The Big Green struck first just under three minutes into the second with a Dalyn Williams ’16 touchdown run from one yard out to give Dartmouth an early 7-0 advantage. The Big Green couldn’t hold on, however, and gave up a field goal on the next possession and a touchdown as the first half wound down to find itself down 10-7 at halftime.
The third quarter continued in the same vein, with the punting units for both teams seeing lots of action until Williams hit Bo Patterson ’15 for a 67-yard touchdown strike with 1:35 remaining in the quarter. Williams appeared to be rolling out to run an option with running back Brian Grove ’16 trailing close behind until he stepped back and hit Patterson streaking down the sideline for the go-ahead score.
Going into the fourth quarter, the Big Green defense had done a stellar job containing Garrett, who ranks second in the Ivy League with 615 rushing yards. But with 4:50 left in the game, Dartmouth’s luck ran out, and Garrett broke free for a 14-yard touchdown to give the lead back to Columbia, setting the stage for what may be remembered as one of the signature moments of the season for the team.
Despite the closeness on the scoreboard, Dartmouth controlled much of the game statistically, racking up 411 yards on offense while only surrendering 220 to Columbia.
“As a defense, we had been emphasizing in our gameplan taking away the run first and to make them beat us in the air,” co-captain Bronson Green ’14 said. “We were very successful in that for most of the game.”
Star running back Dominick Pierre ’14 returned to action after missing two games due to injury and was productive with 52 yards on seven carries before reinjuring himself reaching for extra yardage in the first half. Grove picked up most of the ensuing carries, ending with 56 yards on 16 touches.
Next week, the team returns to Hanover for the Homecoming game against Harvard (5-1, 2-1 Ivy), which just saw its NCAA Division I-leading 14-game winning streak snapped by Princeton, leaving the Ivy League title race wide open.
“The comeback just makes us super excited for Harvard at Homecoming next weekend when we’ll look to do the same thing to them that Princeton did and look at bringing a title back for the program,” Lahey said.
The game, just the third night contest in Memorial Field history, will kick off at 5 p.m. on Saturday and will be televised regionally on Comcast Sports Network New England.