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Fourth-Quarter Comeback Lifts Dartmouth Past Yale 38-31

Deon Randall. (photo by Jack Warhola)
Deon Randall. (photo by Jack Warhola)

Roberts Runs for Two TDs, Throws for Another

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Two football teams with Ivy League title aspirations met on an overcast afternoon Saturday at the Yale Bowl, Class of 1954 Field, and a late touchdown by Dartmouth ultimately proved decisive as the Big Green edged Yale 38-31. The win enabled the Big Green -- which trailed 24-14 at halftime -- to join Harvard as the only 2-0 teams in league play.

"This was a battle, two teams battling for 60 minutes," said Tony Reno, Yale's Joel E. Smilow '54 Head Coach of Football. "We had a chance, starting the second half, to put them away. We didn't do it. Tie game, they make a play [at the end] and we don't."

Both teams won their Ivy League openers last weekend, setting the stage for Saturday's game to provide some early separation in the standings between the two teams. Dartmouth had beaten Penn last Saturday for the first time since 2007, meaning the Big Green was in somewhat unfamiliar territory as it attempted to start the season 2-0 in league play. Yale, meanwhile, had cruised past Cornell 51-13 -- the second time in three games the Bulldogs had topped the 50-point mark.

The first three Yale drives Saturday made it look like the Bulldogs would surpass that 50-point mark again. After the Bulldog defense opened with a pair of sacks (by senior defensive end Jeff Schmittgens and freshman defensive end Earl Chism), the offense took over at the Yale 41. Senior tailback Tyler Varga immediately broke off a 21-yard run down a wide-open right side of the field. Seven plays later, junior quarterback Morgan Roberts scored on a four-yard keeper, breaking a tackle at the goal line. Senior placekicker Kyle Cazzetta booted the extra point and Yale led 7-0.

That lead lasted for just two minutes, though. Big Green quarterback Dalyn Williams showcased his scrambling ability by taking off on an 11-yard run on third-and-five to keep the chains moving (he would finish the day with a team-high 19 carries). That got the ball to the Eli 39, and Williams then launched one to wide receiver Bo Patterson in the end zone to tie the score.

Yale's next drive featured a crucial 16-yard completion on fourth-and-seven from the Dartmouth 33, as Roberts found senior wide receiver Grant Wallace. Two plays later a tipped pass was intercepted in the end zone, but that play was negated by a personal foul call on the Big Green. Two plays after that, Roberts scored on another keeper to get the lead back to seven.

The Bulldogs extended the lead with their longest drive yet -- an 80-yarder -- that started near the end of first quarter and concluded with Varga hauling in an eight-yard touchdown pass from Roberts with 12:08 left in the second quarter. The Bulldogs were thus three-for-three, scoring TDs on their first three drives of the game.

After that, the Big Green defense -- which allowed a league-best 17.7 points per game in league games last year -- got stingy. Dartmouth (3-1, 2-0 Ivy League) got back in the game by forcing the first Yale punt of the afternoon, which wide receiver Ryan McManus returned 60 yards for a touchdown.

Yale answered with a 36-yard field goal by Cazzetta -- helped by junior holder Logan Scott corralling a high snap -- to make it 24-14 Bulldogs with 3:57 left in the half.

The Bulldogs got the ball back right before the end of the half when sophomore cornerback Spencer Rymiszewski intercepted a tipped pass at the Yale 17 and returned it to the Yale 41. But an interception by Dartmouth strong safety Troy Donahue ended that drive, and the Yale lead remained 10 at halftime.

Yale's second drive of the third quarter ended with another interception, this one by cornerback Vernon Harris at the Dartmouth 29. The Big Green then drove for a touchdown, scoring on a four-yard toss from Williams to running back Kyle Bramble with 6:12 left in the quarter.

Williams continued making big plays as the third quarter wore on. Dartmouth's next drive feature a 27-yard completion to running back Brian Grove and a 30-yard completion to McManus for a touchdown that gave Dartmouth a 28-24 lead with 2:04 left in the quarter.

In addition to his game-changing punt return, McManus led all receivers with 12 catches for 188 yards.

A 47-yard completion from Roberts to sophomore tight end Leo Haenni helped Yale drive to the Dartmouth 14 as the fourth quarter began. Two plays into the fourth Varga carried the ball right, juked away from one tackler at the five and pushed another one back into the end zone while scoring his second touchdown of the day and ninth of the year (eight rushing, one receiving).

Yale had the lead back, 31-28, with 14:39 remaining in the game. That also marked the first time in nearly two years that Dartmouth had allowed an Ivy League team 31 or more points in regulation.

Freshman defensive tackle Jack Rushin and Chism came up with back-to-back sacks on Dartmouth's next drive, forcing a Big Green punt. But four plays into the next Bulldog drive Dartmouth free safety Stephen Dazzo grabbed a tipped pass for an interception. That set up a 35-yard field goal by Alex Gakenheimer that tied the game 31-31 with 7:30 to play.

The Big Green got the ball back with 6:21, but faced a pair of third-down conversions and a fourth-down conversion on the ensuing drive. Dartmouth got the plays it needed, however, thanks in large part to Williams. On third-and-12 from the Dartmouth 35, he heaved one down the left sideline that McManus made a spectacular diving one-handed grab on, finishing with a 40-yard completion. Then, on third-and-five from the Yale 20, Williams ran for seven yards. And on fourth-and-one from the Eli four, he kept his feet moving enough to surge forward on a keeper for a pair of yards. On the next play he scored to put the Big Green ahead by a touchdown with 2:20 to play.

"He is a great player," said Rymiszewski. "I've got a lot of respect for their team and their offense. He made some plays and we didn't."

 Yale's next drive ended with four straight incompletions from the Dartmouth 37, the last of which enabled Williams to come out and take a knee twice to seal the victory. He finished with a career-high 388 yards passing, helping overcome the fact that the Big Green ran for just 46 yards on the Bulldogs defense.

"Yale did a great job shutting down the run," said Dartmouth head coach Buddy Teevens. "There wasn't a whole lot of space. Going into the game we felt we would have to throw the ball more."

Roberts finished with 302 yards passing for Yale, while Varga had 105 yards rushing and senior wide receiver Deon Randall, Yale's captain, had 106 yards receiving. The Yale defense registered seven sacks, led by a pair from Chism.

Yale (3-1, 1-1 Ivy League) hosts Colgate next Saturday at 1:00 p.m.

Report by Sam Rubin '95 (sam.rubin@yale.edu), Yale Sports Publicity