Battle of Unbeatens Goes to Green
HANOVER, N.H. – Yale scored 27 points and rolled up 433 total yards against the fourth best defense in the FCS. The Bulldogs also had a 21-point lead in the first half and was a few critical play executions away from registering a Homecoming Day knockout punch on the road but fell 28-27 to Dartmouth in a battle of unbeatens.
The Elis led the game from late in the first quarter until there was less than a minute to play in the fourth. That's when Jack Heneghan connected with Drew Hunnicut on a fourth-down, 15-yard scoring play that put the Big Green (4-0, 2-0 Ivy) a point-after away from their first lead.
The Blue, which took a 24-7 advantage into halftime, held a 27-14 lead for much of the second half. The home squad scored twice in the last six minutes, a 14-point swing that might have been insignificant if not for a few memorable plays that went against Yale.
The first was a pass play in the end zone involving senior TE Jaeden Graham that was ruled incomplete but appeared to be in bounds on the Bulldogs' first possession of the second half. The other was a third-down roughing the passer call against the Elis late in the fourth quarter.
"I knew it was going to be a battle," said Tony Reno, Yale's Joel E. Smilow '54 Head Coach. "You have to be ready to win until the last play. Dartmouth made the play in the end, I give them a lot of credit for making that play."
It was billed as a battle of the nation's third best scoring offense against the Ivy's best defense, and the visitors were winning that contest for nearly three quarters. It began with a 46-yard scoring pass from sophomore QB Kurt Rawlings (24-for-39, 283 yards, 3 TDs, 2 int) to senior WR Christopher Williams-Lopez, who led all receivers with 10 catches for 146 yards.
Williams-Lopez set up the next Yale score with a long play before first-year WR Melvin Rouse II found the end zone on a four-yard bubble screen. The 14-0 lead became three TDs when Rawlings floated a pretty lead pass to rookie RB Zane Dudek, who enjoyed his first scoring pass play from 22 yards out.
Yale showed it could overcome adversity in a number of situations despite the outcome. After the Dartmouth defense produced its first points on a pick-six, Rawlings and his outstanding offensive line moved the chains again to set up an Alex Galland field goal as time expired in the first half, the first of two three-pointers by the junior kicker who also had a big day punting.
The Green scored a TD early in the third before the Bulldogs had to settle for a field goal, following the near scoring catch by Graham. That 13-point advantage nearly lasted long enough for the Blue to remain undefeated, and the defense was a big reason.
Yale's front, which now has more sacks in four games than it had in all of 2016, held back Dartmouth for three quarters with constant pressure. In fact, there were a pair of fourth-down plays that had the visitor's side of the field preparing for a happy ending. Early in the fourth quarter on a fourth-and-six from the Yale 14, senior DB Jason Alessi picked off a pass in the end zone after a long Dartmouth drive. On the Green's next possession, sophomore DE Sean Kissel blew up a fourth-and-one shuttle pass from the Yale 40.
It was unlikely that many people on the other side of Memorial Field felt like they had a chance at that point. Crazy things happen, and the Bulldogs did not get the last bite today.
"We didn't execute. We didn't execute the way we did in the first half. The bottom line is, we didn't close them out. We had an opportunity to close them out on two or three occasions," said Reno, whose team hosts Holy Cross next Saturday at 1 p.m.
Jaeden Graham nearly had a TD catch in three straight games. His scoring receptions over the last two weeks made him the first Bulldog TE to do that since Nate Lawrie in 2002… DE J. Hunter Roman, DE Charles Callender and LB Matthew Oplinger each had sacks… Both Yale and Dartmouth received votes in this week's STATS FCS national poll… The Ivy League's .813 non-conference win percentage leads the FCS and is second overall in Division I behind the SEC (.816)… In other league action: Columbia beat Marist, Penn fell at CCSU, Stetson knocked off Brown, Princeton blasted Georgetown and Cornell edged Harvard.
Filed by Steve Conn, Yale Associate AD/Sports Publicity Director