A year after Dartmouth blemished the Yale football team’s record with a fourth quarter touchdown, the Bulldogs seemed destined to write a new ending this weekend.
Things were different from a year ago: Yale hosted instead of Dartmouth, quarterback Morgan Roberts ’16 was under center after the graduation of Henry Furman ’14 and the Yale offense entered play as the most proficient scoring attack in all of Division I football.
Yet much to the dismay of the Elis, the result remained the same. Dartmouth (3–1, 2–0 Ivy) left the Yale Bowl the victors yet again, overcoming an early two-possession deficit and leaving the Bulldogs (3–1, 1–1 Ivy) down in the dumps following the 38–31 loss.
“It was a battle,” Yale head coach Tony Reno said. “They’re a good team — they’re a very good football team — and we had a chance to put them away, but we didn’t do it today.”
Ultimately, the Elis lost because Dartmouth quarterback Dalyn Williams proved hard to stop, putting up over 400 yards of total offense.
Typically known for his legs, the dual-threat signal caller set a career-high with 388 yards on 32 completions. Though Dartmouth managed just 46 rushing yards on 31 carries for a measly 1.5 yards per attempt, the Big Green’s passing attack gave the Bulldogs’ secondary trouble all afternoon.
“We have a lot of respect for that team, for their offense,” Yale cornerback Spencer Rymiszewski ’17 said. “[Williams] made some crucial plays at crucial times.”
For much of the game, it looked as if the Bulldogs might extend their perfect record to 4–0. On a dreary New Haven day, neither the chilly weather nor the Big Green defense could cool down the red-hot Bulldogs’ offense early on.
Yale’s first three drives down the field resulted in three touchdowns, something Yale supporters have gotten used to this season. Coming into the game, the Bulldogs averaged 51.3 points per game as well a staggering 631 yards per contest. In comparison, Dartmouth entered Saturday averaging just 326 total yards per game.
Against the Big Green, Roberts picked up where he left off in last week’s game versus Cornell, scoring twice on the ground and once through the air and orchestrating a 21–7 Yale advantage that would turn out to be the largest lead of the game for either squad.
“It does burn a little more [after such a quick start],” Reno said. “The burn that I feel, [that] the kids feel right now is going to help us continue to improve.”
The turning point Saturday may not have been the 14–0 third quarter scoring advantage for Dartmouth that converted a 10-point deficit at halftime into a three-point lead entering the final quarter. Instead, it may have come on Yale’s fourth drive of the game.
Looking to drive down the field once more and potentially give themselves a three-possession lead, the Bulldogs got in their own way. Facing a second-and-six from the Yale 24-yard line, Roberts dropped back and connected with wide receiver Grant Wallace ’15 for a gain of 10 yards, good enough for a first down.
However, referees called the play back due to two Yale penalties on the toss and catch. Rather than a first-and-10 at the Yale 34-yard line, the Bulldogs dealt with a second-and-21 inside their own 10.
Yale was unable to overcome the down and distance and was forced to punt.
However, the kick from punter Brian Holmes ’17 was fielded by Dartmouth wide receiver Ryan McManus at his own 40-yard line. McManus benefitted from some timely blocking and raced into the end zone untouched for a 60-yard score.
The return not only cut Yale’s lead in half — it also jump-started McManus’s day.
“[McManus] is strong, so that vertical game, he’s able to go up and make that play up in the air and not get moved off of settled routes,” Reno said. “We knew that he was a really good player; he’s towards the top of the league, and he made a couple more plays than we did.”
McManus had a career day at the Yale Bowl, concluding with a dozen catches for 188 yards. He leapfrogged Wallace as the Ivy League’s No. 2 wide receiver in receiving yards per game at 91.2 per game, only behind Yale’s Deon Randall ’15, who has notched 115.2 receiving yards per game.
Randall compiled a respectable nine receptions for 106 yards, but the story on offense was the plays Yale was unable to make. The top offense in the nation was limited to just seven second-half points and was outscored 31–10 to close the game.
“Obviously the first three games [Yale] has had a ton of success and we knew it’d be a huge challenge coming in,” Dartmouth free safety Stephen Dazzo said. “[The Bulldogs] are explosive in all facets of their offense. [In the second half], they got a little bit predictable on third and fourth downs so we definitely made some changes there in our coverage schemes and it worked out for us.”
Roberts still threw for 302 yards through the air but completed just 13 of 21 second-half passes with two costly interceptions.
Despite three total interceptions, Roberts still had an opportunity to lead the Bulldogs to victory on their final drive of the day. Following Williams’s fourth touchdown — which put the Big Green ahead by seven with just 2:20 to play — the Bulldogs took over at their own 19-yard line.
The possession started off with a flurry, as Roberts completed five straight passes including a 16-yard strike to third-string tight end Leo Haenni ’17, who had a breakout game for the Elis after increased playing time due to the injuries of tight ends Stephen Buric ’16 and Sebastian Little ’16.
“Leo, I thought, did a great job stepping into [his] role,” Reno said of the tight end and his four receptions for 97 yards. “We got a lot of good guys on the team, and he made some great plays out of his opportunity.”
With less than two minutes to play and positioned at Dartmouth’s 37-yard line, Roberts missed on a pass to running back Tyler Varga ’15 on first-and-10. Two incompletions later, the Bulldogs found themselves facing a do-or-die fourth-and-10.
Roberts sought out his No. 1 option, Randall, over the middle of the field, but the dynamic duo could not connect, effectively sealing the Big Green’s comeback.
The Bulldogs will have a chance to refocus and regroup with a non-conference matchup this Saturday when they host Colgate (4–2, 2–0 Patriot). Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.