This article has been updated to reflect the version that ran in print in the Oct. 12 edition of the News.
Saturday was a long day for the Yale football team, which fell 35–3 to Dartmouth in Hanover, New Hampshire.
The game, which stretched on for three hours and 43 minutes, was marked by both offensive and defensive struggles for Yale (3–1, 1–1 Ivy). The offense entered the game averaging 457.7 total yards per game but on Saturday managed just 276 — its lowest total since the Elis put up 264 yards, also against Dartmouth, in 2013 — while the defense was unable to contain Big Green quarterback Dalyn Williams, who led Dartmouth (4–0, 2–0) to victory with a school-record 435 passing yards.
The loss marked the third straight year in which a loss to Dartmouth ended an undefeated start to Yale’s season. This one, however, was the worst defeat that the Elis have suffered at the hands of the Big Green since 1996.
“We had a lack of execution,” head coach Tony Reno said. “You name it, it happened. Dartmouth, to give them a lot of credit, has a great defense that made a lot of plays. We equally made as many mistakes, which cost us a lot of plays. We dropped more balls than we ever had. We didn’t read covers the way we usually do. We missed some blocks we normally don’t miss.”
For the first time all season, the Bulldogs — who played without seven starters — seemed to struggle with the consequences of their injuries. While the players who stepped in battled through all four quarters, they could not overcome a team that started eight seniors on offense and nine on defense.
The seven missing Elis included wide receiver Myles Gaines ’17 and offensive lineman Jon Bezney ’18, both of who played in last week’s win over Lehigh, as well as running back Candler Rich ’17, defensive end Nick Crowle ’18, defensive back Foye Oluokun ’17 and wide receivers Bo Hines ’18 and Robert Clemons III ’17, who missed time last week.
After the game, Reno said that other than Saturday, he could not recall a time when seven Yale starters were out. Though he praised the players who took on larger roles against Dartmouth, he said everyone needed to play better.
“Obviously [Dartmouth is] a good team, but I think we’re a good team too,” quarterback Morgan Roberts ’16 said. “We just didn’t play well today. We’re young, and we played young today … There were some moments where we panicked.”
The lone score for Yale was a 35-yard field goal from kicker Bryan Holmes ’17 late in the first half. The field goal was one of five times the Elis pushed the ball past Dartmouth’s 35-yard line, but three of the chances were cut short by red-zone interceptions, and a fifth ended with a turnover on downs.
Dartmouth, meanwhile, scored once on the ground and four times through the air, led largely by Williams. Going into the game, Yale knew that stopping Williams was a top priority and established a game plan, according to Reno, of mixing up pressure and zone coverage in order to contain the dual-threat quarterback.
Though the Bulldogs were able to sack Williams three times, the Big Green adjusted early and exploited Yale’s blitz-heavy defense almost exclusively through the air. Williams finished the day as the Big Green’s all-time leader in total offense with 7,525 yards, surpassing former NFL quarterback Jay Fiedler’s mark of 7,249 in the second quarter. In addition to setting school- and career-best marks for passing yards in a game, he became the first Dartmouth gunslinger to pass for at least 300 yards in three consecutive games.
Pressure from the Yale defense often forced Williams out of the pocket, potentially playing a factor in his 0.547 completion rate in the game. But his 29 successful passes went for 435 yards, with eight plays totaling 20 or more yards. He also rushed seven times for 32 yards.
“It’s hard [to defend Williams] because the thing that’s so striking is his accuracy,” Dartmouth head coach Buddy Teevens said. “I’ll say that even though today wasn’t his most accurate day passing.”
Reno emphasized that winning against a strong offense requires the ability to score often, something the Yale offense struggled to do. Yale’s total of three points was the lowest the Elis have scored since 2012, the final season of former head coach Tom Williams. The impressive performance that punter Bryan Holmes ’17 had, averaging 40.0 yards on 11 punts, signaled the offense’s difficulties.
After rushing for 233 yards in his first collegiate start a week earlier, running back Deshawn Salter ’18 picked up just 45 yards on 19 carries. The passing game did slightly better, as Roberts completed 29 of his 58 passing attempts for 229 yards, but this still marked his lowest passing yardage as an Eli since his lone start in 2013.
Eight different receivers caught at least one ball, including Michael Siragusa Jr. ’18, who led the team in receptions for the second time this season. The sophomore, who also caught the go-ahead touchdown in Yale’s opening win over Colgate, set a new career-best with 12 catches for 132 yards.
Four of Siragusa’s catches came on a single 48-yard drive in the fourth quarter. Although Siragusa managed to bring the Bulldogs down to Dartmouth’s two-yard line, the Big Green defense picked off Roberts at the goal line, one of three red-zone interceptions by Dartmouth in the game.
While the turnovers cost the Bulldogs scoring opportunities, the defense prevented Dartmouth from capitalizing: Yale allowed no points off turnovers.
“The defense played great, and I’m excited about the rest of the season, but offensively, this is worst game I’ve been a part of since I’ve been at Yale,” Roberts said. “It is what it is. We move on to next week and we’ll get some guys back and things will turn up.”
Still, it remains unclear whether injured players will return for Yale’s next game. Reno said he had no definitive time of return for any of the seven injured starters.
Next week, Yale travels to take on its final non-conference opponent. Kickoff at the University of Maine is at 3:30 p.m.