Courtesy of Jack Warhola
Before the Family Weekend crowd on Friday, Team 146 suffered defeat to a familiar frustrater, Dartmouth, when the Elis fell by more than three touchdowns under the lights of the Yale Bowl.
The Bulldogs (2–2, 1–1 Ivy) entered the game looking for revenge after a 28–27 loss to the Big Green (4–0, 2–0 Ivy) marked the only blemish in the Elis’ championship-yielding 2017 campaign. Team 146 struggled to find its footing against an undefeated Dartmouth squad who rushed for 347 yards and took advantage of the Elis’ relative youth and inexperience by coming out charging and building up a quick lead. With a smothering defense and an alternating offensive strategy that included deploying a situational quarterback, the Big Green proved too much of a challenge for the Bulldogs to overcome. Dartmouth ran away with a 41–18 victory to extend its win streak to four, while Yale’s performance was marred by penalties and frustrations in finishing drives.
“We did the things that cost you football games,” head coach Tony Reno said. “At the end of the day, the margin for error is very slight in this league. When you’re playing a team like Dartmouth, an elite team, you can’t have the mistakes we had.”
Yale entered the contest with high hopes. The Bulldogs, coming off a convincing defeat of No. 25 Maine the week before, saw the return of primary running backs Zane Dudek ’21 and Alan Lamar ’20 from injury. But, ultimately, the duo was not enough to overcome an aggressive Dartmouth defense. The Elis opened the game with a failed drive, while the Big Green completed its own drive to go up 6–0 in a fashion that foreshadowed its run-heavy strategy and dominance in the trenches for the rest of the game.
Dartmouth’s quarterback Jared Gerbino, in just his second game of the season after being sidelined for injury, ran for a critical 24-yard gain as the Big Green marched into the end zone in just seven plays. Gerbino, the crux of Dartmouth’s wildcat offense, split quarterback responsibility with Dartmouth’s starting signal-caller Derek Kyler as the two combined for just 10 pass attempts in the game.
The Elis never fully grasped handling the wildcat plays — when Gerbino was at the helm, he read Yale’s defense and then decided either to pass to a running back or, more often, to carry the ball himself, proving to be mostly a quarterback in name and a running back in trade.
The Big Green’s offensive strategy, including Gerbino’s situational quarterbacking, created commotion for the Eli defense, and the distraction repeatedly gave the Rush, NY native opportunities to run past Yale undeterred. During Friday’s game, Gerbino racked up 169 rushing yards, far eclipsing his 37 against Penn last weekend. He rushed for a total of 428 yards across nine games last year.
In response to Dartmouth’s opening score, the Elis put together a solid series of their own that ended in quarterback Kurt Rawlings ’20 finding wideout Reed Klubnik ’20 in the end zone. This was followed by a successful kick, which earned the Elis their only lead of the game, 7–6. Klubnik, one of Rawlings’ favorite targets this season, led the way through the air on Friday with a career-high 13 catches for 124 yards.
After Dartmouth pulled ahead 13–7, the Elis had a chance to turn the tide, but a series of errors derailed any potential momentum. Midway through the first half, Yale moved 46 yards before the Big Green intercepted one of Rawlings’ passes. But the Dartmouth play was over almost as soon as it started, as Team 146 recovered a fumble by Gerbino at Dartmouth’s 25-yard line. Gifted favorable field position, the Elis could not sustain their own possession — Lamar rushed twice for a combined eight yards before Dartmouth forced and recovered a retaliatory fumble.
“When the defense forced that fumble … it gave us an opportunity,” Klubnik said. “And we gave it right back to them. That was a huge momentum shift to [Dartmouth] that could have been ours.”
After Yale settled for a field goal late in the second quarter, the Big Green continued on its offensive roll as Kyler and Gerbino worked together to thwart Yale’s defense and score two more touchdowns, including one with 16 seconds left on the clock, to end the half up 27–10.
Dartmouth opened the third quarter with a bang by moving the ball 75 yards in just three plays, capped off by a 66-yard rush into the end zone to pull ahead to 34–10. After a mid-quarter touchdown by Yale was overturned due to illegal touching, the Bulldogs seemed deflated for the remainder of the quarter.
The Big Green’s defense put up a formidable challenge to the Elis’ ability to finish drives — the game’s numbers reflected an otherwise adequate offensive output while Yale’s ground game looked consistent throughout the game.
“There were a couple run plays that weren’t quite as effective,” Lamar said. “But all night we were running inside-zone, left and right, and we were getting five yards a pop off of them. We ran them all very effectively.”
Yet, throughout the match, the Elis were deterred by their inability to play clean. Team 146 incurred eight penalties to Dartmouth’s two, often undermining offensive series. The penalties set Yale back a combined 56 yards, often in critical downs, and impeded the team’s ability to execute in the steady, building-block style of play that led them to victory against Maine the week before.
Team 146 showed signs of settling into its game plan and a slow recovery in the final frame with a steady, 14-play drive that culminated in Dudek rushing into the end zone for Yale. But the Bulldogs, dragged down by a slew of incomplete passes, could not build on the momentum to mount a late rally. In the final minute, the Big Green intercepted a pass and ran the ball all the way back for six to pull ahead to 41–18 and put the game firmly out of reach for Team 146.
“It was a good win for us against a very good football team,” Dartmouth head coach Buddy Teevens said.
The Big Green has now won six of its last seven contests against Yale.
Angela Xiao | firstname.lastname@example.org
Cris Zillo | email@example.com