It was a frustrating Saturday afternoon for the Yale football team, as offensive stagnation and missed tackling led to a dominant win for Ivy foe Dartmouth. The game marked the first defeat of the Bulldogs’ 2019 campaign and a wake-up call for the preseason favorites.
Yale (3–1, 1–1 Ivy) faced Dartmouth (4–0, 2–0) in a battle of two undefeated Ancient Eight programs. From the start, though, the Big Green appeared the more confident team and dictated the pace of the game. Dartmouth built on a strong first quarter, putting up 21 unanswered points. Its defense caused issues for quarterback Kurt Rawlings ’20, negating the run game for the Elis. Cornerback Melvin Rouse II ’21 was a jack of all trades on the field for Yale, beginning the game as a defensive back before switching to wide receiver and leading the Bulldog receiving core in yards. Quarterback Nolan Grooms ’23 made his collegiate debut under center and went a perfect four for four with a touchdown pass. However, Yale never looked to threaten the Dartmouth lead after the first half, and the game will mark an important point for growth in the Yale season.
“The outcome was just a reflection of how well they played compared to us,” head coach Tony Reno said. “Not to take any credit away from Dartmouth, but we did not play to our level of standards at all, and that’s probably the most disappointing thing for me. In fact, I said to the guys afterwards that the most important thing that happens in life, anytime you face adversity, is how you respond to it. The biggest thing for us is that we have to learn from today and respond to it — that’s where our focus will be from this point forward.”
Dartmouth could not have asked for a better start to the game, with quarterback Jared Gerbino finding his receiver Drew Estrada on a post route for 75 yards and a touchdown. After a pair of three and outs, Yale took over deep in its own territory. Rawlings dropped back and sent a lofted pass up to streaking receiver JP Shohfi ’20, but defensive back Niko Mermigas cut under the ball and picked it off. Gerbino then marched the Big Green down the field and eventually rushed it in himself for a touchdown on third and goal. Yale’s next drive saw cornerback Quintin Arello jump the Yale route and pick Rawlings off a second time, setting Dartmouth up inside the Bulldog 30-yard line. Derek Kyler then rushed it in from 12 yards to put the Big Green up 21–0 as the first quarter came to a close.
In the second quarter, Yale came out resilient and was able to put points on the board. Rawlings hit receiver Mason Tipton ’23 on a slant for 15 yards and receiver Reed Klubnik ’20 picked up significant yardage on a tricky end-around play call. However, following a sack, Yale settled for a field goal through kicker Sam Tuckerman ’20.
Following a Big Green three-and-out, the Bulldogs embarked on a nearly eight minute drive that unfortunately saw Rawlings get leveled in the backfield and quarterback Griffin O’Connor ’22 step under center in his place. O’Connor marched the Elis to the Dartmouth 23-yard line but the ensuing field goal was tugged right by Tuckerman. Dartmouth got the ball back just under two minutes in the half, and Kyler hit receiver Hunter Hagdorn for 31-yard score to end the half with the Big Green leading 28–3.
The second half opened up in similar fashion to the first — on Dartmouth’s first drive of the quarter, Gerbino picked apart the Yale secondary on a 61-yard connection to none other than Estrada, making it 35–3. Dartmouth wasted no time finding the end zone again on its ensuing drive, with running back Dakari Falconer bullying his way through the Bulldog defensive front to put seven more points on the board for the Big Green — inflating an already disconcerting score to 42–3.
While the Eli defense finally figured out a way to keep the Dartmouth offense in check for the remainder of the game, there was one key player on the offensive side of the ball for Yale given a unique opportunity to showcase the full extent of his athletic gift: Melvin Rouse II ’21. When wide receiver and captain JP Shohfi ’20 went down with an injury early in the first half, Reno made the decision to put Rouse, normally a defensive back, in place of Shohfi as a receiver. Rouse put on quite the show, finishing the game with six receptions for 65 yards, which led all other Bulldog receivers.
“They take big shots, they run the ball very well, which pushes us to come up,” Rouse said. “They lullaby you to sleep on defense and then hit you with big shots. If you don’t play disciplined football against Dartmouth, this is the kind of game that can ensue. Today, we weren’t disciplined enough to beat a good team like Dartmouth. At the end of the day, we have to play to our standard.”
If there is any one highlight that Team 147 can take from a loss as lopsided as this one, it came with four and a half minutes left in regulation. With the score of 42–3 in the Big Green’s favor, both teams understandably pulled their starting quarterbacks in the waning minutes. This meant that, on Yale’s final drive of the game, it would be Grooms taking his first collegiate snaps under center.
Backed up to his own 26-yard line, Grooms marched his team down the field with a combination of pinpoint-accurate passes and short, energetic runs to set his offense up in the red zone. At the 12-yard line, Grooms connected with wideout Darrion Carrington ’21 in the end zone to give the Elis their only touchdown on the day in a 42–10 loss.
“We tip our caps to Dartmouth,” linebacker Micah Awodiran ’21 said. “We look forward to learning from the experience as it, like every game, gives us an opportunity to grow. We’re excited to keep working to finish non conference play strong against Richmond this weekend.”
Yale hits the road again as the team looks to bounce back against Richmond this Saturday at 6 p.m. before continuing Ivy League play at the Yale Bowl against the University of Pennsylvania the following week.
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