FOOTBALL: Yale Drops Overtime Battle to Dartmouth
Dartmouth outlasts the Elis in overtime to hand Yale their first Ivy League loss of the season.
The Bulldogs were handed their first Ivy League loss of the season on Saturday, when they lost 24–17 to Dartmouth in overtime. The loss marks the fourth consecutive season that the Big Green has beaten the Elis.
Yale (2–2, 1–1 Ivy) entered Saturday’s game having only faced one Ancient Eight rival all season. The battle against Dartmouth (4–0, 2–0 Ivy) was the biggest test for Team 148 thus far. Dartmouth was picked to finish third in the Ivy League pre-season poll, just behind the Elis. In 2019, the Big Green and Bulldogs split the Ivy League crown, both finishing with only one loss on their ledger. Yale has not beaten Dartmouth since a 21–13 victory in 2016.
“Give Dartmouth credit,” Yale head coach Tony Reno said after the game. “They finished the game. Obviously a great football game, a great Ivy League game, a great college football game to be a part of. Give them credit, Coach Stevens, they were able to throw the final punch and finish the game off.”
The Bulldogs started off quickly, putting together a 12 play, 54-yard drive on their opening possession. The drive stalled on the Dartmouth 21-yard line, after the Elis failed to convert on third-and-7. A field goal from kicker Jack Bosman ’24 opened the scoring and gave Yale a 3–0 lead. After the two teams traded punts, Dartmouth found the end zone for the first time. Quarterback Derek Kyler hit wideout Isaac Boston down the left sideline for a 32-yard touchdown pass. The extra point gave Dartmouth a 7–3 lead as the first quarter winded to a close.
The Elis’ offense stalled out on their next drive, punting from their own 41-yard line. The Big Green capitalized, stringing together a 83-yard touchdown drive to extend the lead to 14–3. Kyler connected with sophomore wide receiver Jamal Cooney for a big 44-yard play to set up the touchdown. Bulldogs’ defensive back Wande Owens ’23 had tight coverage on the play, but was unable to break up the big completion.
Yale bounced back quickly, going 75 yards in under three minutes to score their first touchdown of the game. After quarterback Griffin O’Connor ’23 hit running back Noah Aaron ’22 for 21 yards, head coach Tony Reno subbed backup quarterback Nolan Grooms ’24 in for a play to keep the momentum going. Grooms connected with wideout Melvin Rouse II ’22 for a 32 yard touchdown in the corner of the end zone.
Dartmouth was unable to respond, punting after a short drive that stalled primarily because of an 11-yard sack from Christian Sampleton ’22.
“At the defensive level it’s going to come down to stopping the run,” Clay Patterson ’24 said before the game. “Then when it gets to a pass situation, our goal at the defensive line is just going to be containing [Kyler], keeping him in the pocket and putting pressure on him to make a throw. We’ve got some good defensive backs, like Rodney Thomas II, who can make some plays on the ball, so as long as we get in [Kyler’s] face and force him to make some bad decisions to throw the ball I feel like we can get him rattled early.”
Yale’s next possession ended with a missed 41-yard field goal as the half winded to a close.
The second half was highlighted by both team’s defenses. The two teams combined for seven punts on eight drives to start the second half. The lone outlier possession was a Yale fumble at mid-field.
With 8:11 remaining in the game, the Bulldogs got the ball back at the Dartmouth 43-yard line, still trailing 14–10. The drive started with an 11-yard completion to Rouse, bringing the ball to the Dartmouth 32-yard line. After two quick incompletions, the Elis found themselves facing third-and-10. O’Connor connected with Rouse, but the veteran pass catcher was only able to pick up seven yards. On fourth-and-3, Reno put his field goal unit on the field. Unexpectedly, the Bulldogs changed formations, faking out the Big Green defense and calling a designed run for Grooms, who navigated his way to a six-yard gain and a first down.
“Yeah, we look at it situationally,” Reno said. “If we feel like it’s going to give us an advantage, you know, we want to be aggressive and we felt like we were. We thought Nolan did a really nice job of reading the play and you know, making the gain and getting us the first down.”
After a short completion on third-and-long, the Elis found themselves staring at another fourth down. This time, O’Connor led the offense facing fourth-and-5 from the Dartmouth 14-yard line. O’Connor found running back Zane Dudek ’22 on the left sideline, who picked up six yards to move the chains.
Following a two yard loss on first down and an incompletion on second down, the Elis found themselves behind the chains yet again. On third-and-goal from the 10, O’Connor found Rouse across the middle, who picked up five yards before being swarmed by the Big Green defense. For the third time on the drive, Reno and the Bulldogs went for it on fourth-and-short. This time, O’Connor quickly exploited the 1-on-1 matchup Mason Tipton ’24 had on the outside. O’Connor fired a bullet to Tipton’s back shoulder, who corralled the go-ahead touchdown with 2:34 left in the game. Bosman’s extra point gave Yale a 17–14 lead.
The Big Green’s next drive started at their own 17-yard line. Dartmouth, only needing a field goal to send the game to overtime, had experienced trouble moving the ball against Yale’s defense in the second half. After the first play of the drive fell incomplete, Kyler found sophomore Paxton Scott on consecutive throws to set up fourth-and-1 with 1:27 on the clock. The Bulldogs began to celebrate when Kyler’s fourth down pass was broken up by Eli defensive back Miles Oldacre ’23. Unfortunately, the celebration was premature, as a flag lay dormant on the field. The officials conferred and eventually made the call: a personal foul, targeting, on Owens. After a lengthy review, the call was confirmed, and Owens was ejected from the game. Owens was running step for step with the intended receiver on the play, and inadvertently made helmet-to-helmet contact when Oldacre came over and broke up the pass.
“It’s hard to make a decision until you watch the film, but from where I sat and saw, no,” Reno said in response to a question about whether he agreed with the personal foul call. “But again, you know, referees have the benefit of going to the replay booth and they always do the right thing when they take a look at it and they slow it down, but where I sat in a bang bang play, I did not see it.”
The 15-yard penalty and automatic first down made the drive much more manageable for the Big Green who promptly marched down the field and tied the game at 17 with 13 seconds left on the clock.
In overtime, the Big Green got the ball first. Dartmouth strung together some positive yardage and on second-and-3 from the Yale seven yardline, Big Green backup quarterback Nick Howard took a designed run to the end zone, barrelling over multiple Yale defenders on his way.
The Bulldogs got a chance to respond, and yet again faced a fourth down to try and keep the game alive. After a timeout taken to deliberate, Reno sent O’Connor and the offense out in shotgun formation to try and pick up the fourth-and-1. O’Connor faked to Dudek, who was lined up to his left, and with pressure in his face tried to deliver the ball out to Rouse, who was running an out route to the left side. The pass never had a chance and bounced before getting near the Yale wide out, who immediately leaped up and called for a flag after getting tangled up with a Dartmouth defensive back. The officials did not find Rouse’s argument compelling as the Big Green roster began streaming onto the field to celebrate.
Yale will travel to East Hartford next weekend to take on the University of Connecticut.