Valley News – Big Green set to win another league title
Posted: 11/07/2021 19:11:54 PM
Modified: 11/07/2021 19:11:56 PM
HANOVER – The Dartmouth College football team’s victory over Princeton on Friday night was not a flawless performance. But considering how it turned out and the importance of the game, it was Dartmouth’s biggest achievement of the 2021 season to date.
A loss would have essentially knocked Dartmouth out of the Ivy League title race. And that would have put Princeton under control. But Dartmouth’s victory means that, with victories over Cornell and Brown in the final two weeks of the season, the Big Green would win at least a share of the Ivy League championship.
Here are three reasons why Dartmouth won the biggest game of the season in the Ivy League convincingly:
The Dartmouth defense allowed a first try, but reclaimed some of the distance by a sack a few games later. Princeton’s next possession was a three-and-out.
On the other side, the Big Green moved the ball with relative ease. Fifth-year quarterback Derek Kyler went 5 for 5 in the first quarter with 72 yards and two touchdowns. The first touchdown was a big game for runner-up Paxton Scott, who crashed into the end zone after a run to the sideline. Kyler also hit Scott for a 19-yard gain earlier in practice.
Dartmouth’s second practice began in Princeton Territory, but the Big Green methodically shifted it down. The short passing game with Kyler and runs from senior half-back Zack Bair and junior quarterback Nick Howard led to a short touchdown pass from Kyler to junior wide receiver Dale Chesson.
The two scored discs combined with the solid defense were a real statement to start the game. Dartmouth forced Princeton to adapt and adjust very early on – and as I note in the next two sections, the Tigers weren’t able to do enough to come back from that dominant Dartmouth first quarter .
Defensive pressure: The Dartmouth defensive forward dominated this game.
Big Green’s defense steadily moved closer to Princeton quarterback Cole Smith. Dartmouth has sacked Smith six times, the team’s second most sacks in a game this season. Two official rushes from the QB and constant pressure on running backs from Smith and Princeton added to the Dartmouth defense control over the game.
Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens said it was a group effort.
“It’s a group of people who play hard,” Teevens said. “That says a lot about (defensive line coach) Duane Brooks’ ability to motivate all these guys (and instill) selflessness. They keep coming. It is a difficult thing. It’s a fast paced attack, and we keep pushing guys forward.
Junior Shane Cokes was the top defensive lineman responsible for 2½ sacks. Linebacker Jalen Mackie, the Ivy League’s leading tackle, maintained his good form on Friday with 13 tackles, including a split sack and 2½ tackles for loss. Senior defensive end Mick Reese recorded 1½ sacks, as did junior linebacker Marques White, bringing White’s sack total to five this season.
Senior defensive end Bobby Jefferson added two QB rushes.
The pressure from Big Green not only allowed them to set the tone quickly, but it also forced Princeton to make adjustments early on. The Tigers picked up their attacking pace noticeably in their fourth possession, after Dartmouth took the 17-0 lead. It worked – it was Princeton’s only touchdown of the game. But Dartmouth’s defense adjusted as well, and the depth Teevens referenced proved too great for Princeton when he played as well as collectively.
The tigers did not jump: While Dartmouth took advantage of his early opportunities to take control of the game, Princeton wasted most of the chances he had to close the gap or even take the lead.
Inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, Dartmouth was 2 for 2 with a touchdown and a field goal. Princeton, however, went 1 for 4, with a touchdown in the second quarter. The Tigers missed a short field goal in the last play of the first half, and Dartmouth stopped them twice in the fourth quarter in the fourth quarter.
Kyler and Scott communicated poorly early in the second quarter when Scott didn’t turn around for what Kyler expected to be a quick hitter on the outside. Princeton cornerback Christian Brown stepped in and had the chance to be a game-changer. The pass was just right for him, and if he landed it, he had a sure-fire touchdown return. Dartmouth had no one around to stop him – Teevens admitted after the game.
But Brown couldn’t make the interception. The pass bounces off his hands.
Princeton simply left too many points on the field to have a realistic chance of winning. Dartmouth’s defense deserves credit for keeping the Tigers silent for much of the game. But they had their chances and just didn’t seize them.
Seth Tow can be contacted at [email protected]