HANOVER, N.H. — Jack Heneghan threw a 15-yard scoring strike to Drew Hunnicutt on 4th down with 34 seconds left to finish off a rally from a 21-0 deficit and lift Dartmouth (4-0, 2-0 Ivy) to a historic 28-27 victory over Yale (3-1, 1-1 Ivy), thrilling the homecoming crowd of 8,114 on Saturday afternoon at Memorial Field. David Smith added the extra point to break the tie and provide the winning margin as the Big Green enjoyed its largest comeback victory in 136 years of varsity football.
Heneghan posted his fifth career 300-yard game, completing 24-of-42 passes for 314 yards and three touchdowns with 276 of those yards coming in the second half. Junior Dylan Mellor was his favorite target with seven catches for a career-high 133 yards and a touchdown, while Hunnicutt hauled in five passes for 64 yards and two scores.
The Bulldogs built up a 24-7 halftime advantage by dominating the game for the first 30 minutes. Yale quarterback Kurt Rawlings posted 234 of his passing yards and all three of his touchdown tosses in the first half, but was held to just 49 yards after the intermission. For the game, he was 24-of-39, but with two interceptions, one of which was returned 47 yards by cornerback Isiah Swann for the Big Green’s lone score of the opening half.
By the time the fourth quarter began, Dartmouth still faced a 27-14 deficit. When Heneghan was picked off in the back of the end zone early in the quarter and the Green failed to convert a 4th down try on their next possession, it appeared Yale would be able to stave off the comeback. But the Bulldogs could not pick up even one first down on their first three drives of the final stanza, opening the door for the Dartmouth offense.
Starting at its own 10-yard line with 7:24 to play, had its drive kept alive on a roughing-the-passer penalty on fourth down at the 15. Following a 30-yard throw to running back Ryder Stone, Heneghan connected with Mellor on a 40-yard bomb for a quick score, bringing the Big Green within six and still 6:10 on the clock.
The Dartmouth defense did its job, holding the Bulldogs to just three plays before a punt sent the Big Green back to their 31 with 4:24 remaining. Heneghan converted one 4th-down play by finding Mellor for a nine-yard pickup, had three rushes in a four-play span to gain 32 more yards, then was faced with a 4th-and-5 at the Bulldog 15. Under pressure, Heneghan calmly threw a strike down the middle of the field to Hunnicutt in the end zone, and Smith added the PAT for the 28-27 lead and just 34 seconds to go.
A 10-yard completion and a pass interference call, negating an interception, made the crowd a bit uneasy with Yale on its 45 and 16 seconds still to play. But a dropped pass and a broken up pass by senior Danny McManus as time expired sent the Dartmouth sideline and the stands into a frenzy, leaving the Green atop the Ivy League standings with their 2-0 mark.
Yale struck first in the first quarter on a 46-yard bomb to Williams-Lopez, then added its second score on the second play of the second stanza on a four-yard toss to Melvin Rouse II. When Rawlings threw his third touchdown, this time from 22 yards out to Zane Dudek, the Bulldogs had a 21-0 lead with 7:39 left in the half.
|Isiah Swann is hoisted into the air after returning an interception 47 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter.|
The Big Green offense was sputtering, having amassed just 56 total yards when Swann stepped in front of a Rawlings pass and sprinted down the sideline for a 47-yard touchdown, giving Dartmouth some life with 2:24 until the break. Yale managed to boot its first field goal of the season, a 29-yarder courtesy of Alex Galland, as the clock expired, sending the Bulldogs into the locker room with a 24-7 lead.
The tables turned in the second half, however, as the Big Green piled up 324 yards of offense while holding Yale to 123 after it had posted 310 in the first half.
Christopher Williams-Lopez hauled in a game-high 10 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown for Yale, and Dudek added six catches for 61 yards and his score. The Bulldogs’ running backs of Deshawn Salter and Dudek, who entered the game averaging over 100 yards a game apiece, were held to 73 yards on 16 carries and 43 on 10 rushes, respectively, while Rawlings added 43 more yards on six runs.
Junior linebacker Jack Traynor led the Dartmouth defense with 10 tackles with Swann and McManus each intercepting a pass. The lone Big Green sack of the day was recorded by sophomore T.J. Simpson on a key 3rd-down play in Big Green territory late in the third quarter.
Hayden Carlson topped all players with 13 tackles for the Bulldogs, and the team registered a trio of sacks, one apiece for Matthew Oplinger, Charles Callender and J. Hunter Roman, as Yale had eight total tackles for a loss.
Dartmouth will finish up its non-conference portion of the schedule next Saturday at 1 p.m. when it plays at Sacred Heart (2-3), which was off this weekend. The game will be video streamed live on NEC Front Row, plus will be available over the airwaves on 94.5 ESPN in the Upper Valley and online at 945espn.com with Adam Giardino and Wayne Young ’72 calling the action. Yale travels to Holy Cross (2-4) to take on the reeling Crusaders at 1 p.m. as well.
Notes: Dartmouth has won its last three games by a combined five points, the smallest margin for three consecutive victories in program history … the Big Green have returned two interceptions for touchdowns this year, the other produced by D.J. Avery at Stetson in the season opener on a 30-yard return … Mellor is the first Dartmouth player with a 100-yard receiving game since Hunter Hagdorn put up 171 yards against Brown last November … Yale ended the game with 433 total yards — the most by a Big Green opponent this year — to 380 for Dartmouth … the Green have won three games by a single point since the start of the 2016 season; they had two in the previous 21 campaigns.