HANOVER, N.H. — Nothing can be more fitting for Dartmouth football than ending a season at home with snow cascading from the skies. Even better than the snow for Big Green supporters was the 28-24 victory over 19th-ranked Princeton to snap the visiting Tigers’ eight-game winning streak and hand them their first Ivy League loss of the season.
Dartmouth ends the season with a 6-4 record and 5-2 mark in the Ancient Eight, taking sole possession of third place in the final standings. Princeton falls short of its first perfect record in conference play since 1964, completing the season at 6-1 in the league and 8-2 overall. Coupled with Harvard's 34-7 victory over Yale earlier in the day, the Tigers are forced to share the conference crown with the Crimson.
The Tigers ran 104 plays on offense — the most against Dartmouth in at least 40 years — while amassing 409 yards, which is more than 100 below their season average. The Big Green, meanwhile, ran just 69 plays for 331 yards, 239 of which came on the ground.
Of those 239 rushing yards, 112 were provided by senior Dominick Pierre in his final collegiate game. The bruising back from Fort Lauderdale didn’t seem to mind the cold, becoming just the fifth Dartmouth player to rush for 1,000 yards in a season while recording the ninth 100-yard game of his career.
It was Pierre who provided the game’s first points early in the first quarter after the Big Green took over following a punt that went out of bounds at midfield. The first play went to Pierre, who gobbled up 12 yards. The next play also went to Pierre, who sprinted 35 yards before being brought down at the three. Two more handoffs to Dartmouth’s second all-time leading rusher finished off the scoring drive, with Pierre’s one-yard dive into the end zone giving him a rushing touchdown in all 10 games this year, a feat no other Big Green player has ever done.
Late in the opening stanza, Dartmouth quarterback Dalyn Williams heaved a bomb to junior Bo Patterson for a 56-yard touchdown and a 14-0 Dartmouth lead. It would be one of just four completions for Williams in 15 attempts on the day.
Meanwhile, the Dartmouth defense completely stymied the Tigers during the first quarter, limiting them to a mere 53 yards and two first downs. That dominance continued into the second quarter when junior defensive end Evan Chrustic batted down a fourth-down pass at the line of scrimmage — one of three on the afternoon for the defensive lineman — to halt the first Princeton threat at the Big Green 17.
Dartmouth immediately put together its longest drive of the game, beginning with a 41-yard burst by sophomore running back Kyle Bramble. A pass interference call on the following play put the Big Green at the Tiger 23, and four plays later, Williams kept the ball on the option read and waltzed into the end zone from five yards out. The PAT by freshman Alex Gakenheimer extended the Dartmouth lead to 21-0 with 11:22 remaining in the first half.
That 21-point lead was not going to be enough against this Princeton squad, however, as the Tigers scored a pair of touchdowns before the intermission. Quinn Epperly capped off a 75-yard drive with a five-yard shovel pass to Roman Wilson for the first Princeton score with 4:43 on the clock in the second quarter.
After a quick three-and-out for Dartmouth, the Tigers traversed 65 more yards, thanks in part to two key penalties that ate up 30 of those yards. Epperly claimed the honors with his 18th rushing touchdown of the season, scoring on a 4th-and-1 play with 10 ticks remaining.
Princeton completed the 21-point comeback on its second possession of the third quarter, twice converting fourth-down plays to keep the drive alive. While none of the first 13 plays covered more than nine yards, the last one was a 30-yard toss from Epperly to Matt Costello in the end zone, despite defensive holding on the play. So with 8:52 left in the third quarter, the game was suddenly tied at 21.
Next time with the ball, the Tigers again gambled on fourth down from their own 44-yard line, only to have sophomore A.J. Zuttah stonewall Epperly at the line of scrimmage. Williams immediately connected with senior Robbie Anthony for a 16-yard gain, and after two Pierre rushes picked up a first down, Willliams twisted and turned through the line and bolted to the corner of the end zone, diving in for the go-ahead score from 17 yards out.
In the fourth quarter, Princeton threatened to tie the game when it had 1st-and-goal at the two. Senior linebacker Michael Runger, who finished the day with a season-high 15 tackles, broke up a pass on first down, and Epperly was stopped for a one-yard gain on second down by senior lineman Elliot Kastner. A false start pushed the Tigers back to the six, and Epperly’s pass fell incomplete. Princeton opted to take the three points with a 23-yard Nolan Bieck field goal, closing to within four, 28-24, with just 6:36 to play.
The Tiger defense did its job, forcing the Big Green to punt after three offensive plays. But the Dartmouth defense was up to the task, forcing Princeton to punt as well. The Big Green started at their own 10, but Williams broke free on the first play for a 37-yard gain. When sophomore Brian Grove dashed for 22 more yards, Dartmouth seemed in control.
The drive stalled at the Tiger 24, but not before Princeton was forced to use all of its timeouts and had just 45 seconds to cover 76 yards. Senior free safety Garrett Waggoner appeared to have picked off an Epperly pass on first down, but it was ruled incomplete. Two plays later, Waggoner did get that interception, his first of the season on his final collegiate play, sealing the big win for the Big Green.
Williams' final numbers may not have been much to write home about — 92 passing yards on 4-of-15 passing with two interceptions — but his two touchdown runs and 56-yard scoring strike to Patterson made the difference in the game. He finished the game with 57 yards on the ground on 14 carries.
Epperly, who came into the game completing more than 70 percent of his passes on the year, connected on 27-of-54 for 248 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also led the Tigers with 41 rushing yards, but on 20 carries. Seth DeValve led the Tiger receiving corps with 115 yards on nine catches.
Senior linebacker Bronson Green joined Runger with double-digit tackles, collecting a season-high 11. As a unit, the Dartmouth defense broke up a school-record 16 passes, including four by senior cornerback Chase Womack and three more by Chrustic, the latter of which contributed three tackles for a loss as well. Both Chrustic and junior linebacker Eric Wickham registered sacks, totaling 21 yards.
Three Tigers had seven tackles on the day, with Caraun Reid posting four tackles for a loss, three of which were sacks. John Hill and Matt Arends each had an interception, and the Princeton secondary broke up four other throws.
Notes: Dartmouth has won four straight against Princeton, matching the longest winning streak for the Big Green in the series history ... the 24 points were a season low for the Tigers, who ranked second nationally in scoring entering the game and had already set an Ivy League record for points in a season ... the Dartmouth Class of 2014 finished its four years with a 23-17 record, the best in 16 years ... the five conference wins are the most for the Big Green since the 1997 squad went 6-1.