Yes, Dartmouth can throw a wrench into the Princeton hopes of garnering at least a share of the Ivy League title by beating the Tigers on their home turf, which would be the Big Green’s seventh straight win in the series. But Dartmouth faces a moral dilemma of sorts.
Currently, the Big Green have the most conference crowns of any team in the Ancient Eight (18), and have solely held that distinction since winning their fourth championship in 1965. Should Harvard and/or Penn win their final game, they will move into a tie with Dartmouth for that honor. If they both lose, the Green could maintain the top spot, but only if they lose to Princeton.
No, Dartmouth cares not one whit for that scenario. It would prefer to finish the season with an overall record at the .500 mark and continue its recent dominance of the Tigers.
Even with Princeton dominating the league on both sides of the ball, expect this to be a nail-biter. For one thing, the last five Dartmouth games have been decided by no more than four points. For another, the last two times one of these teams had a shot at a championship in the season finale (2013, ’15), the game was not decided until the final minute.
To pull off the upset, the Big Green must do a better job of taking care of the football than last week when they lost at home to Brown, 24-21. Dartmouth put up a whopping 615 yards of offense — its most in 91 years — yet was derailed by five turnovers.
Jack Heneghan may as well have been on a roller coaster with all the ups and downs he went through against the Bears. The junior QB set the school single-game passing record with 440 yards through the air by completing 37-of-53 throws. But he had three of his passes picked off (two in the fourth quarter), and did not have a touchdown toss.
On the other hand, the Ivy League’s leader in passing yards (2,411) did lead the team on touchdown drives of 83 and 92 yards in the fourth quarter. But he came up just short of rallying the Green back from a double-digit deficit (17) in the fourth quarter for the third time this year.
Sophomore Miles Smith continued his late-season surge with his second straight 100-yard rushing game (17 rushes for 111 yards). But it was Heneghan, Vito Penza and Ryder Stone who each broke through the goal line for touchdowns.
Wide receiver Hunter Hagdorn made a big push to be heavily considered for the Ivy League Rookie of the Year award by setting Dartmouth freshman records with 13 catches for 171 yards. Those 13 grabs are also tied for the third most by any Big Green player in a game, and Hagdorn now ranks third among Ivy receivers in receptions (50) and yards per game (73.3).
The defense, second only to Princeton in points allowed for the entire season, is led by senior Folarin Orimolade. A strong candidate for Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year, Orimolade leads the country in forced fumbles and ranks fourth in sacks per game (1.0). Nickelback Lucas Bavaro has been solid all year and had a team-high nine stops last week. And since breaking into the starting lineup, rookie corner Isiah Swann has been tested quite often and passed with flying colors as he leads the team with eight passes defended and a pair of picks
Scouting the Tigers
Princeton is in position to earn at least a share of the crown, but it will have to end its personal six-game losing streak against the Big Green to do so.
Of the three teams tied atop the Ivy League standings, the Tigers have been the most impressive with more than four times as many points than it has allowed in conference play. No other team has even double the points of its opposition. Princeton leads the league in scoring at nearly 36 per game (a touchdown better than Penn) and has surrendered less than nine points on average.
To talk about the Princeton offense, you have to start with do-everything John Lovett. Running back, quarterback, wide receiver, you never know where you’ll find him, but his presence looms large. He is responsible for no less than 28 touchdowns this year — 18 rushing, nine passing and one receiving. Seven of those came in the Tigers’s 56-7 victory over Cornell three weeks ago.
When Lovett isn’t behind center, Chad Kanoff and his 1,541 passing yards and 62.1 percent completion rate will be. The two combined have put up 232 yards through the air per game with 14 scoring strikes and eight interceptions.
Lovett is third on the team with 375 rushing yards with Joe Rhattigan boasting 480 yards and nearly five yards per carry, and Charlie Volker contributing 463 yards at 4.2 yards a clip.
Seven receivers (including Lovett) average at least two catches a game. Isaiah Barnes has gotten the most action with 33 grabs for 503 yards, giving him the best average per reception (15.2) in the league. Both Jesper Horsted (27-379) and Trevor Osborne (23-321) pick up 14 yards per catch as well, while James Frusciante has a team-best four TD hauls.
Linebacker Luke Catarius is a defensive force for the Tigers with 68 tackles, seven going for a loss, with two sacks and an interception. The Dartmouth offensive line will have its hands full with end Kurt Holuba, who is second to only Big Green LB Folarin Orimolade in the conference with seven sacks. Corner James Gaels boasts three of the defense’s 10 interceptions as well.
On special teams, Tavish Rice is just 5-for-12 on field goals this year, though he did convert a 40-yarder last week against Yale. Tyler Roth handles the punting (though Lovett even has done that once), averaging over 40 yards a boot. Osborne is the league’s top kickoff return man this year, and Tiger Bech would be in the top 25 nationally with his 10.5-yard punt return average, but he lacks enough opportunities.
The Tigers are under the care of the Charles W. Caldwell Jr. ’25 Head Coach of Football, Bob Surace, finishing up his seventh campaign with the Tigers with a current record of 32-37. Prior to coming to Princeton, he served as an assistant coach with the Cincinnati Bengals, helping the team to an AFC North title in 2009. His other head coaching experience came at Western Connecticut State where he led the Colonials to an overall record of 18-3 in 2000 and ’01. He was an All-Ivy first-team center in 1989 at Princeton, which won a share of the conference crown.
Last Year vs. Princeton
These two played a thrilling game in Hanover with Dartmouth needing a win to earn a share of the Ivy League title for the first time in 19 years. The Tigers had a 7-0 lead at halftime, but the Big Green knotted it up quickly after the break on a 32-yard TD run by Ryder Stone. Princeton booted a short field goal to reclaim the lead shortly thereafter, and the score remained 10-7 until Alex Gakenheimer cashed in a 22-yard field goal with 4:54 to play. Although a 39-yard field goal failed to split the uprights less than two minutes later, the Big Green got one more chance and made the most of it, finishing off the last 12 yards of a 63-yard drive on a pass from Dalyn Williams to Kyle Bramble with just 24 seconds on the clock.
The Longest Yards
It had been 90 years (not 89 or 91 as previously reported by me) since Dartmouth had racked up 600 yards of offense in a game. Back on Sept. 25, 1926, the Big Green blanked Norwich, 59-0, while amassing 610 yards. But on Nov. 12, Dartmouth finally hit 600 again in a 24-21 loss to Brown, posting 615. That is the second-highest total known, trailing just the even 700 the Green had in a 62-13 win over Cornell in 1925.
Those 615 yards did not add up to a win, surprisingly, due in large part to five Dartmouth turnovers against Brown. The Big Green had not coughed the ball up that many times since … the Brown game last year when they turned it over six times. Yet Dartmouth still won that game, 34-18, because the Bears had issues of their own with seven giveaways. Coincidentally, the Green also won its previous game with at least five turnovers, beating Cornell in double overtime, 20-17, back on Nov. 7, 2009.
Heneghan Breaks Passing Record
When Dalyn Williams threw for 435 yards in a win over Yale last year, many people assumed that would stand as the Dartmouth single-game record for years to come. Well, it lasted about 13 months as junior Jack Heneghan topped that total with 440 in a 24-21 loss to Brown on Nov. 12. His 37 completions were just one shy of the Big Green record (38 by Greg Smith against Yale in 2001), but he is oddly just the second Dartmouth QB with at least 300 yards to not throw a TD pass. The other was Williams last year at Harvard (311 yards).
Fourth Quarter Bonanza
Despite owning a record under .500, Dartmouth has outscored its opposition on the season, 180-175. That is due entirely to the last 15 minutes of regulation as the Big Green have outscored the other teams by a combined 71-9 margin in the fourth quarter this season. Twice that has led to double-digit comeback victories this season (UNH, Cornell), and nearly a third against Brown.
Each of Dartmouth’s last six games have been decided by single digits, a streak matched or surpassed in just two other seasons — 1977 (6) and 2002 (7). This year’s combined difference of 22 points over the six-game span equals the lowest in Dartmouth history (2002). And the 14 points that have decided the last five contests is the lowest total for a five-game stretch. Should this game be decided by less than 10 points, it would be just the second time the Big Green have had eight such games in a season (1977).
Scoring Defense 13th
As you can guess, being the 13th-best team in fewest points allowed (19.4) has been rather unlucky for the Big Green this year. Of the FCS teams in the top 25, only Dartmouth sports a losing record. Last year the Green led the nation in the category in going 9-1 while earning a share of the Ivy League title.
Hagdorn Adorned with Records
Wide receiver Hunter Hagdorn will finish his rookie season boasting single-game and single-season Dartmouth records for a freshman in both receptions and yardage following his 13-catch, 171-yard performance against Brown on Nov. 12. He enters the final game with a team-best 50 catches and 660 yards, both of which are the top marks for any Big Green freshman, topping Jay Barnard’s 40 catches and 420 yards during the 2000 season.
Running for Miles
Until Miles Smith ran for 119 yards on 25 carries at Cornell on Nov. 5, Dartmouth had gone 18 games without a 100-yard rusher. Apparently the sophomore enjoyed all that running that he did it again the next week against Brown with 111 yards on just 17 attempts. For the season, Smith is third in the league with 68.9 yards per game and is second with an average of 5.8 yards per carry.
With nine sacks this year, senior Folarin Orimolade has jumped five spots on the Dartmouth career charts into second place and now has 23.5 during his four seasons. He needs two more overtake Anthony Gargiulo ’06, who has the all-time record of 25.0.
Taking the Boit
Junior safety Colin Boit made his presence known against Brown, recording his first career sack and forcing a pair of Bear fumbles to go with five solo tackles in the game. He and Orimolade (vs. UNH) are two of just four Ivy Leaguers to force two fumbles in a game this year.