FAIRFIELD, Conn. — Although Dartmouth did not score the game-winning points in the final minute as it has become accustomed to doing, it took a pair of interceptions late in the fourth quarter to seal a 29-26 victory at Sacred Heart on Saturday afternoon. Those picks came after Emory Thompson caught a 5-yard touchdown pass with 12:19 to play, allowing the Big Green (5-0) to overcome a 12-point deficit in the second half and win their 10th consecutive non-conference game — their longest since the Ivy League formed in 1956.
Jack Heneghan threw a career-high four touchdown passes while completing 14-of-21 passes for 247 yards to help Dartmouth start the season 5-0 for the second time in the last three years. Thompson was his favorite target with six catches for 49 yards and the last two scores — matching his career total — while Drew Hunnicutt caught three passes for a career-high 126 yards, 78 coming on the first play of the game to give the Green a 7-0 lead after just 16 seconds.
Sacred Heart quarterback Kevin Duke finished the day 36-of-52 for 330 yards and three touchdowns himself, but his two fourth-quarter interceptions proved fateful. Byron Barney snared 10 of those throws for 93 yards and a score, while Ezekiel Ennis and Jordan Meachum also caught touchdown tosses.
Trailing 26-14 with less than six minutes left in the third quarter, Dartmouth got a jolt when junior Dylan Mellor fielded a low punt at his own 39 and sliced through the defense 57 yards down to the four before getting shoved out of bounds. Three plays later, the Big Green were facing a 4th-and-goal at the two. Robert L. Blackman Head Football Coach Buddy Teevens took the gamble and was rewarded by Thompson who caught a quick pass from Heneghan for the touchdown.
Dartmouth got the ball back at its own 27 early in the fourth quarter and quickly marched down the field on a 24-yard strike to Thompson and a 33-yard connection to sophomore Drew Estrada to the Pioneer 17. Heneghan capped the five-play, 78-yard drive with a screen to Thompson, who made a quick move to avoid a defender before diving into the end zone for the go-ahead score. But with a one-point lead, the Big Green went for two and converted on a pass to Hunnicutt, the first successful two-point conversion for Dartmouth in 10 years and a day.
But with 12:19 still to play, Sacred Heart was hardly finished. The Pioneer offense, which racked up 461 yards, pushed into the red zone with less than four minutes showing on the clock. On 3rd-and-4 from the Big Green 8-yard line, Kevin Duke’s pass went through the hands of his receiver and into the waiting arms of nickelback Kyran McKinney-Crudden at the one.
Dartmouth failed to get a first down, so the Sacred Heart had one last chance following a punt for a net 54-yard gain courtesy of sophomore Davis Brief. A holding penalty and a Justin Edwards sack pushed the Pioneers back into a 3rd-and-22 when linebacker Jack Trainer snagged a throw for his first career interception to seal the victory with 59 seconds remaining. Two kneel downs later and the Big Green had maintained their perfect record, winning the last four by a combined eight points.
After Hunnicutt’s 78-yard score — the ninth-longest pass in Dartmouth history — Sacred Heart responded immediately by driving 80 yards in 10 plays, capped by a Duke toss to Barney from 16 yards out, tying the game at 7-7.
Later in the first quarter, Big Green linebacker Eric Meile jarred the ball loose from a Pioneer running back, allowing safety Colin Boit to recover the ball. Three plays after running back Ryder Stone picked up nine yards on a 4th-and-1 play, Heneghan lofted an eight-yard pass to Stone in the end zone to put the Green back on top, 14-7.
In the second quarter, Sacred Heart created its own scoring opportunity as C.J. Parvelus stepped in front of a Heneghan pass for an interception. Three plays provided just one yard, but a desperation heave by Duke on 4th-and-9 paid off as Ennis brought the throw down in the back of the end zone for a 31-yard scoring strike, knotting the score at 14 apiece.
Another 10-play, 80-yard drive by the Pioneers gave them their first lead with 6:30 remaining in the half. Duke threw a pass across the middle to Meachum, who scampered into the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown. Isiah Swann blocked the extra point, however, and while the two-point return the other way looked promising, the Green could only advance the ball to midfield before being thwarted.
Josh Freiria tacked on a career-long 46-yard field goal as time expired at the half, boosting the Sacred Heart lead to 23-14 at the break. Another Freiria field goal, this time from 29 yards, bookended the intermission and gave the Pioneers their largest lead of the game at 12 points.
McKinney-Crudden led all players with a career-high 13 tackles while Traynor also posted a career-high with 12 stops, which was matched by Meile with each of the three forcing turnovers throughout the game.
Parvelus led Sacred Heart with 12 stops of his own to go with his interception.
The Dartmouth victory, along with Columbia’s 34-31, overtime triumph over Penn today, sets up a battle of the Ivy League’s two undefeated teams next Saturday at Memorial Field. Both teams enter the game with perfect 5-0 records and 2-0 in conference play with kickoff slated for 12:30 p.m. The game will be televised by Eleven Sports Network and simulcast online the Ivy League Network, plus will be available over the airwaves in the Upper Valley on 94.5 ESPN Radio (94.5 FM, 1230 and 1400 AM) and around the world at 945espn.com with Adam Giardino and Wayne Young ’72 calling the action.
Notes: Only three other teams in Ivy League history have won four games at any point in a season by a combined eight points or less — 1971 Columbia (six points), 2000 Cornell (seven) and 2006 Princeton (eight). None of those three won their games consecutively … the last time the Big Green scored in a game faster than 16 seconds came on the opening kickoff of the 2012 season when Miles Gay returned a kickoff 85 yards in 14 seconds … Heneghan became the eighth player to surpass 4,000 total yards in a career for Dartmouth, finishing the day with 4,059 ... the last Big Green quarterback to throw four TDs in a game was Dalyn Williams against Yale in the 2015 season ... the last successful two-point conversion was scored by Timmy McManus against Holy Cross on Oct. 13, 2007.