HANOVER, N.H. — Columbia sacked Jack Heneghan in the final seconds with Dartmouth knocking on the door of the end zone to hang on for a 22-17 road victory in a clash of undefeated Ivy League teams on Saturday afternoon at Memorial Field. Twice the Big Green (5-1, 2-1 Ivy) got down to the 6-yard line in the final minutes, only to be denied each time as the Lions (6-0, 3-0) continued their best start to a season since 1996.
Dartmouth trailed at the half, 16-0, then as it has the last four weeks (having won those four games by a total of eight points) made its move to rally for another heart-stopping victory. At the start of the fourth quarter, Columbia still had a 22-7 lead when David Smith booted a 33-yard field goal and Heneghan connected with wide receiver Drew Estrada on a 38-yard touchdown pass to close the gap to five with nearly seven minutes remaining.
The Big Green defense came through with a stop and Heneghan quickly led the offense down to the six-yard line with more than three minutes to play. But a false start and an offensive pass interference call derailed the drive with the 4th-and-goal pass from the 27 getting batted down in the end zone.
A chop block penalty helped Dartmouth stop the Lions on the next drive, enabling the Green to get the ball back at their 31 with 58 seconds and no timeouts. Two passes to running back Ryder Stone and a horse collar tackle quickly sent Dartmouth to the Lion 32 with 41 seconds on the clock. Heneghan then ran for 15 yards and completed a 10-yard pass to Emory Thompson down to the 6-yard line with 17 seconds to go.
But Heneghan was brought down in the backfield from his blind side by Mike Hinton, and the clock ran out before the ball could be spotted, leaving Columbia all alone atop the Ivy League standings.
Lion quarterback Anders Hill completed 27-of-35 passes for 298 yards and a touchdown along with an interception, his favorite target being Josh Wainwright who caught a career-high 11 passes for 99 yards and the scoring strike.
Heneghan had his sixth-career 300-yard game, connecting on 21-of-36 passes for 331 yards and a touchdown, plus led the Big Green on the ground for the second straight week with 48 yards on seven carries. Sophomore Hunter Hagdorn led the Big Green with eight catches for 100 yards, the fourth 100-yard game of his career and second against Columbia.
The first half belonged to the Lions as Hill racked up 202 yards through the air while completing 19-of-22 throws. But it wasn’t until late in the first half that Columbia first got on the board on a 27-yard field goal by Oren Milstein thanks to a 40-yard pass to Kaleb Pitts into the red zone.
On the next Lions possession, Hill took them 76 yards in 12 plays, the final one being a one-yard rush by short-yardage specialist Josh Bean out of the Wildcat formation for a 10-0 lead.
Hill added a two-yard touchdown toss to Wainwright with 42 seconds left in the half, one play after a pass interference call on 3rd-and-goal from the 9-yard line. But Milstein misfired on a PAT kick for the first time in his career, leaving the score at 16-0.
Dartmouth still had an opportunity to put points on the board before the intermission after four completions for 55 yards and a 17-yard Heneghan scramble. But with four seconds left, the 21-yard field goal attempt from the right hash stayed wide to the right, leaving the Big Green scoreless for the first time in 16 games.
In the second half, Dartmouth carried over its fast-moving offense from the final drive of the first half, traversing 58 yards in just five plays (40 on a pass to tight end Stephen Johnston), culminating in a one-yard bull rush by Wildcat quarterback Jared Gerbino.
Columbia answered with little more than four minutes left in the third quarter when Bean capped off a 10-play, 80-yard drive with a 2-yard sweep just inside the right pylon. The two-point conversion would have been successful if not for a ineligible receiver downfield, and the subsequent PAT kick was blocked, keeping the Green with 15 at 22-7.
Smith provided a 33-yard field goal shortly after the start of the fourth quarter to make it a 22-10 contest, but the Lions threatened to tack on more points by driving inside the red zone again. This time, however, Hill threw a pass that was picked off in the end zone by safety Bun Straton for a touchback.
Dartmouth rode the emotion of the interception 80 yards down the field, needing just seven plays with Estrada catching a short pass and beating a defender along the sideline for his 38-yard touchdown. But the Big Green could not get over the hump this week, falling back into second place.
Linebacker Eric Meile led Dartmouth with 16 tackles, one going for a loss, and two pass breakups. The Lions got a dozen stops from safeties Ryan Gilbert and Landon Baty.
The Big Green offense amassed a season-high 478 yards compared to 401 for Columbia, even though the visitors had the ball for nine more minutes.
Dartmouth travels to Harvard (3-3, 1-2 Ivy) next Saturday for a noon kickoff televised by NESN and simulcast online on the Ivy League Network. The game will also be broadcast over the airwaves on 94.5 ESPN Radio with Adam Giardino and Wayne Young ’72 calling the action. Columbia will remain on the road with first place on the line once again as it takes on Yale (5-1, 2-1 Ivy) at 1 p.m.
Notes: Columbia has won back-to-back games against the Big Green for the first time since winning four in a row in the series from 1998-2001 ... Dartmouth is still 68-19-1 in the all-time series with the Lions ... Heneghan topped 4,000 passing yards for his career during the fourth quarter, the seventh Big Green QB to reach the milestone ... Dartmouth's last five games have been decided by a total of 13 points.