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Football Falls in Season Finale, 23-11

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Matthew Dornak     By Mark Washburn


HANOVER, N.H. — Sophomore Conner Kempe threw for 180 yards in the fourth quarter alone, but he could not rally Dartmouth (2-8, 2-5 Ivy) in its season finale on Senior Day as Princeton defeated the Big Green on Saturday afternoon at Memorial Field, 23-11. Tiger running back Kenny Gunter rushed for a career-high 173 yards and a pair of touchdowns to lead Princeton (4-6, 3-4 Ivy) in the battle for the Governor’s Trophy and the Sawhorse Dollar for the sixth straight year.

Gunter had his second straight 100-yard game, carrying the ball 26 times for a 6.7-yard average and scoring both Tiger touchdowns. As a team, Princeton racked up 238 yards on the ground. Quarterback Tommy Wornham had 49 yards rushing while throwing for 211 yards, completing 18-of-29 passes.

The running game never got going for the Big Green with freshman quarterback Greg Patton held to 39 yards on 20 carries, and Dartmouth managed just 32 yards on the ground in total. Patton and Kempe combined to surpass 300 yards through the air however, with Kempe completing half of his 34 tosses for 185 yards and the lone Green touchdown, and Patton going 10-for-17 for 117 yards.

Dartmouth was held scoreless through the first half, amassing just 62 yards of offense. And although Princeton posted 289 yards in the first 30 minutes, it could muster just a pair of field goals. The Tigers squandered several scoring opportunities, missing a 35-yard field goal on their first possession before Ben Bologna converted a 19-yarder later in the opening quarter. A Bologna career-long 42-yard three-pointer came sandwiched between two fumbles by Wornham, both inside the Dartmouth 25.

The second half proved to be quite interesting as Dartmouth got within a single point at 6-5. First the Big Green defense held Princeton to just one first down on its first drive of the second half, and on fourth down, the snap sailed over the head of punter Joe Cloud, who scooped up the ball in the end zone and ran out the back for a safety.

The ensuing free kick allowed Dartmouth to start at its own 48, and Patton immediately completed a 19-yard pass to sophomore tight end John Gallagher, who finished the day with six catches for a career-high 92 yards. Another pass to Gallagher, this time for 14 yards, put Dartmouth in the red zone. The Green were pushed back to the 23 before sophomore Foley Schmidt drilled a 40-yard field goal, equaling his longest of the season, to bring Dartmouth within one point.

Princeton wasted no time in responding, starting at its own 40 after a Meko McCray return. Wornham misfired on a pass before handing off to Gunter for a 14-yard gain. Apparently Gunter was just warming up as he took the next handoff through the line before bouncing to the right sideline and sprinting 46 yards for the first touchdown of the game.

The Dartmouth offense was starting to find its stride, however, as Patton and Gallagher connected for two more passes and 27 yards to move into Tiger territory. A 16-yard pass to senior Matthew Dornak put the Green in field goal range, and Dartmouth settled for a 39-yard field goal attempt. Schmidt’s kick never came back as it sailed wide to the left, keeping the score at 13-5.

After trading punts, Princeton gave itself some breathing room, covering 81 yards — all on the ground — in just eight plays. The drive almost ended before it started, however, as Wornham fumbled again on the first play. Dartmouth cornerback Shawn Abuhoff seemed to have a bead on the ball, but 300-pound center Andrew Hauser barreled his way to ball, picking up a first down in doing so. Gunter had the big play of the possession, a 22-yard run, before scoring on a six-yard burst.

Disaster struck on the kickoff as Abuhoff was hammered by Ivan Charbonneau, jarring the ball free with Tiger Andrew Starks recovering. Princeton did not gain a single yard, but put three scores between itself and the Big Green at 23-5 with a 35-yard field goal by Bologna.

Conner Kempe threw for nearly 200 yards in the fourth quarter.

With just 8:41 left, Dartmouth frantically put together a quick touchdown drive after Princeton kicked the ball out of bounds. Kempe completed 6-of-8 passes, all to juniors Tanner Scott and Will Deevy with Scott doing the honors for the two-yard touchdown. But the point after went wide right, meaning the Big Green would need two touchdowns in the final 6:32.

The defense did its part, shutting the Tigers down on three plays to force a punt. Kempe went back to work, starting at the 22, completing passes of 26 yards to Gallagher and 24 yards to Scott. A 13-yard pass to Scott to the Princeton nine was called back for an illegal formation, and the drive stalled at the 27.

Yet the Big Green’s hopes were still alive, if ever so slight. The defense held Princeton to a three-and-out once again, and the punt put Dartmouth back on its own 28 with 1:53 to play. Methodically Kempe manipulated the offense downfield, and a roughing the passer penalty put the Green on the seven-yard line with less than a minute on the clock. Dartmouth’s drive came to a close at the five, however, when the clock ran out.

For the 14 Dartmouth seniors, including starting offensive lineman Alexander Toth, free safety Pete Pidermann and running back Rob Mitchelson, it was the final game of their Big Green career. Pidermann said afterward in a postgame press conference, “These were the best four years of my life. The locker room is full of the greatest men I know. I am a bit jealous of the guys coming back because we have young athletes here and are going to be great in the years to come.”

Dartmouth finished the season tied for sixth place with Yale at 2-5, while Princeton tied for fourth with Columbia at 3-4.

Notes: Sophomore Nick Schwieger participated in one play today, giving him eight games played on the season and qualifying him for the national and Ivy League leaders in rushing yards per game. He finished the season leading the league with 78.3 yards per game, but was six yards shy of the total rushing yards leader ...  freshmen Garrett Waggoner and Garrett Wymore topped the defense with 12 and 11 tackles, respectively, while sophomore Diego Fernandez-Soto had 10 ... junior place kicker Donald Kephart recorded tackles on two of his kickoffs, but neither were to save touchdowns -- rather he sprinted downfield and made the tackles, including one which flipped the returner completely upside-down ... this was the fourth time since 1990 that Dartmouth had scored exactly 11 points in a game, but first since a 14-11 loss to Cornell in 1998 ... the Big Green are 8-4 all-time when scoring 11 points, with seven of those games taking place in 1908 or earlier.