LEWISBURG, Pa. — Junior Nick Schwieger bolted his way to 216 yards on the ground and a pair of touchdowns as Dartmouth dominated the second half at Bucknell to defeat the host Bison on Saturday afternoon at Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium, 43-20. Trailing 20-9 at the intermission, the Big Green (1-0) scored 34 unanswered points in the second half to win their season opener for the first time in five years and snap a 17-game road losing streak that dated back to 2006. Bucknell (0-3) dropped its home opener and third straight game to start the season.
Schwieger carried the ball 25 times in posting the sixth-most yards in a game in Dartmouth history, but shy of his career high of 242 yards set last year against Columbia. His longest run of the day was a 56-yard burst up the middle on a perfectly executed draw play to give Dartmouth its first lead of the day at 23-20 late in the third quarter. In addition, Schwieger led the team with five receptions for 57 yards, giving him 273 all-purpose yards for the day. The Dartmouth offense as a unit racked up 481 yards and 28 first downs.
Junior quarterback Conner Kempe enjoyed a fine day as well for the Big Green, completing 17-of-23 passes for 211 yards while connecting on a career-high three touchdowns. His longest toss came on the final play of the third quarter when he hit junior Michael Reilly in the end zone from 41 yards out. Two of Reilly’s three receptions went for scores, both coming in the third quarter as Dartmouth scored 20 points in the period.
Junior Michael Reilly caught two touchdowns.
Dartmouth, trailing by 11 points, received the kick to start the second half, but a holding penalty on the return forced the Green to start on their own 12. Another penalty pushed Dartmouth back to its seven before Schwieger sprinted through the defense for 30 yards to get the offense rolling. It took the Big Green 12 plays to traverse the 88 yards on the drive, culminating with a 16-yard score from Kempe to Reilly, pulling the team within four points at 20-16.
Bucknell moved the ball 34 yards on its next drive, but Drew Orth’s 43-yard field goal attempt fell short of the uprights. Three Big Green plays later, Schwieger shot through the middle on the draw play to put Dartmouth ahead on his 56-yard run.
The Dartmouth defense held the Bison to a three-and-out, and senior Steve Morris blocked the punt, which rolled forward just 12 yards. On the very next play, Kempe launched his bomb to Reilly, who shed the defender and made the catch on his back in the end zone. The extra point attempt was blocked for the second time in the game by Bucknell, leaving the Big Green with a nine-point edge to start the final quarter.
Junior Conner Kempe set a personal best mark with three TD passes.
Once again, Dartmouth held the Bison without a first down, which led to a methodical 11-play, 83-yard touchdown drive which Schwieger finished off with an 11-yard score right up the middle. Junior cornerback Shawn Abuhoff then put the finishing touch on the game with a 56-yard interception return for a touchdown, becoming the first Big Green player to return a pick for a score since Nov. 22, 2008.
Bucknell looked to be in command during most of the first half, driving down to the Big Green 19 on the game’s opening drive before Abuhoff tipped a pass at the line on 3rd-and-2. The snap on the 36-yard field goal attempt was low, but the holder was able to get it down just in time, allowing Orth to sneak it through the uprights for a 3-0 lead.
The Big Green moved the ball quickly on their first drive as well with Schwieger carrying much of the load. But after advancing to the Bucknell 30, Derrick Palmer picked off a Kempe pass to thwart the drive. The first play after the interception was a 40-yard completion from Brandon Wesley to Victor Walker, and seven plays later, Wesley connected with Travis Friend from two yards out to put Bucknell up by 10.
Early in the second quarter, Dartmouth lined up for a 35-yard field goal attempt, but junior Foley Schmidt pulled the kick wide to the right. The Bison were held short of a first down on the ensuing drive at their own 29-yard line, but perfectly executed a fake punt for a 51-yard scamper by Beau Traber to the Dartmouth 20. The Bison ended up settling for a 23-yard field goal as the Green held up inside the 10.
Dartmouth scored its first points of the year after going down 13 points, starting with a Abuhoff 42-yard kick return to the Bison 35. An 11-yard run by Schwieger, 15-yard pass interference call and two more yards from Schwieger set up the nine-yard touchdown toss from Kempe to junior tight end John Gallagher, who stretched over the goal line for the score. The point after, however, was blocked by Josh Eden, leaving the score at 13-6.
The response to the Big Green touchdown was swift as Wesley found a wide-open Walker downfield for a 58-yard gain to the Dartmouth six. Wesley took a hit on the next play, but not until after he lofted a pass into the back left corner of the end zone to tight end Terna Ityokumbul. Orth added the extra point, making it 20-6 with just over six minutes left in the half.
The Big Green offense was able to move the ball once again, driving down to the Bucknell 12. But an eight-yard loss on a rush and a two-yard sack pushed Dartmouth back to the 22. Schmidt sculled the field goal attempt, but got just enough on it to scrape the crossbar and get through for the three points just 1:01 before the end of the half.
Dartmouth will play host next Saturday to Sacred Heart in the home opener for the Big Green. It will be the first meeting between the two schools on the gridiron with kickoff slated at Memorial Field for 1:30 p.m.
The finishing touch was applied by junior Shawn Abuhoff with his 56-yard INT return.