HANOVER, N.H. — With junior tailback Nick Schwieger — who ran for 216 yards in the season opener last week — laid up in bed with flu-like symptoms, freshman Dominick Pierre filled in more than capably with 110 yards on the ground and a pair of touchdowns in just his second collegiate game as Dartmouth defeated Sacred Heart in the Big Green’s home opener on Saturday afternoon at Memorial Field, 21-19. The Pioneers (1-3) had a 38-yard field goal attempt in the final minute go wide to the left before Dartmouth ran out the clock to secure its first 2-0 start since 1997.

Pierre took the ball 25 times for a 4.4-yard average on the day, plus caught two passes for 12 more yards. Meanwhile, junior quarterback Conner Kempe became the 16th passer in Dartmout history to surpass 2,000 yards through the air by completing 16-of-30 passes for 154 yards, giving him 2,051 in his career. Senior tri-captain Tim McManus led the team with four catches for 60 yards, including a key fourth-down catch in the second quarter to set up the Big Green’s second touchdown of the afternoon to give them the lead for good.

For the second straight week, Dartmouth had to overcome a halftime deficit as Sacred Heart took a five-point lead into the locker room, 12-7. But after receiving the opening kick of the second half, the Big Green marched right down the field in just nine plays covering 72 yards. A 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty helped, but it was the 4th-and-6 pass to a diving McManus down the middle of the field to the one-yard line and made the one-yard Kempe keeper possible for a 14-12 lead.

Tyler Melancon whoops it up after sacking
Sacred Heart quarterback Dale Fink.

Sacred Heart got a rebound effort from its record-setting quarterback, Dale Fink, who owns 11 Pioneer passing records, as he completed 30-of-41 for 286 yards and a touchdown against the Big Green. Last week, Fink managed just 72 yards and was picked off four times. Freshman Gregory Ibe led the Pioneers rushing attack with 71 yards on just nine carries, while Mark Uyeno caught six passes for 68 yards.

The Dartmouth defense immediately held the Pioneers without a first down with the big play being a 14-yard sack courtesy of junior Connor Phillips and sophomore John Golio. On each of the Big Green’s 10 plays during the next drive, they gained at least three yards as they methodically moved the ball downfield. Kempe was 4-for-4 for 36 yards during the drive, while Pierre and fellow freshman Dan Henggeler ran for 40 more with Pierre having the honor of taking the ball into the end zone on a seven-yard romp. Junior Foley Schmidt made it a 21-12 contest with his third PAT of the game.

Again Sacred Heart could not get anything going offensively with another three-and-out as they ran just six plays total during the third quarter. Dartmouth could not capitalize, however, despite advancing into Pioneer territory due to the only turnover of the game, an Ethan Ostermeyer interception at the 19-yard line on the second play of the fourth quarter.

That pick turned the tide a bit as the Sacred Heart offense started to find its stride. Penalties proved to be the Pioneers’ undoing at first as another flag for unsporsmanlike conduct was thrown on SHU before a 4th-and-4 play at the Big Green 27. Sacred Heart settled for a perfectly placed 42-yard pooch punt inside the one.

Dartmouth got one first down but was forced to punt — a 53-yarder from freshman Daniel Barstein — only to have the Pioneers quickly gobble up the 71 yards which was capped by a four-yard pass from Dale Fink to Rich Rossi. The point after by Jesper Fredriksson made it a two-point game at 21-19.

Sacred Heart got one more shot to win the game, taking over with 3:29 to play at its own 44. The drive stalled at the Big Green 21, and the Pioneers sent Fredriksson in to try the 38-yard field goal with less than 50 seconds on the clock. Kicking from the left hash mark, his boot went wide to the left, and three kneeldowns later, Dartmouth had its victory.

Fredriksson started the game with a pair of field goals in the first quarter, from 25 and 33 yards as Sacred Heart dominated the opening period by running 27 plays to just three for the Big Green. In the second quarter, the two teams traded touchdowns with Pierre finishing off a 14-play drive with a three-yard run, and Marcel Archer diving in from a yard out with 12 seconds before the end of the half for the Pioneers. But while Schmidt drilled his extra point, Fredriksson had his blocked and nearly returned for a defensive PAT by the tandem of senior Luke Hussey and sophomore Chase Womack. Sacred Heart finally tripped up Womack, who took a lateral from Hussey, at the Pioneer 30. That missed PAT proved important as SHU could have gone for a two-point try on its final touchdown in the fourth quarter to tie the score.

Senior Pat Scorah led three Big Green players in double-figure tackles with 13 stops, while Hussey had 12 and junior Joey Casey 10, all career highs. Phillips provided 1.5 of Dartmouth’s three sacks on the day as well.

Dartmouth, which has won consecutive games for the first time since 2003, will hit the road next Saturday for its Ivy League opener at Penn. The game will be televised by Comcast locally in Philadelphia at 3:30 p.m.

President Kim celebrates the football team’s 2-0 start to the 2010 season.