Turnover Battle Goes to Dartmouth in Halting Holy Cross
HANOVER, N.H. — After committing four turnovers in the game, Dartmouth forced visiting Holy Cross into six miscues in the second half — four in the fourth quarter — to pull out a thrilling 27-19 victory on Saturday at Memorial Field. Junior Foley Schmidt booted two fourth-quarter field goals and junior tailback Nick Schwieger ran for 169 yards as Dartmouth (3-2) ended a personal six-game skid against the Crusaders. Holy Cross (3-4) fell below .500 despite amassing 398 yards while running a whopping 92 plays on the afternoon.
Schwieger had 36 touches in the game, gaining his 169 yards on the ground on 31 carries while catching three passes and returning a pair of kickoffs. Dartmouth needed the workhorse on offense as junior quarterback Conner Kempe struggled on this windy day, completing just eight passes in 20 attempts for 57 yards with a pair of interceptions.
Ryan Taggart led the Holy Cross offense completing 25-of-39 passes for 220 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but threw four interceptions as well. Sam Auffant was the Crusaders’ leading rusher with 71 yards on 22 carries, and Luke Chmielinski caught seven passes for 57 yards.
The Big Green entered the fourth quarter trailing, 19-14, after Rob Dornfried knocked a 20-yard chip shot through the uprights for his second field goal of the day. Schwieger and freshman Dominick Pierre combined to run for 44 yards on 10 rushes during the next possession, with Schwieger gaining 11 yards on two separate carries, advancing the Big Green inside the Holy Cross 10. An eight-yard pass to Pierre out of the backfield appeared to put Dartmouth on top, yet a holding penalty negated the play. Schmidt came on for the 35-yard field goal to cut the deficit to two.
On the ensuing kickoff, Big Green kicker — who is also a shot putter for the track and field team — smashed into the returner to force a fumble, which Dartmouth recovered at the Crusader 30. A pair of Schwieger runs moved the ball 13 yards, but the drive stalled out. Schmidt lined up for a 32-yard field goal this time and gave the Green a 20-19 lead with 8:36 to play.
Holy Cross started to move the ball, gaining one first down before facing a 3rd-and-2. Quarterback Ryan Taggart connected with tailback Sam Auffant, but junior cornerback Shawn Abuhoff jarred the ball loose with senior linebacker Luke Hussey pouncing on it for another Crusader turnover. Although the Big Green couldn’t capitalize with another score, freshman Daniel Barstein pinned Holy Cross inside the 10 with a 39-yard punt. Holy Cross registered a pair of first downs before freshman A.J. Dettorre broke up a fourth-down pass, giving Dartmouth the ball with just 1:40 to play.
The game seemed well in hand, but the Crusaders still had three timeouts and used every one as their defense held the Big Green without a first down. The punt bounded into the end zone, so Holy Cross still had hope at its own 20 and 1:21 on the clock. Taggart completed a 14-yard pass on 4th-and-10, but was picked off on the very next play by senior strong safety Pat Scorah. He didn’t stop until he traveled 43 yards for a touchdown. The Big Green were whistled for a holding penalty on the return, but Holy Cross had to decline it in order to get the ball back for one last chance to tie. But after botching the kickoff to start at their own two, junior A.J. Diblasi came up with Dartmouth’s fourth interception of the game to leave no doubt to the outcome.
Holy Cross began the game as each of Dartmouth first four opponents had — scoring points on its first possession. The Crusaders marched 75 yards in 13 plays as Taggart completed 6-of-7 passes on the drive, including an eight-yard strike to Freddie Santana to put six points on the board. Dornfried provided the PAT for an early 7-0 Holy Cross lead.
Abuhoff returned the kickoff to near midfield, setting up a touchdown drive for the Big Green. Schwieger got the hand-off on the first play from scrimmage and went 24 yards, then accounted for 20 more before reaching the end zone on a four-yard burst. The extra point by Schmidt tied the game at seven.
Turnovers became a problem for Dartmouth after getting a defensive stop. With Holy Cross kicking into a stiff wind, the Big Green tried to field the punt but could not corral the ball. Ricky Otis came up with it, giving the Crusaders possession in Dartmouth territory. Holy Cross stalled out at the Big Green 13, but Dornfried knocked a 30-yard field goal into the wind for a 10-7 advantage.
Kempe was picked off just before the end of the first quarter, but the errant throw did not lead to any Crusader points. But when Kempe fumbled the snap on the next drive at the Big Green 36, Holy Cross did not let the opportunity pass by again as Taggart hooked up with Gerald Mistretta on an eight-yard touchdown. Dartmouth senior Charles Bay came up with what turned out to be a huge play as blocked the extra-point attempt, giving the Big Green at least one blocked kick in each of their five games this year and in nine of their last 10 dating back to last season.
Dartmouth put together a 14-play, 80-yard drive spanning more than six minutes to reach the end zone again. But it didn’t come easy as Holy Cross nearly completed a goal-line stand after the Green had 1st-and-goal at the two. It took all four plays to get the touchdown as Kempe stretched the ball across the goal line after an initial stop.
Holy Cross then ran 17 plays but came away empty as the Big Green came up with an impressive goal-line stand of their own. On 3rd-and-goal from the one with 11 seconds left in the half and no timeouts, Dettorre batted away a pass in the end zone. The Crusaders went to line up for a field goal, but Dartmouth head coach Buddy Teevens called timeout to ice the kicker. With the added time to think about it, Holy Cross coach Tom Gilmore decided to go for it, only to see Auffant get stuffed at the goal line by Bay, keeping the score 16-14 at the intermission.
Dartmouth turned the ball over for the fourth time on the first possession of the second half on Kempe’s second interception. But the turnover trend changed in the Big Green’s favor as Abuhoff and Dettorre each recorded interceptions on the next two Crusader possessions. Still, Dartmouth could not capitalize and Dornfried finally got a chance with his 20-yard chip shot just before the end of the third quarter.
Freshman linebacker Bronson Green led the Green defense with a season-high 11 tackles, while junior linebacker Tyler Melancon had 10 more stops with a fumble recovery. Both Bay and junior Connor Phillips had sacks for Dartmouth as well.
Dartmouth returns to Ivy League action next week when it travels to Columbia (3-2, 1-1 Ivy) for a game at 1:30 p.m. Holy Cross travels to Colgate for a Patriot League match-up at 1 p.m.
Notes: The 57 passing yards are the fewest for Dartmouth in a victory since beating Lehigh, 21-14, on Sept. 28, 1996 (54) ... the Big Green won each of their three non-conference games for the first time since that same year, 1996 ... the four Big Green interceptions are their most since picking off four Cornell passes in a 14-11 loss on Oct. 24, 1998 ... the six turnovers are the most for a Dartmouth opponent since Cornell coughed the ball up seven times in a 59-31 Big Green win back on Nov. 3, 2007.