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Courtesy: Kalim Bhatti
Conner Kempe

Big Green Maintain Composure to Beat Columbia, 24-21

Courtesy: Dartmouth
Release: 11/11/2010
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NEW YORK, N.Y. — Junior quarterback Conner Kempe led Dartmouth on a 14-play touchdown drive late in the game to help the Big Green overcome three fourth-quarter fumbles and defeat Columbia, 24-21, spoiling the Lions’ homecoming. Junior tailback Nick Schwieger provided the go-ahead score on a one-yard run with 2:28 to play, giving Dartmouth (4-2, 1-2 Ivy) its first road win in conference play in four years and sending Columbia (3-3, 1-2 Ivy) to its second straight loss.

Kempe enjoyed a fine day behind center, completing 24-of-37 passes for 235 yards and a touchdown, and completed four passes during the game-winning drive for 35 yards. Three receivers — senior Tim McManus, junior tight end John Gallagher and Schwieger — each caught five passes with McManus leading the way with 66 yards. The Big Green passing game was balanced by Schwieger on the ground with his 124 yards on a career-high 32 carries as Dartmouth piled up 402 yards of offense.

Dartmouth seemed to be in command of the game as the fourth quarter began with 17-7 lead and driving into Lion territory for another score. But Lion defender Josh Smith hit Kempe as he pitched the ball back to freshman tailback Dominick Pierre, causing the ball to bound downfield where Columbia’s Josh Martin fell on it at the Lion 30. Columbia needed just seven plays to traverse the 70 yards with the big play a 30-yard, third-down pass from Sean Brackett to Kurt Williams. Brackett ran four yards for the touchdown, and Luke Eddy’s extra point brought the Lions within three.

On the ensuing kickoff, senior T.J. Cameron took a vicious hit from Ryan Murphy, jarring the ball loose, and Nick Mistretta pounced on it at the Dartmouth 25. Three plays later, however, Dartmouth returned the favor when senior Charles Bay got to Brackett in the backfield and knocked the ball out his hand, allowing junior Eddie Smith to recover for the Big Green.

The fumble-itis continued on the very next play when Schwieger lost the handle during a run, and again Martin was there to cover it up. The Lions did not let this opportunity pass them by when Brackett threw a two-yard strike to Nathan Lenz in the end zone, putting Columbia up by four at 21-17.

But Dartmouth was not to be denied on this day. Starting at the Big Green 31, Kempe completed a 3rd-and-10 pass to senior Tanner Scott for 16 yards, and Schwieger followed up with a 12-yard run to move past midfield. Then facing another 3rd-and-10, Kempe threw to Schwieger for a nine-yard gain. Pierre provided the first down with a three-yard gain, then galloped for 15 more to the Columbia 14. Another third-down play arose, and Kempe hit junior Michael Reilly across the middle under intense pressure for a 1st-and-goal at the two. Two plays later, Schwieger found himself in the end zone.

As has been the case in each of Dartmouth’s six games this year, the Big Green trailed at the half, this time by a 7-3 count. Dartmouth failed to get a first down to start the second stanza, but freshman Daniel Barstein drilled a 61-yard punt with a favorable roll to the Columbia one. This led to a three-and-out for the Lions, and the Big Green took over at midfield following a punt. First-down passes to McManus and Scott helped Dartmouth get down inside the 10 before facing a 4th-and-goal from the one. Dartmouth head coach Buddy Teevens elected to go for it, and Schwieger tunneled his way into the end zone for the touchdown and a 10-7 lead.

After another abbreviated Columbia possession, Kempe went right back to work maneuvering the offense downfield. McManus helped out with a phenomenal one-hand grab on a pass thrown behind him for a 14-yard gain. A 10-yard run by Schwieger and another 16-yard gain by Kempe put the Big Green on the three-yard line before an illegal shift penalty pushed them back five yards. It did not matter, though, as Kempe found sophomore tight end Mitch Aprahamian — although throwing to Gallagher — in the end zone for his first catch of the season and third of his career.

Columbia put points on the board on its first drive of the game. The Lions ran 11 of their 13 plays on the ground, gaining 52 of their 80 yards. Nick Gerst finished off the possession with a three-yard sweep around the left side and into the end zone, and Eddy provided the PAT for an early 7-0 Columbia lead.

The Big Green came right back, beginning with a 27-yard kick return by junior Shawn Abuhoff to the Dartmouth 43. A 17-yard screen pass to Schwieger moved the Green into Lion territory, and Dartmouth also converted a 4th-and-2 in the red zone. But the Columbia defense held and made the Big Green settle for a 27-yard field goal by junior Foley Schmidt.

The Dartmouth defense sacked Bracket four times in the game, while Columbia failed to get to Kempe even once. The Big Green have allowed just one sack all season and none since the first half of the season opener.

Brackett finished the game 17-of-31 for 188 yards, plus led the Lions with 47 rushing yards on 20 carries.

Dartmouth returns home next weekend for its homecoming game against the preseason favorite, Harvard (4-2, 2-1). The game will be televised regionally by NESN at 1:30 p.m. Columbia travels to Yale (4-2, 2-1) next Saturday for a game at noon.
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