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Football Drops Fourth Straight in 25-17 Defeat at Holy Cross

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Senior Eddie Smith (99)     By Beverly Schaefer
WORCESTER, Mass. — On a blustery day featuring winds regularly over 20 mph and a second-quarter rainstorm at Holy Cross’s Fitton Field, the host Crusaders were able to hold off the Dartmouth Big Green by a final score of 25-17. Ryan Taggart threw for 250 yards and set a Holy Cross quarterback record with 176 yards rushing to help the Crusaders (3-3) snap a two-game skid. Dartmouth (1-4) was led by senior Nick Schwieger and his 112 rushing yards, but it was not enough to keep the Big Green from losing their fourth straight game.

Holy Cross finished the day with a sizable offensive advantage, gaining 522 yards to just 224 for Dartmouth as the Crusaders had the ball for nearly two-thirds of the game (38:31). Taggart completed 29-of-41 passes to achieve his 250 yards through the air and ran the ball 23 times for an average of 7.7 yards per carry. His preferred target was wide receiver Gerald Mistretta, who caught 12 passes for 103 yards and one of Taggart’s two touchdown tosses.

While Schwieger was able to post his 12th career 100-yard game on the ground — the most ever by a Dartmouth player — the rest of the offense struggled to consistently move the ball. Senior Dan Rooney made his first career start behind center in an attempt to jump-start the passing game, but he completed just one pass for 10 yards over the first three quarters before senior Conner Kempe replaced him and went 7-of-16 for 73 yards and a touchdown.

Dartmouth received the opening kick for the first time in 12 games, but failed to get a first down on the opening possession, Holy Cross quickly moved down the field for a 7-0 lead as Taggart completed all four of his passes during the drive, including a 13-yard touchdown to Mistretta.

The Crusaders added a 23-yard field goal courtesy of John Macomber after advancing 79 yards to the Big Green six on their next possession. The three points were made possible by a 45-yard quarterback keeper on 3rd-and-15 at the Holy Cross 15. But it would have been worse for Dartmouth had senior cornerback Shawn Abuhoff not gotten a hand on a potential six-yard touchdown pass on the play before the field goal.

Dartmouth recorded its first first down of the game on the last play of the first quarter when Schwieger bolted for 16 yards across midfield. But a few plays into the second quarter, Tom Mannix picked off a Rooney pass at the 25, which turned out to be the lone Big Green turnover.

Now it was time for the Dartmouth defense to make a stand. On 2nd and 1 at the Big Green 39, the Crusaders were stopped cold on three straight plays, turning the ball over on downs. Five plays later, Schwieger broke off a long run down the Holy Cross 10, but had the ball knocked loose by Chandler Fenner. Fortunately for the Big Green, the ball bounced right to freshman wide receiver Bo Patterson, who continued the play down to the two. On third down, Schwieger dove over the pile for his 20th career touchdown, and senior Foley Schmidt’s extra point made it a three-point game at 10-7.

Driving into the wind and eventually rain, Holy Cross began to meticulously march toward the goal line, eventually reaching the Big Green four. But a holding penalty and a sack by senior Eddie Smith pushed the Crusaders back to the 23, and on the final play of the half, they had to take a shot at the end zone. Abuhoff was up to the challenge, swatting the pass away as time expired for the intermission.

Holy Cross wasted little time in scoring to start the second half, beginning with a 50-yard kickoff return by Andrew Zitnik to the Big Green 40. Six plays later, Sam Auffant barreled in from three yards out for the touchdown, but a wayward extra-point attempt left the score at 16-7.

Abuhoff saw Zitnik’s return and raised him with an 89-yarder down to the Holy Cross seven. Yet Dartmouth had to settle for a Schmidt 22-yard field goal when Rooney’s third-down pass to senior tight end John Gallagher could not be handled.

Taggart doubled the lead from six to 12 points by orchestrating a nine-play, 72-yard drive that culminated with a quick one-yard pass to tight end Alex Schneider. When the snap on the PAT attempt was bobbled by Taggart, the Crusaders’ lead remained at 22-10.

Another long, sustained Holy Cross drive ended with a 20-yard Macomber field goal, only because the Dartmouth defense was able to come up with another goal-line stand. Smith once again was at the center of the push, dropping running back Reggie Woods for a two-yard loss on 3rd-and-goal at the one.

A Holy Cross fumble early in the fourth quarter, recovered by senior Royce Egeolu, gave the Big Green a terrific scoring opportunity at the Crusader 32. A Schwieger 12-yard run and a face-mask penalty put Dartmouth on the six with four plays to get into the end zone, but the Green could managed just two yards before turning the ball over on downs.

After another Smith sack and a defensive stop, Dartmouth needed two touchdowns and a two-point conversion in the last 4:35 of the game. Kempe went to work by completing 7-of-11 passes to cover 86 yards, the last being a 13-yard touchdown to Patterson with 2:19 to play.

Schmidt provided a well-placed onside kick, but Dartmouth could not corral the loose ball on the ground. Then facing 4th-and-1, a Holy Cross gamble paid off when Eddie Houghton picked up three yards for the first down. Two kneel-downs later, and the game was official.

Three Big Green defenders had at least 11 tackles, led by strong safety Joey Casey with a career-high 13. Senior linebacker Luke Hussey made 11 stops, as did Abuhoff for a career-high, while Smith also posted a personal best with nine tackles including his two sacks.

After playing consecutive games on the road, the Big Green return home to Memorial Field next Saturday to host Ivy League foe Columbia in Dartmouth’s homecoming game at 1:30 p.m. Holy Cross heads to Lewisburg, Pa., for a Patriot League showdown against Bucknell at 1 p.m.