HANOVER, N.H. — The state of New Hampshire has suffered through drought-like conditions this summer. Dartmouth ended an even longer drought of its own by defeating the 22nd-ranked New Hampshire Wildcats for the first time in 40 years at Memorial Field on Saturday night, 22-21. The Big Green (1-0) were 0-18-2 against UNH (1-2) since earning a 24-13 victory back in 1976.
Junior quarterback Jack Heneghan, making his first career start, drove the Big Green 80 yards in less than two minutes, capping the drive off with a one-yard toss to junior Charles Mack in the end zone for a 22-21 lead with 1:40 to play. The two-point conversion fell short of the goal line, but the defense managed to preserve the one-point win when junior Brennan Cascarano sacked Wildcat QB on fourth down near midfield.
Dartmouth entered the fourth quarter trailing, 21-7, but was stationed inside the UNH five-yard line. A holding penalty pushed the Green back, leaving them to settle for a 28-yard David Smith field goal to cut the deficit to 11 points with 13:45 to play.
The rally appeared to have fizzled out when the next Dartmouth drive was abruptly ended by safety Casey DeAndrade, who stripped the ball from Heneghan after a big gain near midfield for his second forced fumble of the game with 10:25 on the clock.
But junior safety Colin Boit intercepted a pass from Wildcat reserve quarterback Adam Riese about three minutes later and returned it 42 yards into Wildcat territory. Facing 4th-and-1, Heneghan connected on a quick route to senior Houston Brown, who turned upfield for a 19-yard pickup to the UNH four. On the very next play, Heneghan stepped up to avoid the rush and tossed a touchdown to junior Emory Thompson. The two-point conversion pass was incomplete, however, leaving Dartmouth trailing by five, 21-16, with five minutes left.
Once again the Big Green defense, which held the Wildcats to 338 yards, came through by denying UNH a first down. Starting from its own 20 with 3:35 to reach the end zone, Heneghan quickly went to work, hitting Brown for an 11-yard gain and Mack for 24 more. Then on 3rd-and-7, Heneghan completed a 37-yard bomb to Thompson at the Wildcat five. Heneghan ran for four yards before finding Mack in the end zone for the game-winner, ending his night with 229 passing yards while completing 22-of-46 passes with three touchdowns and two picks.
Knight returned for the final New Hampshire drive, but after picking up one first down on a fourth-down play, he could not do so again as Cascarano took him to the turf on 4th-and-6 at the Wildcat 42.
Dartmouth, which graduated 17 of its 22 starters from last year’s Ivy championship team, suffered through some growing pains during the game, turning the ball over four times, two of which led to UNH touchdowns. But the Big Green, and Heneghan in particular, enjoyed a tremendous growth spurt in the fourth quarter as he completed 10-of-15 throws for 114 yards — nearly half of his total on the evening — and the two scores.
Heneghan also ran for 80 yards on 14 carries, while junior Ryder Stone amassed 90 yards on seven attempts as Dartmouth ran for 206 yards for 435 total yards, besting New Hampshire by 97 yards. Brown was the leading Big Green receiver with eight catches for 99 yards and the game’s first touchdown, a seven-yard haul late in the first quarter.
Knight was effective behind center for the Wildcats, going 24-of-36 with a pair of touchdowns. Malik Love led all players with 13 receptions and 108 yards on the night. The UNH running game was contained to 123 yards, led by Dalton Crossan’s 45 on 12 attempts.
New Hampshire had its share of miscues in the game, turning the ball over three times, including a muffed punt in the opening quarter that led to Brown’s touchdown.
Linebacker Jared Kuehl evened the score with 3:08 left in the half by stepping in front of a third-down Heneghan pass and hoofing it 61 yards to tie the game.
It looked as if Dartmouth would reclaim the lead before the intermission when Stone broke free down the right sideline and galloped more than 60 yards. But DeAndrade caught him from behind and punched the ball from his grasp, allowing Rick Ellison to recover it at the Wildcat 14 with two minutes left in the half.
New Hampshire turned right around and traversed the 86 yards in 10 plays, finishing off the drive on a 27-yard scoring strike from Knight to Kieran Presley with just 17 seconds showing for a 14-7 lead. Another long drive, this time spanning 88 yards, ended in a Knight eight-yard TD pass to Justin Malone-Woods midway through the third quarter. But that merely set the stage for the comeback that thrilled many of the 8,296 fans that came to Hanover for the Granite Bowl.
Senior linebacker Folarin Orimolade, a preseason All-American, led the Big Green with nine tackles and forced two Wildcat fumbles, while Cascarano recorded a pair of sacks and recovered the first fumble caused by Orimolade.
New Hampshire linebacker DeVaughn Chollette led all players with 11 tackles, and the Wildcat secondary was busy by breaking up 14 passes — five by Prince Smith — and picking off two others.
Dartmouth takes to the road next weekend when it plays at Holy Cross (1-2) on Saturday at 1:05 p.m. New Hampshire opens up CAA play next Saturday when it travels to Rhode Island (0-3) for a 1 p.m. tilt.
Notes: This was the largest deficit overcome in the fourth quarter since Dartmouth trailed Princeton, 18-0, in the 1999 season finale ... the Big Green ended their 2015 season by rallying from a double-digit deficit as well, overcoming a 10-0 Princeton lead in the third quarter to beat the Tigers, 17-10, and claim a share of the Ivy League crown for the first time in 19 years ... the touchdown catches for Thompson and Mack were both the first of their respective careers ... Heneghan entered the game with five career completions to his credit ... Dartmouth’s Robert L. Blackman Head Football Coach Buddy Teevens, in his 17th season at Dartmouth, earned his 10th win with the Big Green when trailing after three quarters ... the last Big Green victory over a ranked opponent came in the season finale of the 2013 campaign in a 28-24 triumph over No. 19 Princeton ... with the 7:05 kickoff time, Dartmouth was the last FCS team to start its season, the fourth time in five years it has held that distinction.