HANOVER, N.H. — The 23rd-ranked Harvard Crimson jumped out to a 14-0 first-quarter lead then held off Dartmouth in the Big Green’s homecoming game for a 23-21 victory, earning their 13th consecutive win in the series. Joe Viviano completed 19-of-30 passes with a touchdown for Harvard (6-1, 4-0 Ivy) plus ran for another to keep Dartmouth (3-4, 0-4 Ivy) winless in conference play.
Junior quarterback Jack Heneghan came off the bench for the first time this season and completed 32-of-48 throws for 301 yards and a score as he tried to rally the Big Green in front of 7,012 fans on a wet and overcast afternoon. His favorite target was freshman Hunter Hagdorn who set career highs with 11 catches and 118 yards. But Dartmouth managed to gain just 69 yards on the ground, matching a season low.
Trailing 23-14 with less than five minutes to play, the Big Green embarked on an eight-play, 88-yard drive that took just 1:51. A roughing-the-passer call negated an interception during the drive, and Heneghan later connected with junior Emory Thompson for a 19-yard gain to the Crimson nine. On the very next play, Heneghan dropped back to pass but immediately saw an opening and took off to the end zone to close the gap to two points with 2:32 left to play.
Dartmouth Robert L. Blackman Head Football Coach Buddy Teevens elected to kick it deep and rely on his defense to get a stop with two timeouts still in his pocket. He burned the first one with Harvard facing 3rd-and-5 at its own 25, but Viviano foiled the strategy by scrambling for what seemed like forever before picking up seven yards and the first down.
The Big Green still may have had a few seconds left if they could get a stop, but the Crimson surprised the defense by passing on third down to gain the yardage they needed. One kneel down later and Harvard kept pace with Penn atop the Ivy League standings.
With the offense sputtering a bit over the previous few games, Teevens turned to Bruce Dixon IV behind center, giving the sophomore his first career start. The Harvard defense did not bat an eye with the change as cornerback Raishaun McGhee picked off a pass on the second play from scrimmage, returning the interception 14 yards to the Dartmouth 30. Five plays later, Viviano hit Justice Shelton-Mosley — who led the Crimson with six catches and 77 yards — for a 12-yard scoring strike and a 7-0 lead barely two and a half minutes into the contest.
Toward the end of the opening quarter, Harvard struck again by methodically marching 68 yards in 10 plays. Viviano capped the drive with a five-yard keeper into the end zone.
Heneghan was summoned on the third play during the next drive, a move that paid off just before the intermission. Starting at their own 19 with 2:53 left in the second quarter, the Big Green sliced through the Crimson defense to traverse the 81 yards to cut the deficit in half. Heneghan completed 7-of-11 passes during the possession, distributing the ball to six different receivers, the last of which was junior tight end Stephen Johnston from a yard out for the touchdown and 16 seconds showing on the clock.
A 26-yard field goal by Harvard freshman Jake McIntyre in the third quarter boosted the Crimson lead to 10, but Dartmouth answered with another touchdown. Three times Heneghan teamed up with Hagdorn for 15-yard gains, and sophomore Miles Smith powered his way into the end zone from three yards out to provide six points. Junior David Smith added the PAT, and suddenly the Green were down just three at 17-14 with nearly 20 minutes to play.
Harvard had a response of its own, gobbling up nearly five minutes on a 75-yard scoring drive of its own. The longest of the 12 plays was a 10-yard pass to Brian Dunlap, and the only play that didn’t gain at least three yards was the lone incompletion. Semar Smith produced the touchdown on a seven-yard run just before the third quarter expired, but Jeremiah Douchee blocked the extra-point attempt. Junior Jarius Brown scooped up the loose ball for the Big Green and looked like he just might return it the distance for a two-point defensive PAT. But the holder, Cam Tripp, had the angle and was able to push him out near midfield, in a play that turned out to save the game for Harvard.
In the fourth quarter, the Crimson had an opportunity to boost their lead back into double digits, but once again Douchee thwarted a kick, this time blocking a 38-yard field goal try. After the two teams traded punts, Dartmouth went on its final scoring drive and Harvard ran out the clock.
Harvard featured a balanced attack with 194 yards on the ground to go with Viviano’s 206 through the air for exactly 400 yards on the afternoon. Meanwhile, the Big Green nearly matched the Crimson with 398 yards of their own, but in a much more unbalanced fashion with 329 coming via the pass.
Both teams’ defense were led by cornerbacks with freshman Isiah Swann collecting nine solo stops and an interception for Dartmouth, while McGhee had 14 tackles, one for a loss, and two pass breakups to go with his pick. Harvard’s D.J. Bailey, James Duberg and Tristan Tahmaseb had the game’s only sacks.
Dartmouth will head to Ithaca, New York, next weekend in search of its first Ivy League victory when it takes on Cornell (3-4, 1-3 Ivy), which suffered a 56-7 loss to Princeton today. The game will be streamed live on the Ivy League Digital Network and broadcast over the airwaves on 94.5 ESPN in the Upper Valley with kickoff slated for 1:30 p.m. Harvard returns to Cambridge for the first time in four weeks to play host to Columbia (2-5, 1-3 Ivy) at 1 p.m.
Notes: While Harvard has won 13 straight in the series to improve to 70-45-5 all-time against the Big Green, three of the last four games have been decided by a combined total of six points ... one week after going a miserable 1-for-17 on third downs, Dartmouth converted 9-of-18 opportunities against the Crimson ... Heneghan has two 300-yard games to his credit this season, and Hagdorn two 100-yard receiving games ... Dartmouth last blocked two kicks in a game for the second time in three weeks.