Football Escapes Dartmouth, 23-21, to Remain First in Ivy League


Less than four minutes remained in Saturday’s matchup between Harvard (5-1, 4-0 Ivy) and Dartmouth (3-4, 0-4 Ivy). The Big Green was down 23-14. The ball was pinned deep in its territory.

On first-and-five, the snap came in low, evading quarterback Jack Heneghan. The junior sprinted backwards, grabbed the pigskin, and slung it deep across the middle. It was an underthrown pass, and junior linebacker Luke Hutton extended his full body length for the interception. Game over. Seemingly.

But the football gods had other plans. After the play, the referees whistled sophomore defensive end DJ Bailey for roughing the passer, negating the interception and sending Harvard coach Tim Murphy into unusual fury.

Dartmouth then charged down the field, scoring with 2:32 left in the game. New life for Dartmouth. Seemingly. Now losing 23-21, the Big Green elected to kick the ball deep to the Crimson.


However, Harvard ended the comeback bid in Hanover, N.H. with a pair of key third-down conversions—one scrambled by senior quarterback Joe Viviano and one caught by senior halfback Anthony Firkser. Final score: Crimson 23, Big Green 21.

“Typical Dartmouth game,” Murphy said. “[It] goes down to the last play of the game…. I think if you look at our league right now, that’s what it’s all about. Every game is going down to the last possession.”

The Harvard offense got going early thanks to a turnover. On the second play from scrimmage, sophomore quarterback Bruce Dixon IV wobbled a ball down the right sideline; following the model set by Cornell, Dartmouth clearly was hoping to test the Crimson secondary deep. In this case, however, senior cornerback Raishaun McGhee undercut the throw for an interception.

The pick led to quick points. On third-and-six from the 12, Viviano fit the ball into a tight window for sophomore receiver Justice Shelton-Mosley, who made the catch in traffic for the first Crimson score.

The Harvard offense relied on the running game in the first half. Of the team’s 167 yards before intermission, 111 came on the ground. This strategy contrasted with the Dartmouth approach, as the hosts accumulated 31 rushing yards versus 155 passing yards before halftime.

However, the visitors’ offense ended the game with surprising balance. Although the Crimson started Saturday averaging roughly 100 more passing yards per game than rushing, the visitors totaled 199 yards on the ground and 206 yards through the air. And while Harvard had given up 10 sacks in the last two games, Viviano was not tackled for a loss once Saturday.

“I think [the lack of sacks] was a mixture of a few things, but our offensive line is an unbelievable unit,” Viviano said. “Today we had a lot of healthy guys out there, which helps. And the offensive line, they did an unbelievable job.”

Surprisingly the Big Green started Dixon IV on Saturday rather than usual first-stringer Heneghan. However, after Dixon IV went one-for-six with an interception, Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens called on Heneghan.

“I was surprised, but on the other hand, I know they were trying to balance their offense to some extent,” Murphy said. “That decision certainly made sense to me from the standpoint of, ‘Here’s a guy that’s a dual threat—he can carry the football.’”

Momentum shifted as soon the junior stepped onto the field. Compared to Dixon IV’s 28 yards through the air, Heneghan passed for 299 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for one—a seven-yard dash late in the fourth to cap a 72-yard drive.

After shooting to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, Harvard stagnated. The second period proved lackluster for both teams. The first five drives of the quarter ended in either a punt or, in one case, a failed conversion on fourth down.

Right before half, though, Heneghan sparked the Big Green. On the last drive of the quarter, Dartmouth did what the Seattle Seahawks failed to do in Super Bowl XLIX: complete a one-yard slant for a touchdown. That score brought the Big Green within seven heading into the locker room.

Despite bursts of offense, drops plagued Dartmouth all game. One particularly painful mistake came early in the fourth quarter, when Heneghan lofted a pass to freshman receiver Hunter Hagdorn. Wide open down the right side, Hagdorn let the ball hit him in the breastplate, dropping a likely touchdown with the Big Green down 23-14.

“You expect guys to make plays in critical situations,” Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens said. “It’s the what-ifs, but we’ve got to be a football team that makes those plays. Harvard makes those plays.”

—Staff writer Gant Player can be reached at


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