Before Saturday’s meeting, the Red and Green have faced off on the gridiron 99 times in a rivalry dating back to 1900. In the centennial meeting in Ithaca, Dartmouth captured its 59th win of the series in a come-from-behind 17-13 win.
Following a field goal on the game’s opening drive, Cornell led for the entire game, but Dartmouth capitalized on a late Cornell turnover to score the go-ahead touchdown. The Green clamped down on the Red to secure its first Ivy win of the season.
“It just stings today because the game was out there to be won,” said head coach David Archer ’05. “We didn’t deserve to win, we didn’t do enough to come away with the victory.”
Cornell’s offense — only able to muster a single touchdown against Princeton last weekend — began Saturday’s contest much more crisp and synchronized. In two straight drives to open the game, sophomore quarterback Dalton Banks led his squad to consecutive red zone trips that resulted in field goals.
“We had two awesome drives right out the gate, but there are a few little things we wish we could have back,” Banks said. “It was tough to see that happen twice but we were still getting points on the board. We have to keep driving the ball and moving the ball, and the touchdowns will come.”
The opening drive was highlighted by short passes from Banks. Since the losing skid began, Banks had trouble finding his receivers, often opting for the high-risk, high-reward long balls. However, against Dartmouth, Banks went 16 for 23, with only one pass for over 10 yards.
“We have a good, quick offense where we can get the ball out quick,” the quarterback said. “It’s effective and we like it and that was our plan: to keep rolling with it. In the second half they made a few adjustments so we had to throw it down field a little bit, but overall that was our game plan.”
Archer added that film showed the short passing game was the best approach for moving the offense down the field.
“Every week we try to take what they give and [the opportunity of short ball] is certainly something we saw on film,” he said.
Banks would go on to finish the day 28 for 43 for 216 passing yards. For the first time since the Red’s 27-13 Homecoming win over Yale, Banks was not intercepted all game.
“Everything was rolling,” Banks added. “We were moving the chains and that’s just how we have to keep going. I was confident going into this one like I am every game.”
However, interceptions on the other side of the ball have been a major positive for the Red this season. After a zero-turnovers performance against Princeton, senior safety Justin Solomon added to Cornell’s league-leading interception total with his third of the year.
Game in and game out, it has typically been the Green’s pass offense that takes center stage, but Cornell’s secondary held Dartmouth’s league-leading pass offense to 226 yards, below their average of 258 yards per game.
Yet, with its passing game limited, the Green did its damage on the ground. On 42 attempts, Dartmouth’s rushers amassed a total of 179 yards, with Miles Smith accounting for 119 and the Green’s first touchdown.
“We knew they were going to try and run the ball on us,” said junior linebacker Kurt Frimel. “We knew the power play was going to be big for them and that they were going to throw the ball — they have a good core of receivers. They are a very well coached team, so we were kind of expecting that sort of balanced attack.”
Frimel also said some of the problems in the run defense came down to “one guy mak[ing] a mistake [or] not fill[ing] a gap.”
The rush defense cannot shoulder all the blame for Saturday’s loss, however. A late turnover killed all momentum the Red had and gifted Dartmouth its game-winning drive.
Following strong passing from Banks to senior captain and tight end Matt Sullivan, sophomore running back Chris Walker fumbled the ball as the Red approached the Green’s red zone.
On the ensuing drive, Dartmouth quarterback Jack Heneghan overthrew his receiver on what would have been a sure touchdown; the junior went on to march his team down the field. He found Charles Mack in the endzone for the go-ahead score.
This loss comes on the heels of a players-only meeting following the demoralizing loss to Princeton, which was meant to “refocus” the team with three Ivy games remaining.
Archer said he saw a different team on the field during practice. The head coach said he believes that change in mentality was evident in Saturday’s game, despite the end result.
“I think these guys just reminded themselves who they are and to go out there and play,” Archer said. “I think the majority of them were playing so hard and just selling out every single time in practice and in games, I think that that catches up with you.”
The Red still has two games left to “keep going,” and they come against Columbia — the only team Cornell was victorious over in 2014 and 2015— and Penn — who was shutout by the Tigers on the road.
“I’m really proud of the kids. I’m so disappointed today, but I know these guys,” Archer said. “They’re going to come out. We’re going to keep reminding them of that because they’re good players, unbelievable kids and we’re going to keep going.”