Behind an exceptional rushing attack, Dartmouth wins the Granite Bowl in a 38-21 win over UNH


As a team, Dartmouth racked up 263 yards and three touchdowns.

by Will Ennis | 29 minutes ago

Running back Zack Bair ’22 missed Saturday’s game with an illness unrelated to COVID-19, but Big Green’s hasty attack still slashed the Wildcats’ defense.

In this year’s rendition of the Granite Bowl, the inter-New Hampshire football rivalry between Dartmouth and the University of New Hampshire, the Big Green faced the Wildcats on Saturday in Durham. The game was a high-scoring affair with explosive plays throughout both attacks, but the Big Green was able to come off with a comfortable 38-21 win, remaining perfect over the year at 5-0.

Dartmouth is now tied for the top of the Ivy League table with Princeton and Harvard, with all three teams at 5-0. This is the first time since 1968 that the Ivy League has had three teams 5-0 and the first time that an FCS conference has featured three teams 5-0 since 2009.

Outstanding running back Zack Bair ’22 did not adjust to this game, suffering from an illness unrelated to COVID-19. Prior to this clash, Bair was Big Green’s second rusher in both yards and carries, behind only Nick Howard ’23, so his absence left a big hole in Dartmouth’s offense. Or, at least theoretically, it should have.

Although missing Bair, Big Green’s hasty offense slashed the Wildcats on Saturday, for 263 yards and three team scores. Howard provided much of that output from his quarterback, racking up 96 yards and three scores in 18 carries. By the end of that game, Howard had amassed nine rushing touchdowns during the season, a mark far ahead of the team.

New Hampshire head coach Sean McDonnell stressed that the rushed attack was the key to Dartmouth’s victory.

“Watching the game from the sideline, they played downhill on us the whole game,” he said. “They handled the ball extremely well, whether it was the running backs… or the 17-year-old quarterback Howard, they had a very strong physical presence.”

Dartmouth’s strength in this phase was responsible for the game’s first two scores. The Big Green broke through on opening possession to set Howard up for a six-yard touchdown.

After the Dartmouth defense stuffed the Wildcat possession that followed in 4th and on goal from its own goal line, the offense got back to work, moving 99 yards across the field and closing the run with a Howard’s second six-yard touchdown. . 14-0, Dartmouth, early in the second quarter.

“We felt really good about our game plan that our coaches came up with,” Howard said. “And we knew that if we just did our job, we would be able to be successful.”

That game plan, which explains Bair’s absence, heavily incorporated Noah Roper ’23 into the rushing offense, marking the first time this season that he has had more than six touches. Roper reprized the lead in that game, racking up 108 yards on 16 carries while adding 15 more yards in the air on two receptions.

“We know he’s great, super talented and capable of playing like that, but just didn’t have the number of touches to be able to show it,” Howard said. “And he finally did it this week, and I think it was really good for him, his confidence, and just his development and growth as a player to finally be able to show what he can do. We all believed in him and he proved us right.

Dartmouth head coach Buddy Teevens ’79 praised the work ethic and preparation of Roper to play a bigger role in this game.

“He’s just a hard working dude since the day we got him,” Teevens said. “Tough and physical, we had other guys playing ahead of him but it was his opportunity and he made a game for himself.”

The rest of the first half went well for Dartmouth, especially offensively, as the Big Green scored on each of their next three halftime practices, scoring two field goals and a touchdown on a reception from Joe Kramer ’22. On the other side of the ball, the Big Green allowed just one score before halftime on a 75-yard Wildcat touchdown run. At halftime it was 24-7 at Dartmouth.

Early in the third quarter, the Big Green increased their lead when quarterback Derek Kyler ’21 found wide receiver Paxton Scott ’24 in midfield, heading for the straight sideline. Scott grabbed the ball and sped down the sideline, then, spinning and pushing his way through the Wildcat tackles, finally found the end zone for a 52-yard touchdown. The extra point was passed and Dartmouth took a 31-7 lead.

This play was indicative of a larger trend in this game: Dartmouth’s constant, hammered and rushed attack opened his passing game. Kyler finished the game with 325 yards in the air – a career-high – and two scores on an 18-for-23 pass line.

“Offensively our guys were very, very clean in their execution,” said coach Teevens. “[Kyler] was right on – his calls, his adjustments, his controls and his throws. “

However, New Hampshire would not go away quietly. After Scott’s big touchdown, the Wildcats’ next two practices saw them open up Big Green’s defense for some big goals: first a 53-yard touchdown run and then a 48-yard reception, slashing the lead by Dartmouth 10 points, 31-21, before the start of the fourth quarter.

When the game was played on the wire, however, Big Green’s defense held on, forcing punts on New Hampshire’s last two possessions of the game. Add in another insurance touchdown from Howard – his third six-yard touchdown run of the day – and Dartmouth came away with a relatively comfortable victory.

With that game in the rearview mirror, Dartmouth’s remaining schedule will be made up entirely of conference games. The Big Green will then take the field in Hanover, facing the Columbia University Lions 4-1 on Friday.

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