Saturday’s game at Yankee Stadium had been scheduled to commemorate Princeton football’s 150th anniversary, but it was Dartmouth that ended the day with a celebration.
The Big Green beat the Tigers 27–10 to snap Princeton’s 17-game winning streak, remaining undefeated on the season and putting themselves in a strong position to win the Ivy League title.
“Credit Dartmouth, they played better than we did,” Princeton head coach Bob Surace ’90 said. “You’ve got to be so precise against them, and obviously we weren’t. It’s a credit to them to force you to be so precise.”
The Big Green dominated the ground game on both sides of the ball, rushing for 225 yards and holding Princeton to 36. Despite playing through an injury suffered last week against Harvard, Dartmouth quarterback Jared Gerbino rushed for 99 yards on 16 carries and two touchdowns.
“[Gerbino] is a heck of a player,” Surace said. “I grabbed him out afterwards and just told him what heart he has. He wasn’t full speed, and for him to play like he was for as long as he did is a credit to him and a credit to the toughness those guys have.”
Meanwhile, the Big Green made life difficult for senior quarterback Kevin Davidson. They intercepted him twice, sacked him three times, and prevented Princeton from generating the big passing plays that have powered the Tiger offense throughout the season.
“We knew coming in they had some big, strong guys,” Davidson said. “They showed that throughout the game. When they only bring four, there’s not a lot of things down the field you can get to when you’re feeling the heat.”
With the baseball diamond replaced by a football field, Yankee Stadium provided a unique venue for the game. The stands were hardly full, but both Dartmouth and Princeton fans traveled to New York for the game, and the announced attendance of 21,506 was by far the largest for a Princeton game this season.
“It’s a blessing,“ junior linebacker James Johnson said. “It was a great atmosphere, great turnout by both [teams’] fans. But at the end of the day, it’s just a football game.”
The game started off slowly for the Tigers. Davidson was sacked on the first play from scrimmage, and the punting unit trotted out to cap off the three and out. Dartmouth threatened on their first drive, but sophomore kicker Connor Davis pushed a 38-yard field goal try wide right. The victory was short-lived for the Tigers, as on their second play on the ensuing drive, defensive end Niko Lalos picked off Davidson’s screen pass and took it back 22 yards untouched for the score, to put Dartmouth up 7–0 early.
“We’ve got to cut [block] the defensive end,” Surace said about the play. “The quarterback can’t do anything about that.”
That was the first of three uncharacteristic but costly turnovers for Princeton in the first half. The second came on a fumble from sophomore tight end Carson Bobo on the very next drive, with the Tigers deep in Dartmouth territory and looking to tie the game at seven. The third was an interception from Dartmouth’s Isiah Swann, the reigning Ivy Defensive Player of the Year, on a third-and-short play.
Princeton would stand tall after Bobo’s fumble, stopping Trebino’s conversion attempt a yard shy to force a turnover on downs. But once again Princeton’s success was short-lived, as on the third down following the stop Swann read Davidson perfectly, jumped the route, and intercepted the pass. The Big Green would once again make the Tigers pay for their mistake, with Grebino converting on fourth and one before scoring from one yard out to put Dartmouth up 14–0 with 9:40 to go in the half.
After forcing a three and out, Dartmouth would march down the field to kick a 33-yard field goal and get up 17–0 with 4:09 left. On Princeton’s next drive, a fourth down attempt came up short as a screen pass fell incomplete to give the Big Green the ball back. This time, it was Dartmouth whose success was short-lived, as two plays later, Trebino’s handoff attempt to senior receiver Drew Estrada was dropped and recovered by Tigers’ sophomore linebacker Ike Hall. Princeton would finally capitalize on this stop, with Davidson finding senior tight end Graham Adomitis just inside the goal line to cut the deficit to 17–7 at the half.
Despite a rough first half offensively, the Tigers found themselves in striking distance with a chance to come back in the second half. Dartmouth came out and made sure that wouldn’t be the case. On the first drive of the half the Big Green got into field goal range and knocked home a 42-yarder that passed over the crossbar by mere inches to make it 20–7. The Tigers would respond on the following drive with a field goal of their own, this one from 28 yards out to cut Dartmouth’s lead back to ten. Unfortunately for the Tigers, those would be their last points scored as their offense sputtered the rest of the way.
Early in the fourth on a drive carrying over from the prior quarter, Dartmouth once again ran down the field, with Gerbino once again capping off the drive with a score on the ground, this time bouncing outside for 21 yards to find paydirt and put the nail in Princeton’s coffin. He celebrated by spiking the ball, thus drawing an unsportsmanlike penalty, which did little to aid the Tigers.
Princeton would make one final push to mount a comeback, including a fourth and seven sliding catch by senior receiver Andrew Griffin to keep the drive alive. In the end it wasn’t enough, as a few plays later Davidson was flushed from the pocket and was forced to throw a contested ball that was batted away by Swann, turning the ball over on downs. Dartmouth would hold onto the ball the rest of the way, winding the clock down to zeros and handing the Tigers their first loss in two years.
The win puts Dartmouth alone atop the Ivy standings and in good position to win the league. As for the Tigers, their 17-game winning streak was snapped in convincing fashion, with Dartmouth dominating every step of the way. The Tigers were unable to stop the Big Green’s formidable run game and couldn’t break through its defense. However, Princeton looks to move on with two games remaining this season and close the year out on a high note.
“It’s tough, some of the guys in that locker room, the freshmen and sophomores, have never lost a game,” Surace said after the game, “A sign for this team is going to be how we practice on Tuesday.”