The Ivy League-leading #16 Princeton Tigers made the six-hour drive up to Hanover, New Hampshire to take on the Dartmouth Big Green on a frigid Friday night for a matchup that would have a significant impact on the teams’ Ivy League title aspirations. The path to the title got more difficult for the Tigers on Friday, as Dartmouth defeated them 31–7.
Coming into the game, the Tigers (7–0, 4–0 Ivy) sat atop the conference, with both Dartmouth (6–1, 3–1) and Yale (4–3, 3–1) each sitting one game back in the standings. The Big Green was coming off of a huge road win at #17 Harvard, while the Tigers had recently rolled over Cornell in Ithaca. The game was the schools’ 100th all-time matchup, with the first meeting being a 30–0 Princeton victory in 1897. Dartmouth came in leading the all-time series 50–45, with the four other games resulting in ties.
The teams most recently matched up in 2019 when #13 Dartmouth beat #9 Princeton 27–10 at Yankee Stadium in New York. In fact, the Tigers had lost eight of their last 10 matchups against Dartmouth coming into the game. For the third time in the last three matchups, Princeton entered with a perfect 7–0 record, the first time Princeton had started three consecutive seasons with a 7–0 record since 1901–1903. Princeton also came in with 12 consecutive road wins, the best mark in the nation, with their last loss being at Dartmouth in 2017.
Dartmouth was looking to keep the game low-scoring and defensive, having the best scoring defense in the Ivy League with 15 points allowed per game and the worst scoring offense with 18.8 points per game. The Tigers, meanwhile, came in with the highest-scoring offense in the league, at 33 points per game in league play, and certainly would have benefited more from the game being a shootout. Yet, the Tigers also have a stellar defense, which coming in was second in rushing defense nationwide (57.1 yards allowed per game) and sixth in total defense (265.5 yards allowed per game).
At 6 p.m., and with the temperature at a chilly 42 degrees, the game kicked off and Princeton started with the ball first on offense. On the second play of the game, senior quarterback Cole Smith found senior tight end Carson Bobo for a 10-yard completion through the air. It was Bobo’s 17th game with a reception in his last 18 appearances. The set of downs earned by Bobo ended in a Dartmouth sack of Smith, and the Tigers punted.
Dartmouth quickly marched into Princeton territory, as quarterback Derek Kyler found receiver Paxton Scott, who had led the Big Green so far this season with 421 receiving yards for the Big Green’s first first down of the game. After another first down, Kyler located Scott once more for a 37-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline, making it 7–0 with 8:50 remaining in the first quarter.
On the second play of the next Princeton drive, senior running back Collin Eaddy, who led the Tigers coming into the game with 474 rushing yards, took a handoff to the left and landed awkwardly on his ankle. Eaddy remained on the ground for a few minutes before a golf cart was brought onto the field to transport him to the sideline. Players from both teams came to offer words of support to Eaddy as he left the field with an air cast on his left leg.
Head Coach Bob Surace ‘90 told The Daily Princetonian after the game that Eaddy’s injury is “a serious injury to his lower body,” and that he would be spending the night in New Hampshire. On Sunday morning, Eaddy tweeted that his surgery was successful, noting that “coming back stronger than before is the goal.”
The Tigers were unable to recover on the following drive and ended up punting once again. Dartmouth began their next possession on the Tigers’ 47-yard line and began to run the ball successfully against the Tigers’ typically-stout run defense, picking up 22 yards on their first three carries of the drive. The Big Green continued to march methodically down the field, and Kyler found receiver Dale Chesson for a three-yard touchdown pass to make it 14–0 with 1:20 left in the first quarter.
A run from sophomore quarterback Blake Stenstrom earned the Tigers a first down on the ensuing drive as the first quarter ended. Through one quarter, the Tigers had amassed just 19 yards of offense, while allowing 127. Smith was 5 for 5 passing for just 14 yards.
The Tigers continued to falter offensively at the beginning of the second quarter, and junior punter Will Powers was called upon for the third time in three drives.
“We didn’t seem the same today, and part of it is because [Dartmouth] is really good,” Coach Surace said.
Dartmouth continued to dominate on their next drive, as Kyler found Chesson for a 35-yard completion to bring the ball to the Tigers’ 37-yard line. The Tigers then managed to sack Kyler, but the fumble that was originally called on the field was overturned on instant replay, and Dartmouth retained possession. The Tigers also dropped a potential interception on the drive. The defense was able to hold Dartmouth to a 33-yard field goal attempt, though, which they converted, making the score 17–0.
The Tigers began their next drive with a reverse to senior wide receiver Jacob Birmelin, which gained 11 yards. First-year running back John Volker then gained 28 yards on the Tigers’ next two plays as the Tigers picked up the tempo on offense. Volker continued to shine, picking up a key first down on third and one later in the drive. He would finish with 55 yards on 11 carries.
On the next third down, Smith found junior wide receiver Andrei Iosivas for 10 yards, a play which Smith followed up with a 10-yard gain of his own on a run to bring the Tigers to the Dartmouth nine-yard line. On second and goal, Smith found senior wide receiver Dylan Classi for an eight-yard gain, and Volker punched the ball in from one yard out on the next play, bringing the score to 17–7 with 3:48 remaining in the second quarter. The Tigers’ drive lasted 13 plays and over five minutes, going 78 yards.
The Tigers were able to stop Dartmouth for a three-and-out on their next drive, although not without a price; senior defensive back Delan Stallworth left the field with an apparent arm injury and went to the injury tent. Stallworth had been crucial for the Tigers on defense this season, having picked up 21 tackles in the last three games. The stop gave the offense good field position, though, as Smith’s unit began their next drive at their own 43-yard line.
“I thought our guys kept fighting,” Coach Surace said. “We made some adjustments defensively, and that really helped after the first couple of series. I thought offensively, after the first two series, we did a nice job moving the ball.”
The Tigers continued to move the ball, as a catch by Iosivas and a run by Smith brought Princeton to the Big Green 43-yard line. After missing Birmelin on a deep shot, Smith found Birmelin for 10 more yards, bringing Princeton to the Dartmouth 33. Birmelin led all receivers with 72 yards.
On a deep shot towards Iosivas after a Princeton timeout, Dartmouth committed pass interference, and the Tigers got the ball to the Dartmouth 13 with 1:07 left before the half. However, Dartmouth came up with a big sack, forcing Princeton into a 28-yard field goal attempt from first-year kicker Jeffrey Sexton as time expired in the first half. Sexton’s kick deflected off of the helmet of a Princeton lineman, and it bounced back off of the right upright, leaving the score at 17–7.
At the half, the Tigers were even with Dartmouth in terms of time of possession but had already given up 74 rushing yards — 17 above their Ivy League average. Volker catalyzed the Princeton offense, coming away with 30 total yards in the first half to lead the receivers and backs.
Dartmouth began the second half with the ball but quickly punted. On the first play of the Tigers’ next drive, Smith found Birmelin, who had led the Tigers so far this season with 597 receiving yards, for a 12-yard pass to bring the Tigers into Dartmouth territory. However, the drive stalled, and the Tigers were forced to punt back to the Big Green.
Dartmouth broke off a big play on their next drive as running back Noah Roper was able to pick up 39 yards down the right sideline. Princeton managed to stuff Dartmouth on third and one, and Dartmouth turned the ball over on downs after Tigers junior linebacker Anthony Corbin came up with a huge tackle for loss against Dartmouth’s quarterback Nick Howard.
Smith connected with Classi for 24 yards, but the drive stalled at the Dartmouth 45-yard line where the Tigers were faced with a fourth and six. The Tigers left the offense on the field, but Smith couldn’t find Birmelin under pressure and Princeton turned the ball over on downs.
Dartmouth immediately began driving as Kyler found tight end J.J. Jones III for a 20-yard gain. After gaining a first down, Kyler located receiver Jonny Barrett for a 23-yard strike, giving Dartmouth a 24–7 lead with 2:36 left in the third quarter. On the play, Princeton senior defensive back Trevor Forbes was called for targeting for a hit on Barrett, which officials confirmed via replay review. Forbes was ejected from the game.
Smith and Birmelin combined for 27 yards on the Tigers’ next drive, but it ended at the Dartmouth 30-yard line when Smith threw a pick-six, expanding the Dartmouth lead to 31–7. Just like that, the third quarter was over, and the game was all but finished. The Tigers had been outgained by over 100 yards and had already given up 126 rushing yards, over twice their average of 57 per game.
The Tigers found success through Volker once more on their drive to begin the fourth quarter, but they fell short on a fourth down inside the Dartmouth 10-yard line after burning eight minutes of clock. Princeton forced a punt from the Big Green on their next possession, and the Tigers ran out the remainder of the clock, losing by 24.
“We didn’t execute little things,” Coach Surace said of the team’s performance. “They catch their interception for a touchdown, we drop ours. They make their field goal, we don’t. They execute in the red zone, we don’t. When all of those things go one way, it snowballs into what happened tonight.”
The Tigers drop to 7–1 (4–1 Ivy), with just two games remaining on the schedule. The path to an outright Ivy League title suddenly looks grim, as one-loss Dartmouth faces two weaker opponents in Brown and Cornell to close out the season, while the Tigers will face Yale at home next week. Should the Tigers win out, though, they would only need a Dartmouth loss to claim the title outright. If both teams win out, they will share the Ivy League title.
Wilson Conn is a staff writer for the 'Prince' sports section. He can be reached at email@example.com or on twitter at @wilson_conn.
This story was updated on Nov. 7 to include comment from Eaddy.