Valpo Pushes Ivy League Foe Dartmouth to Brink in Home Opener
The Valparaiso University football team gave defending Ivy League champion Dartmouth nearly everything it could handle on Saturday afternoon at Brown Field, but the visiting Big Green escaped Northwest Indiana with a 28-18 victory over the Beacons. The Valpo defense recorded two safeties and forced three turnovers, while running back Robert Washington (Huntersville, N.C. / East Gaston [Old Dominion]) accrued 117 rushing yards on 24 carries to pace the offense. The solid showing came in front of an electric audience of 3,856 including an enthusiastic Valpo student section that was filled to the brim in the first home game without capacity limitations since the end of the 2019 season.
How It Happened
- The Valpo defense set the tone on the opening series, forcing the Big Green into a 3rd-and-14 from their own 11. Trey Psota (Bay Village, Ohio / Bay) brought down the Dartmouth quarterback in the end zone for a safety, giving the hosts a 2-0 edge.
- The Beacons added to the advantage on the ensuing drive, marching 58 yards on 13 plays to set up a 29-yard field goal by Brian Bartholomew (Sugar Grove, Ill. / Kaneland). Valpo was aided by a key Dartmouth holding penalty on 4th-and-7 from the Dartmouth 39. The Bartholomew field goal extended the lead to 5-0.
- One big play helped Dartmouth grab the lead in the final minute of the first quarter as quarterback Derek Kyler connected with Zack Blair for a 41-yard touchdown that made it 7-5 in favor of the guests. The Big Green added another score on a Kyler to Paxton Scott connection from 6 yards out with 8:54 left in the second quarter to up the advantage to 14-5.
- Later in the second stanza, Valpo cashed in on good field position following a short Dartmouth punt. Bartholomew improved to 2-for-2 on the day with a 33-yard field goal to cut the lead to 14-8.
- The Big Green moved the chains once on their next drive, but the next three plays went for negative three yards as the Valpo defense forced a punt. Brett Bittner (Chicago, Ill. / St. Laurence) blocked the boot to help Valpo again receive solid field position. The game went into halftime with the Beacons down 14-8.
- Dartmouth scored on a Kyler to Jonny Barrett 10-yard pass to cap its first drive of the second half and extend the lead to 21-8.
- On 3rd-and-7 from the Dartmouth 18, Tre Purty (Maryville, Tenn. / Maryville [East Tennessee State]) and Austin Martins (Newman, Calif. / Orestimba [Modesto JC]) were in on a sack for a loss of 7 to force fourth-and-long. The Big Green lined up to punt, but the snap sailed through the back of the end zone for Valpo’s second safety of the day to make it 21-10 with 6:02 left in the third.
- Valpo initially appeared to have scored a touchdown on a muffed punt inside the Dartmouth 5-yard line, but the Beacons were called for fair catch interference, negating the fumble and subsequent Valpo TD.
- The Beacons responded in favorable fashion as Evan Annis (Hilliard, Ohio / Hilliard Davidson) forced a fumble on the first play following the fair catch interference penalty, and Nathan Orlandini (Columbus, Ohio / Upper Arlington) came up with the recovery at the Dartmouth 27.
- That field position set up a six-play, 27-yard TD drive that ended with a 14-yard pass from Teryn Berry (Redmond, Wash. / Redmond [Weber State]) to Ollie Reese (Franklin, Tenn. / Battle Ground). The play call on the ensuing 2-point conversion is known in Valpo lore as the “Ryan Clarke / Jarrett Morgan play” as the running back, Washington, took the snap and delivered a jump pass to tight end Connor Hebbeler (Franklin Lakes, N.J. / Bergen Catholic [Wake Forest]) for a successful conversion to cut the Dartmouth lead to 21-18 with 1:16 to go in the third.
- The Valpo defense forced another turnover as Martins recovered a fumble with 12:17 to play in the fourth to end a redzone threat for the Big Green (1-0), but the ensuing Beacons drive resulted in an interception that led to a short field and an eventual touchdown for Dartmouth. The score remained 28-18 for the game’s duration.
Inside the Game
- Valpo had not recorded a safety since Sept. 2, 2006 vs. Wisconsin Lutheran, but managed to turn the rare feat twice on Saturday. Valpo was one safety away from tying the single-game national record of three, which has occurred three times in FCS history.
- The Washington-to-Hebbeler two-point play was the first time Valpo passed for a two-point conversion since Nov. 23, 2019 vs. Marist (Duncan to Butler).
- Washington’s 117 yards represented a season high and marked the fifth time in his Valpo career that he has eclipsed 100 rushing yards.
- Austin Chilton (Windermere, Fla. / West Orange) enjoyed a big day for the Valpo defense, sharing team-high honors with Annis by recording seven stops apiece. Chilton’s seven tackles represented a career watermark.
- Martins, Orlandini and Kurt Kessen (Shelby Township, Mich. / Utica) shined for the Valpo defense as well, finishing with six tackles apiece including 0.5 tackles for loss each. In addition, Orlandini recovered a fumble and Martins recovered two.
- Valpo became just the 13th team in the FCS nation with three or more fumble recoveries in a single game this year. Martins became just the ninth player to recover a pair of fumbles in a single game this season.
- The fumble recoveries were the first two of Martins’ career, while Orlandini also snagged his first career fumble recovery. The forced fumble for Annis was also the first of his collegiate career.
- The Psota sack that resulted in a safety lifted his career TFL count to 6.5.
- Berry threw for 106 yards on 15-of-24 through the air, with Washington and Jordan Bingham (Indianapolis, Ind. / North Central) recording four receptions apiece. Bingham had a team-high 31 receiving yards.
- Reese’s TD grab was his sixth in a Valpo uniform and first since the 2019 season. That represented Berry’s first Valpo TD toss.
- Bartholomew went 2-for-2 on field goals to improve to 8-for-10 in his collegiate career including 3-of-4 this season.
- Punter Ben Niesner (Black Diamond, Wash. / Tahoma [Portland State]) had six attempts for 267 yards, averaging 44.5 yards per punt. He pinned four of his six boots inside the 20 and rocketed a long of 55.
- Valpo was playing its first game against a member of the Ivy League since 1999 (Yale) and fell to 0-4 all-time against the Ivy. This marked the closest the program has come to knocking off a member of the Ivy League.
- The setback came to a Dartmouth team that has gone a combined 26-4 over its last three seasons.