October 9, 2010

Panico’s Field Goal on Final Play Beats Dartmouth, 23-20

19-Yard Kick Ends Back-and-Forth Battle in Hanover

HANOVER, N.H. – Sophomore placekicker Philippe Panico made the first field goal of his career a memorable one, drilling a 19-yarder as time expired to give Yale a 23-20 win at Dartmouth Saturday afternoon. The drive for the game-winner was set up by senior cornerback Chris Stanley stripping the ball away from a Big Green running back and setting up the Yale offense at the Dartmouth 47 with 1:06 to play. It ended a back-and-forth game that saw four lead changes and 780 yards of total offense.

Panico's kick came after Yale called a timeout with four seconds to play and the ball on the Dartmouth two for second-and-goal. Kicking from the left hash, Panico sent the ball off the inside of the right upright.

"It was a great snap and a great hold," Panico said. "I kissed the kick off the post, which made it a little more exciting than it had to be."

The drive was set up by Stanley's heads-up play. Dartmouth started a drive at its own 26 with 2:31 to play, and on second-and-10 from the 36 Big Green quarterback Connor Kempe hit tailback Nick Schwieger on a screen pass along the left sideline. Schwieger, who hurt Yale with 128 yards rushing and one touchdown, made it as far as the 47 before Stanley swooped in and effortlessly took the ball away from him.

"It was a screen play and the ball was coming to the perimeter," Stanley said. "I didn't want to take myself out of the play (by going inside) so I played it strategically. He had the ball hanging out there on his outside arm and I stripped it away."

Two plays later junior quarterback Patrick Witt completed a 28-yard pass to senior wide receiver Jordan Forney that got the ball to the seven. With 26 seconds to play, the Bulldogs sent sophomore tailback Mordecai Cargill up the middle for five more yards. With a timeout still in hand, Yale allowed the clock to tick down to four seconds in order to bring Panico out for the final play of regulation.

Tom Williams, Yale's Joel E. Smilow '54 Head Coach of Football, saw that the way Dartmouth's defensive players were slow to get off Cargill after the first-down run convinced him not to take a chance with another offensive play that could have ended with the clock running out. Yale had missed two field goal attempts earlier in the game, and the Bulldogs were 0-for-6 on field goals for the season.

"I was watching how slowly [Dartmouth was] un-piling from Mordecai, which is what you're taught to do," Williams said. "As I was watching them get off Mordecai I made the decision to let the clock tick down and try the field goal attempt. I've got faith in our guys, and as the head coach that's my job."

Panico's kick touched off a huge celebration for the Bulldogs, who won on the game's final play for the second time this season (Witt had a one-yard touchdown dive for a 40-35 win over Georgetown in the opener).

"One thing that we've proven is we're resilient," said Williams.

Despite all the offensive yards, neither team got further than seven points ahead at any time in the game.

As has been the case in each game this season, Yale moved down the field effectively on its first drive. The Bulldogs got a third-and-one conversion from the Eli 39 when freshman tailback Elijah Thomas came on for his first varsity carry and got two yards. Three plays later a 12-yard pass from Witt to junior tailback Alex Thomas converted a third-and-six. The final third-down conversion came on third-and-seven from the Dartmouth 23, with senior fullback Shane Bannon shrugging off an attempted tackle and finishing with a seven-yard gain. Bannon, one of the team's best blockers, would go on to have six catches -- one more than he had for his entire career entering the day.

"Shane's a very reliable guy," Witt said. "He makes great catches and he's got really sure hands. Any time I see 37 [Bannon's uniform number] out there I'm going to throw him the ball. He's a big kid, but he's very athletic so it allows us to move him around quite a bit at different positions -- whether at tight end or at fullback. He's a very versatile player and we were able to use him a lot today."

Two plays later Alex Thomas took the ball right and momentarily got lost amidst a pile of players before spinning to the sideline and taking off for a 13-yard touchdown. Panico, who kicked in a junior varsity game last Sunday and had just taken over the varsity placekicking duties, came on to boot the extra point.

Dartmouth drove deep into Yale territory later in the second quarter thanks largely to a 44-yard pass from Kempe to wide receiver Michael Reilly that got the ball to the Yale 21. But the Eli defense answered immediately, with senior outside linebacker Jesse Reising drilling Big Green receiver Tim McManus for a six-yard loss on the next play. The Big Green eventually settled for a 37-yard field goal from Foley Schmidt.

After stopping Yale short of a first down on a fourth-and-two pass, Dartmouth took over at the Eli 49 at the end of the first quarter. Three runs by Schwieger totaled 18 yards, and a 25-yard pass to Reilly got the ball to the six. Schwieger took it in from there to give the Big Green a 10-7 lead at 13:29 of the second quarter. That put the junior past the 1,000-yard mark for his career.

Dartmouth drove to the Yale 39 midway through the second quarter, but got stopped by the Yale defense. First, junior linebacker Austin Pulsipher wrapped up Kempe on a first-down run for a one-yard loss. He then broke up a pass, batting it away at the line. A diving breakup by Reising on third down forced a punt that went for a touchback.

On the ensuing Yale drive three completions by Witt got the ball to the Yale 46, and Cargill then broke off a 17-yard run. Four plays later, the Bulldogs converted a fourth-and-three with Witt finding senior tight end Chris Blohm over the middle to get the ball to the Dartmouth 23. A 20-yard toss to senior wide receiver Gio Christodoulou then got the ball to the three, and two plays later Witt tossed one to Bannon in the end zone. The extra point attempt was blocked, but Yale led 13-10 and took that lead into halftime.

"We had been working on that [touchdown play] in practice since the first of September," Bannon said. "It hasn't been thrown to me once. It's either been run in for a touchdown or thrown to Bloomer [Blohm]. They completely vacated it, triple-teamed Bloomer and kind of lost me in there. I faked the run inside and went out, hit the short corner and I was wide open."

The two teams spent most of the third quarter in between the 30s, but Dartmouth was able to drive from its own 18 to the Yale 27 late in the quarter thanks to a 48-yard pass from Kempe to Reilly. That set up a 45-yard field goal by Schmidt that tied the score at 13 with 3:33 left in the quarter.

Witt would finish the day throwing for 238 yards, and he utilized nine different receivers. Forney's first catch of the day proved to be big, as it was a 19-yarder that converted a third-and-four at the Yale 46. That was part of an eight-play, 60-yard drive that ended with sophomore tailback Javi Sosa scoring his first career touchdown, a seven-yard dash up the middle as time expired in the third quarter.

Dartmouth looked to even the score after a Yale fumble early in the fourth quarter. The Big Green had the ball on its own 45 after the turnover and Schwieger appeared to break off a long run down the right sideline, eventually taking the ball into the end zone. But he had actually gone out of bounds after 15 yards -- and on top of that there was a holding call against the Big Green. So the ball wound up back at the 50. Four plays later Kempe attempted to hit a homerun with Reilly again, but this time Stanley out-leaped him for a spectacular interception at the Yale goal line.

"I had to read the play from all the way across the field," Stanley said. "Once I saw he was taking off I just decided to go for him."

Yale was hurt by three holding calls on the ensuing drive, and punted from its own seven-yard line. Dartmouth cornerback Shawn Abuhoff gathered the ball in at the Yale 41, waited for his blocks to develop and then headed toward the near left corner of the end zone for a touchdown. Schmidt's extra point tied the game 20-20 with 6:19 left.

Panico missed a 43-yard attempt at the end of Yale's next drive with 2:31 remaining, but when Stanley helped give him another chance to win it on the game's final play he delivered.

"Once competition starts up and the adrenaline hits, you don't have any nerves," he said.

Cargill finished with a career-high 127 yards. The big game came just one week after Cargill was sidelined by an injury in Yale's 23-20 loss to Albany. He also came off the field at one point in the third quarter on Saturday, but he was back in there when it mattered most.

"Last week I had to sit out, and it was hard for me to stand on the sideline and watch my teammates give their all and still come up short," Cargill said. "Coming off the field last week, I vowed to myself that if I could walk I would play."

Yale (3-1, 2-0 Ivy League) is now the only 2-0 team in the Ivy League. Dartmouth (2-2, 0-2) has lost eight straight to the Bulldogs.

Yale plays its final non-league game of the season next Saturday, hosting Fordham at the Yale Bowl, Class of 1954 Field.

Report by Sam Rubin '95 (sam.rubin@yale.edu), Yale Sports Publicity