DARTMOUTH (2-0, 0-0)
at PENN (2-0, 0-0)
Friday, Sept. 29, 2017 • 7 p.m.
Ivy Season Opens at Penn
Fresh off a thrilling, overtime victory against then 25th-ranked Holy Cross, 27-26, the Dartmouth Big Green will attempt to ride their momentum past a powerful Penn team on the road to begin the Ivy League slate on Friday night.
These two programs have each won 18 conference crowns, more than any other Ancient Eight team and a distinction Dartmouth had held on its own for over 50 years until the Quakers shared the title last year with Princeton. A Big Green victory at Franklin Field would go a long way toward ensuring Dartmouth maintains that mantle for at least another year.
The Green are in a similar position as last year entering this game — 2-0 with a one-point win over a nationally ranked team. Now they must avoid the fate the 2016 squad suffered, which was several agonizingly close defeats that led to a 1-6 Ivy record just one year after sharing the Ivy championship.
Penn, whose only league loss in 2015 was to Dartmouth, came to Hanover last year and stunned its host by taking an 18-point lead into halftime en route to a 37-24 victory. The Big Green would like nothing more than to return the favor.
Last week, Dartmouth utilized a balanced attack on offense, some strong defensive work and excellent special teams play to knock off the Crusaders. Senior Jack Heneghan completed a career-best 72 percent (18-of-25) of his passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns, the last a 10-yarder to tight end Stephen Johnston in overtime.
The ground game topped 200 yards with senior Ryder Stone going for 103 — his second career 100-yard game — on 17 carries, one of which was a 44-yard scoring scamper. That run also pushed him past the 1,000-yard milestone, making him the 28th player in Big Green history to reach the mark.
The receiving corps got a boost with the return of 2016 Ivy League Rookie of the Year Hunter Hagdorn. After missing the season opener, the sophomore led the team with seven grabs for 54 yards, while Emory Thompson hauled in a 22-yard TD toss in the first quarter.
Dartmouth will also shuttle in Jared Gerbino as a Wildcat QB from time to time. He carried the ball six times for 35 yards, and kept the Holy Cross defense honest with a 16-yard pass.
The defense did a fine job of containing the Crusaders to 20 points in regulation after they had dropped 51 against perennial FCS power New Hampshire the week before. The Big Green’s top two tacklers to date, linebackers Eric Meile and Jack Traynor, led the way with 11 stops apiece and the secondary broke up 11 passes, including three by nickel Kyran McKinney-Crudden.
But special teams play was the difference maker. Defensive lineman Jeremiah Douchee blocked a 32-yard field goal attempt in the fourth quarter, then rejected a PAT with three second to play to force overtime. Placekicker David Smith came up big with two second-quarter field goals, the first a 42-yarder which is the longest of his career and by any Ivy kicker this season. With punter Davis Brief averaging over 40 yards a kick and the coverage team forcing two fumbles with one recovery, Dartmouth was able to come away with the exciting home-opening win in front of over 7,000 fans.
Scouting the Quakers
Penn has proven to have an explosive offense, leading the league with 107 points through the first two games to start the season 2-0. But the defense ranks among the bottom 10 in the FCS yards allowed overall and through the air while yielding 35.5 points per game.
No other FCS team in the country has averaged more yards on offense (587) than the Quakers. Last week they put up 615 yards — 13 shy of the program record — and 65 points, their most in over 70 years in a 65-47 victory at Lehigh.
Will Fischer-Colbrie has taken over the quarterbacking duties this year and excelled with six touchdown tosses and just one interception. He has completed 64 percent of his passes for 487 yards, 289 coming last week on just 14 completions.
The ground game has gobbled up more than 300 yards in each of the first two contests, and Karekin Brooks (filling in for injured Tre Solomon) has been near unstoppable, averaging 10.5 yards on 39 carries with five touchdowns. As a team, Penn is picking up nearly eight yards on every running play.
We haven’t even discussed preseason All-American wide receiver Justin Watson and his 235 yards on 14 catches with three touchdowns. Christian Pearson is a deep threat, averaging over 30 yards on his four grabs.
The defense is headed up by Nick Miller, last week’s Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week after recording 10 tackles with a sack, interception, forced fumble and fumble recovery. He and Colton Moskal were both on the All-Ivy Second Team a year ago, giving the Quakers an exceptional linebacking tandem.
The secondary struggled to defend Lehigh’s passing attack, yielding 444 yards through the air. But a pair of interceptions proved to be the difference in the game, both of which led to touchdowns in the second quarter. Cornerback Conor O’Brien joined Miller with a pick and is one of two Penn cover men with two passes defended this season.
Penn has attempted just one field goal, a 39-yarder that was off the mark, but has converted all 15 PATs. Hunter Kelley has been called on just six times to punt, averaging 37.3 yards with a long of 56. And Isaiah Malcome is the return specialist on both kickoffs and punts, ranking fourth in the league in return average in both categories.
Ray Priore enters this game with a 17-5 record in his third year at the helm of the Quakers. He earned the Ivy League Coach of the Year award in 2015 by leading Penn to a share of the conference crown, then guided his squad to another title last year, tying Princeton for the league lead. This is his 31st season on the Penn staff, helping secure 10 Ivy titles in 28 seasons as an assistant, including his last 16 as the defensive coordinator and secondary coach.
This game is being televised nationally on NBC Sports Network (also available on the NBC Sports App), and there was a time when that would have been a bad omen for the Big Green. Starting late in the 1999 season through early in the 2013 campaign, Dartmouth played in a televised game 32 times, going a woeful 4-28. But since a 20-13 homecoming victory over Yale in 2013, the Green have gone 9-6 when on TV, though they have dropped their last four. When on NBC Sports Network, Dartmouth is 3-4, alternating wins and losses along the way. The last Big Green appearance on the network was one year ago in the loss to Penn … you connect the dots. A complete listing of televised games is on page six of these notes.
Nine Straight Non-League Wins
With the 27-26 win over No. 25 Holy Cross, Dartmouth has now won its last nine non-conference games dating back to the 2014 season, beginning with a 24-21 victory over the Crusaders. This streak matches the longest the Big Green have had since Ivy League play began in 1956 — a nine-game streak spanning the 1962-66 seasons.
Special Teams Player of the Week
While it wasn’t the first time that senior Jeremiah Douchee had blocked two kicks in one game, it was the first time those blocks earned him the Special Teams Player of the Week, and not just from the Ivy League office, but from STATS as well for all of the FCS. His block of a 32-yard field goal attempt with 6:09 left in the fourth quarter against Holy Cross held Dartmouth’s advantage at six points, while his PAT block in the final seconds of regulation preserved a tie and forced overtime, giving him five blocks in his career. The last national player of the week for the Big Green was Isiah Swann who took home rookie honors last year, while the last Ivy Special Teams Player of the Week was Charlie Miller ’17 last year. Both Swann and Miller won their honors after a 20-17 win over Towson.
Overdue in Overtime
It had been eight years since Dartmouth won a game that went into overtime. That win came at Memorial Field as well, a 20-17 double-overtime triumph over Cornell on Nov. 7, 2009. Since then, the Big Green had played three other games into overtime, all three of which came on the road with the last two at Penn. In 2010, the Quakers came away with a 35-28 win after just one overtime period, then took four overtimes — the longest game in Ivy League history — to dole out a heartbreaking, 37-31 defeat four years ago. In all, Dartmouth has played 11 games beyond regulation, going 5-6 in those contests (5-3 at home, 0-3 on the road).
100 to Top 1,000
Senior RB Ryder Stone took the handoff 17 times against Holy Cross, amassing 103 yards with a 44-yard touchdown. It was his second career 100-yards game, and first since going for 114 against Brown in his rookie campaign. While topping the century mark, Stone also became the 28th Big Green player to run for 1,000 yards in a career. In fact, it was his 44-yard score that pushed him past the milestone. And with 17 receiving yards and 46 more returning a pair of kickoffs, Stone posted a career-best 166 all-purpose yards in the 27-26 overtime victory.
More Special Play
Douchee wasn’t the only player to excel on special teams for Dartmouth against Holy Cross on Sept. 23:
• Senior David Smith scored a career-high nine points with field goals from 42 (a career long) and 35 yards, plus converted all three extra points, keeping him perfect in 31 PATs in his career.
• Sophomore Davis Brief shined in his second game as the Big Green punter, averaging 40.7 yards on six punts with enough hang time to have the coverage hold the Crusaders to negative return yards.
• Senior Danny McManus brought back three punts for a total of 51 yards with a long of 26. He is fourth nationally in punt return average (19.5).
• When Holy Cross attempted to win the game with a two-point conversion in overtime, it was the first two-point attempt by an opponent since the Crusaders successfully pulled one off three years ago. Dartmouth hasn’t scored on a two-point try in 10 years when Tim McManus ’11 (the oldest brother of Danny) caught a pass from Alex Jenny ’10 against … Holy Cross in 2007. Granted, the Green have only attempted three since then.
Sack or Bust
Junior DE Jimmy McHugh has worked his way into the rotation up front, making appearances at Stetson and against Holy Cross. While he made only one tackle in each game, both just happened to be sacks. That’s right. He has two career tackles, and both are sacks. Pretty good ratio.
Speaking of Sacks …
Dartmouth had a pair of sacks in the 27-26 win over Holy Cross, one from McHugh as noted above, the other by junior LB Jack Traynor, the first of his career. Traynor also contributed a career-best 11 tackles, tying for the team lead with senior LB Eric Meile.
Heneghan Hits His Targets
Senior QB Jack Heneghan has posted modest passing numbers in the first two games, but his accuracy has never been better than against 25th-ranked Holy Cross. He connected on a career-high 72 percent (18-of-25) of his throws for 147 yards and a pair of touchdowns without an interception. His favorite target was Hunter Hagdorn, the 2016 Ivy League Rookie of the Year, who missed the season opener for precautionary reasons. The sophomore made up for that lost time a bit by hauling in seven passes for 54 yards.
Tight End Zone
That’s two football terms smashed into one — tight end and end zone. What’s with the mashup? Well, Dartmouth tight ends have a grand total of two receptions this year, both of which finished in the end zone. Senior Cam Poole hauled in a five-yard score at Stetson, and senior Stephen Johnston went 10 yards in overtime against Holy Cross for his touchdown, the fourth of his career.
Déjà Vu for Thompson
Senior WR Emory Thompson started the scoring in the 27-26 overtime victory over No. 25 Holy Cross in the home opener on Sept. 23 by snaring a 22-yard touchdown toss in the first quarter. Oddly enough, the other scoring snare of his career came in a one-point win over a nationally ranked team in a Dartmouth home opener — last year against No. 22 New Hampshire, 22-21. Cue the Twilight Zone theme …