Location: Memorial Field, Hanover, N.H.
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 19 at 1:30 p.m.
Series Record: Big Green lead 5-1
Video: Big Green Insider — Dick Lutsk (play-by-play), Wayne Young (analyst)
Radio: WFRD 99.3 FM
Online Audio: DartmouthSports.com
Live Stats • Complete Game Notes
Happy at Home at Last
Dartmouth is back in the win column at Memorial Field. Having not won at home in over a calendar year, the Big Green rallied from a 10-6 halftime deficit against Yale to beat the Bulldogs by a final of 20-13, sending the homecoming crowd of nearly 11,000 home happy.
With the five-game home skid in the rear-view mirror, Dartmouth is looking to start a winning streak on its home turf with Bucknell in Hanover for the first time in 21 years. This is just the seventh meeting between the two schools on the gridiron, and the Green are 5-1 in the series, including four straight victories.
Dartmouth rode to victory last Saturday on the legs of senior running back Dominick Pierre who ran for 167 yards on a career-high 37 carries, plus caught four passes for 63 more yards. He also ran for the winning score in the fourth quarter and surpassed 2,000 career rushing yards on his first run of the second half. It was no surprise that the Ivy League’s leading rusher (133.8 yds/game) was chosen as the league’s Offensive Player of the Week for the second time in his career. Pierre enters this game among the top 10 nationally in both rushing and all-purpose yards.
For the first time in seven career starts, quarterback Dalyn Williams failed to complete at least half of his passes, but he managed to make some big throws in the most difficult moments. Both of his touchdown passes came on fourth-down plays — the first a sliding, one-handed grab in the corner of the end zone by senior tight end Cole Marcoux (his first career TD), and the second a diving, 32-yard grab by junior Bo Patterson.
The defense also stepped up its game, led by nickelback Mike Banaciski, who simply has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. The senior matched a personal best with 10 tackles, two of which went for a loss. But most importantly recovered two key fumbles in the second half, the second of which was covered up in the final three minutes of the game.
While Banaciski was registering numbers that would garner him the Defensive Player of the Week honor, the defense overall held Yale to 264 yards, more than 200 yards under its season average. Linebacker Eric Wickham picked off a pass to contribute to the effort.
Senior linebacker and tri-captain Bronson Green is the leader of the defense, topping the team with 31 tackles while Banaciski is right behind with 29 and a team-best 3.5 tackles for a loss.
The placekicking game, however, is a bit of a concern. Junior Riley Lyons has converted just two of his nine field goal attempts, including both last week. But he has plenty of leg for the job as the ones he has made have been from at least 40 yards.
The senior class were merely freshmen the last time Dartmouth took on the Bison back in 2010. Bucknell had a 20-6 lead late in the second quarter before the Big Green roared back with 37 unanswered points for the 43-20 triumph. Pierre came off the bench to gain 49 yards on nine carries, while Green and Garrett Waggoner each had two tackles. The only other current players to see the field in that game were Dana Barbaro, A.J. Dettorre and Martin Pomykala.
Scouting the Bison
Since opening the season with a 27-14 victory over Marist, the Bucknell Bison have fallen on hard times with four straight losses, the most recent a 51-27 defeat at home against Holy Cross.
While the losses are troubling for Bison fans, the 27 points were encouraging after being held to a total of 20 points in the previous three contests. Bucknell’s struggles may be attributable to youth as the team is currently relying on a pair of freshmen in quarterback R.J. Nitti and running back C.J. Williams.
Nitti took over the reins to the offense after a 16-0 loss to Sacred Heart in week three and has thrown for 335 yards and four touchdowns in his two starts while completing 48 percent of his passes. But he has five interceptions, contributing to the 19 turnovers lost by Bucknell. Only two teams in the FCS have a worse turnover margin (-2.0).
Although Williams has started just one of the five games, he does have more rushing yards than the rest of the team combined and has both rushing TDs. Last week he came off the bench to gallop for 104 yards on 19 carries against the Crusaders and now has 360 yards on the season with a 4.3-yard average.
The receiving corps is led by Josh Brake with 16 catches for 244 yards, but the glory has been spread around as each of the six touchdown tosses thrown has been hauled in by a different receiver. The passing offense ranks among the bottom 15 nationally, however, at less than 140 yards per game. Coupled with a rushing game that has a similar average, Bucknell also ranks in the bottom 15 in total offense.
On the other side of the ball, the Bison defense has shown the ability to disrupt plays with 13 sacks. Linebacker Matt Johnson has three of those sacks, while another linebacker in Evan Byers — who leads Bucknell with 50 tackles — has 2.5. Then there is strong safety Clayton Ewell who does a little bit of everything, including eight tackles for a loss and one of the squad’s four interceptions.
The kicking game is in good shape with Derek Maurer a perfect 4-for-4 on field goals (though he hasn’t attempted one in any of the last three games) and Kyle Sullivan averaging a solid 38.4 yards per punt. Sullivan pulls a seldom-seen double duty as he is the Bison’s punt returner as well and has even returned one 59 yards for a touchdown.
Guiding Bucknell on the sideline is Joe Susan, now in his fourth year at the helm with a record of 11-27 entering this game. In his second year, the 1977 graduate of Delaware led the Bison to a five-game improvement to 6-5. Susan also spent one season as the head coach at Davidson, carving out a perfect 10-0 mark with the Wildcats in 2000. That stint was sandwiched between nine-year terms as an assistant at Rutgers in the 2000s and Princeton in the ’90s. He also spent a decade as an assistant with the Bison in the ’80s.
Senior packed in a plethora of fantastic feats in the 20-13 victory over Yale, earning Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week honors. Here is a rundown of his accomplishments:
- He took the handoff a career-high 37 times for 167 yards (three shy of his career best), including the game-winning, six-yard TD in the fourth quarter.
- Combined with his four catches for 63 yards (another personal best), he racked up 230 all-purpose yards, the eighth-most ever by a Dartmouth player.
- Pierre’s 167 yards was his third straight 100-yard game and seventh of his career.
- His first carry of the second half, a 10-yard run, pushed him past 2,000 career yards, just the third Big Green player to achieve the milestone. With 2,109 yards entering today, he needs 143 to move into second place on Dartmouth’s all-time list.
- More career lists — Pierre moved into the school’s top 25 all-time in both total offense (22nd, 2,109 yards) and all-purpose yards (12th, 2,394 yards).
Banaciski is Bona Fide
Known as one of Dartmouth’s hardest-hitting defenders with a knack of being in the right place at the right time, senior had a team-high 10 tackles in the 20-13 homecoming win over Yale. But his biggest plays came on loose balls as he covered up a pair of Bulldog fumbles, helping to seal the Elis’ fate. The second of those recoveries came with little more than two minutes to play, allowing the Green to run out the clock. The nickelback was selected as the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week for his performance.
Defense Denies Elis
After yielding an average of 485 yards in the first three games, the Dartmouth defense tightened up against Yale as the Bulldogs managed just 264 yards of offense, including a season-low 64 yards for Tyler Varga, who entered the game as the league’s leading rusher. The defense was even more stout in the second half, holding Yale to a paltry 93 yards and four first downs. Since 1975, Dartmouth is 80-17-2 (.818) when yielding 275 yards or less to an opponent.
Williams Not Wasting Time
After just seven career starts, quarterback is already among Dartmouth’s career leaders. The sophomore is 17th in passing yards in the Big Green annals with 1,955, having passed his head coach Buddy Teevens during the Yale game. At his current pace, he will be among the top 10 by year’s end. And in total yards, Williams is 16th all-time with 2,550 yards. Another 450 yards and he will be one of just 11 Big Green players to reach 3,000.
All Smiles for the Camera
Before besting Yale in a game broadcast by Fox College Sports, Dartmouth could have been called camera shy as it had not fared well in recent years when playing a televised football game. Even with the bullish win over the Bulldogs, the Big Green are just 4-20 when playing in a televised game since head coach returned to Hanover in 2005. But this is not a phenomenon relegated to Teevens. Since 1999, Dartmouth’s record on TV is a mere 6-30, and overall is 26-52-1 dating back to 1953.
A heralded quarterback recruit after winning a spot in the US Army All-America Bowl by winning a reality competition known as “The Ride,” senior never got off the ground behind center with the Big Green. Instead, the 6-5, 240-pounder switched to tight end last year, and the change is now paying dividends. At Butler, he collected his first four receptions, then against Yale he made a spectacular, sliding, one-handed grab in the back of the end zone for his first career touchdown.