Football Relishing the Road, Travels to Cornell
Location: Schoellkopf Field, Ithaca, N.Y.
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 3 at 12:30 p.m.
Series Record: Big Green lead, 54-40-1
Radio: WFRD 99.3 FM — Dick Lutsk (play-by-play), Wayne Young (analyst)
Online Audio: Dartmouth Sports Network
Video: RedCast ($)
Live Stats • Complete Game Notes
Relishing a Road Trip
The road has been kind as of late to Dartmouth as it has won four straight contests outside of Hanover. The Big Green will have their hands full trying to extend their streak of success to five when they take on the high-powered passing game of Cornell in Ithaca.
Both teams are on the fringe of the Ivy League title chase, tied for fourth place with identical 2-2 records. Rarely does a conference champion have two losses on its ledger, having happened just twice in 56 seasons (1963 and ’82); Dartmouth shared the crown in both instances.
Last week, the Big Green had an opportunity to move into a tie for first place with defending champion Harvard in town for the annual homecoming game. The Crimson came into the game licking its wounds from a shocking 39-34 loss the week before at Princeton, ending their 14-game winning streak.
Although Dartmouth did a number of things well, it could not hand Harvard its first losing streak in six years, ending up on the wrong end of a 31-14 score. The game was a bit closer than the final tally would indicate, however, as the Big Green trailed by a single touchdown entering the final quarter of play.
The top-rated defense in the Ivy League — yielding just 311.3 yards per game — provided the best showing of any Crimson opponent, holding Harvard to a season-low 382 yards, 133 below its average. Junior linebackers Michael Runger and Bronson Green led the Big Green with 13 and 11 stops, respectively, and the former stripped a ball free at a crucial point of the game in the third quarter. Runger now leads the league with 9.7 tackles per game.
Dartmouth ended the game with more total yards, falling just shy of 400 with 397, mostly through the air as sophomore Alex Park became the first Big Green quarterback to throw for 300 yards in three years. He completed 24-of-39 passes for 310 yards and two touchdowns before being forced from the game with an injury to his left (non-throwing) shoulder. He is expected to return to the field against the Big Red.
Park’s most frequent target was senior Michael Reilly, who set career highs with 12 catches and 165 receiving yards, 22 coming on Dartmouth’s first score of the day early in the third quarter. The other touchdown came courtesy of sophomore Ryan McManus as he made a leaping catch and shed no less than six tacklers to sprint 68 yards to the end zone barely more than five minutes later. McManus also topped 100 yards (103) for his first career game in triple digits.
The ground game never got started as Robert L. Blackman Head Football Coach Buddy Teevens mostly eschewed the run against the top-rated FCS defense against the run. Instead of handing off the ball to the Green’s leading rusher, junior Dominick Pierre, Dartmouth chose to throw the ball to him more often as he caught a career-best nine throws for 56 yards, compared to just six runs for 22 yards.
Dartmouth has defeated Cornell in each of the last three meetings, the last a 33-24 triumph in Hanover. Last time in Ithaca, the Green won the battle of the Bigs, topping the Red, 28-10.
Scouting the Big Red
Cornell enters this game with an identical record as the Big Green at 4-3 overall and 2-2 in the league, but is a perfect 3-0 at home thanks to averaging 41 points a game at Schoellkopf Field. With Dartmouth 3-0 on the road, something has to give on Saturday.
While the Big Red are lighting up the scoreboard, so are their opponents as Cornell has won its last two home contests by three points or less. Last week it took a 23-yard field goal in the final minute to hand Princeton its first loss in league play, 37-35.
The Cornell offense is not exactly a balanced one, however, with the second-best passing attack and second-worst ground game. Quarterback Jeff Mathews, the Offensive Bushnell Cup winner last year as a sophomore, is back at it again this year, averaging over 380 yards a game through the air with 13 touchdowns. Even if he isn’t available, his backup, Chris Amrhein, is just as capable having thrown for 523 yards against Monmouth in week four.
All those throws need to be caught by someone, and the Big Red feature three wide receivers among the top 20 in receptions in the FCS. Luke Tasker has already topped 1,000 receiving yards with 62 catches, seven going for touchdowns. He is joined by Grant Gellatly with 48 receptions for 709 yards and two scores, and Kurt Ondash with 47 more catches and 521 yards with three TDs.
Cornell relies on freshman Luke Hagy as its featured back, who has had less than 10 rushes per game, averaging about 37 yards. Gellatly will occasionally be used for an end-around with limited success to date.
With a defense that rates among the bottom 10 nationally in yards allowed, the Big Red are used to shootouts on the gridiron. Opponents have piled up nearly 300 passing yards per game against Cornell, and about 465 total yards.
Linebacker Brett Buehler leads the Big Red with 62 tackles with one of the team’s seven sacks. Watch for cornerback Jarrod Watson-Lewis, who is third with 45 tackles, as he is tied for the team lead with three tackles for a loss plus has broken up five passes.
The placekicking game has been a bit shaky as Cornell has converted just 7-of-14 field goals, with only two being from 30 yards or further. Sam Wood has been a solid punter, averaging 38 yards per boot with 13 ending inside the 20.
Second-Longest Running Series
Lafayette-Lehigh may get all the publicity for longest running series in the Football Championship Subdivision, having played at least once every year since 1897, but not many people realize that the Battle of the Bigs (Dartmouth Big Green vs. Cornell Big Red) is the second longest, with this the 94th consecutive year the two have met on the gridiron. And of the seven longest series among FCS teams, Dartmouth is a part of four of them — versus Yale (87 consecutive years, 4th), Princeton (80, 6th) and Columbia (71, 7th).
Largest Crowd in 14 Years
The Dartmouth homecoming game against Harvard on Oct. 27 brought the largest crowd to see a Big Green game at Memorial Field in 14 years as 10,138 people descended on the stadium. It was the first time at least 10,000 showed up since a game against Yale on Oct. 17, 1998 when 12,017 witnessed a thrilling 22-19 Dartmouth victory over the Bulldogs.
Two 100-Yard Receivers
Senior receiver and sophomore put on quite a show against Harvard on Oct. 27 as both topped the century mark in receiving yards. Reilly set career highs in both receptions (12) — tied for third most in Big Green history — and yardage (165), while McManus needed just four catches to amass 103 yards. The last Dartmouth duo to collect 100 receiving yards in the same game was Brian Evans ’08 and Ryan’s older brother Tim ’11, who had 191 and 124, respectively, in the wild 59-31 victory over Cornell in 2007. Those 191 yards for Evans were also the last time a Big Green receiver topped Reilly’s total from the Harvard game.
McManus TD on SportsCenter
Speaking of , his 68-yard touchdown catch against the Crimson was featured as the No. 4 play in the daily SportsCenter Top 10. The play began with the 5-10 McManus leaping high in the air to secure an pass about 20 yards downfield, then breaking through no less than six tacklers before sprinting to the end zone. The play can be viewed on DartmouthSports.com by clicking on the video tab and latest highlights.
Park Tops 300 Passing Yards
With all of those catches, someone had to throw the passes, and most of the evening it was Alex Park. The sophomore posted career highs with 24 completions and 39 attempts to amass 310 yards, making him the first Dartmouth QB to top 300 since Connor Kempe ’12 had 312 against Holy Cross three years ago.
Runger a Ringer
Linebacker is making his presence known on the field this year, leading the Ivy League with 9.7 tackles per game thus far. Last week against Harvard the junior brought down 13 Crimson ball carriers to lead the team for the fifth time in seven games. Against Holy Cross, he racked up a career-high 15 tackles, and has four games in which he has reached double figures.
Defense Still Top-Rated in Ivy
Dartmouth proved that its top-rated defense entering the Harvard game was not a mirage by holding the Crimson to a season-low 382 yards. While that total may sound like a lot to a casual fan, Harvard came into the game averaging 515 yards. For the season, the Big Green yield just 311.3 yards per game to the opposition, best in the conference and 15th among FCS teams.
Running Game Mostly Ignored
With Harvard owning the best rush defense in the FCS and junior playing at less than 100 percent, Dartmouth made the decision to forego the running game almost exclusively, handing the ball off just seven times all night while the QBs combined for 17 rushes. All told, the Big Green had just 19 yards on the ground, their fewest since being held to minus-11 in the final game of the 2008 season at Princeton.
One thing Robert L. Blackman Head Football Coach would like to see his team do is get going a little more quickly in games. Only once has Dartmouth had a lead at halftime, that coming in the season-opening 35-7 win over Butler. But something has clicked after the intermission as the Big Green have outscored their opponents in the third quarter by a 42-7 margin and more than doubled them up in the second half overall, 87-38.