DARTMOUTH (5-0, 2-0) vs. COLUMBIA (1-4, 0-2)
MEMORIAL FIELD, HANOVER, N.H.
SATURDAY, OCT. 24, 2015 • 3 p.m.
LIve Video: Ivy League Digital Network — Adam Giardino (play-by-play), Wayne Young ’72 (analyst)
Live Audio: Ivy League Digital Network and iHeart Radio
Radio: 99Rock WFRD (99.3 FM)
Lions Entering the Woods
Lions may be the kings of the jungle, but this week they are entering The Woods, the moniker given to Memorial Field by Robert L. Blackman Head Football Coach Buddy Teevens. And The Woods have not been kind to Columbia throughout the years as Dartmouth has won 35 of the 39 meetings at the venue, including the last six in a row.
On paper, this game is a mismatch as the Big Green, ranked in the STATS FCS poll for the first time in 19 years at 25th, have won eight straight back to last year while Columbia has lost 25 of its last 26 games. That lone win came just two weeks ago, however, in a 26-3 win over Wagner.
Games have never been actually won on paper, and Dartmouth must avoid a letdown with a showdown versus the Ancient Eight’s other undefeated and ranked team, No. 15 Harvard, looming next week.
Last Saturday, the Green overcame a sluggish start to handily defeat host Central Connecticut State by a final of 34-7. All five of Dartmouth’s victories in 2015 have been by at least 21 points. The last team to lose to the Big Green yet keep the final margin less than 21 was Columbia last year.
National Player of the Year candidate Dalyn Williams completed 69.7 percent of his passes (23-of-33) for 249 yards and three touchdowns against the Blue Devils, but he did throw an interception, ending a school-record streak of 237 without a pick. For the season, the senior ranks among the nation’s top 10 in five statistical categories, including pass efficiency and total offense.
The dual threat also had a team-high 60 rushing yards on 10 carries, and leads the balanced ground game with 228 yards on the season. Senior running back Kyle Bramble has the top average per game at 46.0, while sophomore Ryder Stone picks up 5.3 yards per carry to pace the squad.
While Dartmouth has a number of receiving threats, senior Victor Williams has been a favorite target with his 40 catches for 592 yards, numbers that rank among the top 10 nationally on a per-game basis. The other starting wide receivers, Ryan McManus and Jon Marc Carrier, have combined to haul in 29 passes for 478 yards. But for scoring efficiency, the two to watch are tight end Cameron Skaff (seven catches, four TDs) and wide receiver Houston Brown (six catches, three TDs).
Even with an offense that ranks 14th among FCS schools at 38 points a game, the defense has been even better, yielding a mere 9.4 points each time out, third-best in the country. Senior free safety David Caldwell has been the most opportunistic defender, leading the league with four interceptions and a pair of fumble recoveries. And junior linebacker Folarin Orimolade has wreaked havoc in the backfield with seven tackles for a loss, including five sacks.
The Dartmouth defense was unscored upon (the CCSU touchdown came on a fumble recovery) and has not allowed a touchdown in either of the last two games. Only Penn reached the end zone more than once this season.
And speaking of scoreless stretches, Columbia has been shut out in each of its last two trips to Memorial Field with the last Lion points on this turf coming in 2009. The Big Green have outscored Columbia 121-6 in the last three games here.
Scouting the Lions
The Lions ended a 24-game losing streak with a 26-3 victory over Wagner two weeks ago. Now they have their sights set on ending a 17-game drought in Ivy League play with this clash against Dartmouth.
In its first four games, Columbia fared a bit better than its recent history, scoring 24 points against a nationally ranked Fordham squad to start the year, then extending the skid to 24 with losses to Georgetown and Princeton by single-digit margins. The Lions finally broke through against the Seahawks, yielding less than 200 yards and a solitary field goal in the win.
But last week Columbia suffered a rough 42-7 homecoming defeat against Penn as the offense continued to struggle. More than a third of the Lions’ 199 total yards came on their first possession as they jumped out to a 7-0 lead, only to have the Quakers score 42 unanswered points and amass over 400 total yards.
Quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg, a Florida transfer, has guided the Columbia offense. Although completing over 60 percent of his passes, he has thrown for less than 150 yards a game while connecting on a single touchdown with six interceptions. The former Gator has the ability to evade the rush and take the ball upfield, ranking second on the squad in rushing yards; Cameron Molina has 287 yards on the ground, and the two each have three TDs.
The primary target for Mornhinweg is Scooter Hollis with his 24 catches and team-best 270 receiving yards. Cameron Dunn is the only Lion with a receiving touchdown, and he ranks second on the squad with 15 grabs.
The defense has more than held its own (last week’s rout at Penn notwithstanding), particularly against the run against which it allows just over 120 yards per game, good for 22nd nationally. No fewer than 15 Lions have recorded a tackle for a loss, led by the squad’s two leading tacklers in linebackers Christian Conway (28) and Keith Brady (27).
The Big Green offensive line will have its hands full trying to keep the defensive tackles, Dominic Perkovic and Niko Padilla, out of the backfield on pass plays as the duo has combined for 4.5 sacks.
Cameron Nizialek handles most of the kicking duties and has showed off his leg strength with a 44.0-yard average on 23 punts, but has been hit or miss on field goals converting 4-of-8 with all four makes from 31 yards or closer. On the kick receiving end, Alan Watson is a threat to return one to the house as he did against Fordham in the season opener.
Columbia is under new management this year with the hiring of the dean of Ivy League coaches, Al Bagnoli, who spent the previous 23 seasons cultivating a legacy at Penn. The Patricia and Shepard Alexander Head Coach of Football crafted a 148-80 mark with the Quakers, including a 112-49 record in conference play while boasting nine league titles before retiring from his post in Philadelphia. He has now been commissioned to change the fortunes of the Lions and their .230 winning percentage in conference games since the Ivy League started formal play in 1956.
For the first times since finishing the 1996 season ranked 17th, Dartmouth finds itself in the national polls once again. The STATS FCS poll revealed on Monday had the Big Green ranked 25th, ousting in-state rival New Hampshire from the poll for the first time since 2004. In the coaches' poll, Dartmouth is just on the outside looking in, ranked 26th.
Mid-Season POY Watch List
The College Football Performance Awards unveiled its Mid-Season Watch List for its FCS National Performer for the Year, and quarterback Dalyn Williams was one of the 32 included, as he was on the preseason watch list. The senior is among the top 10 nationally in five offensive categories, including pass efficiency, total offense and completion percentage.
Memorial Field Mastery
Dartmouth is 35-4 against Columbia at Memorial Field, and in more than half of those games, the Big Green have held the Lions to less than 10 points. And of those 20 games in single digits, 12 have been by shutout.
With the 34-7 win at Central Connecticut State, Dartmouth has now won all three of its non-conference games four times since the implementation of the 10-game schedule in 1980 — 1995, ’96, 2010 and ’15.
5-0 Start Best in 18 Years
With the 35-3 win over Yale, Dartmouth is off to its best start since the 1997 team began the season at 5-0. This is the 10th time since the advent of Ivy play that the Big Green sport a 5-0 record. In the previous nine instances, Dartmouth went on to win the league title six times. A win over Columbia would be an especially good omen as the Green went on to win the championship each of the five times they have started 6-0.
Big Pass Plays
As a freshman, quarterback Dalyn Williams had eight completions go for at least 30 yards. He increased that number to 10 as a sophomore, and boosted it to 14 last year. This season, Williams has already connected on 16 passes of 30 or more yards, seven of which have gone to his namesake, Victor Williams. As a team, Dartmouth has 17 such passes (Jack Heneghan added one against Sacred Heart). As for today’s opponent? Columbia’s longest pass of the season is 29 yards.
Separate the Wheat from the Skaff
I have no idea what that means, but sophomore tight end Cameron Skaff has separated himself from the other tight ends on the roster by catching two touchdown passes in each of the last two weeks. Those four scoring receptions are also the last four passes he has hauled in, and more than half of his career catches (7) have gone for touchdowns.
For the second straight game, the Dartmouth defense did not allow the opponent to reach the end zone (CCSU’s lone touchdown came on a fumble recovery). And the Big Green have held the opposition to less than 300 total yards the last three contests. The last Dartmouth squad that did not allow 300 or more yards in a game five times for a season was the 1997 squad, while the last Ivy champion in 1996 accomplished the feat six times. Those two squads are also the last two to hold a team to single digits at least three times as this year’s team has (four in 1996, six in ’97).
As one of seven undefeated teams in the FCS, Dartmouth is scattered throughout the national rankings in numerous categories, both as a team and individually. The Big Green lead the country in both rushing defense (63.4 yards per game allowed) and are second in turnover margin (+1.8) and interceptions thrown (1). Dartmouth is also in the top 10 in red zone defense (54.5 percent, 2nd), scoring defense (9.4 ppg, 3rd), team passing efficiency defense (97.96, 5th), passing offense (318.8 ypg, 7th), completion percentage (67.0, 7th), kick return defense (8th, 16.3 yards per return), passing efficiency (161.73, 9th) and total defense (288.6 ypg, 10th).
Among the players, David Caldwell is among the top 10 nationally in three categories, including interceptions and fumbles recovered, while the Williamses — Dalyn and Victor — are in the top 10 in seven categories and Folarin Orimolade is eighth in sacks.
One Play, Done
For the second time this year, Dartmouth needed just one offensive play on a drive to the end zone when Jon Marc Carrier plucked a 44-yard pass out of the air from Dalyn Williams on the Big Green’s first play of the game at CCSU. It was the longest one-play scoring drive for Dartmouth since Dominick Pierre ’14 broke free for a 51-yard run at Cornell in 2012, one of three one-play drives that year of at least 50 yards.
Pick-less Streak Ends
Dalyn Williams began his career at Dartmouth by throwing 216 passes before having a throw intercepted, setting a school record. He bested that streak during the 35-3 victory over Yale, and continued to extend it at CCSU when a Blue Devil defender picked off a pass, snapping his streak at 237 passes. For his career, Williams has thrown 52 touchdowns and just nine interceptions, a ratio of nearly 6-to-1. No other Big Green QB with at least 100 career attempts has a ratio of even 2-to-1.
Williams on Pace to Break Records
Yes, Dalyn Williams has already broken some Dartmouth career records and will likely set the mark for career passing yards, but I’m talking about Victor Williams right now. The 5-9, 165-pound receiver has 40 receptions for 592 yards at the halfway point of the season. That puts him on pace for (some quick and easy math) 80 catches and 1,184 yards. Jay Barnard ’04 caught a record-setting 83 passes in 2004, while John Hyland ’94 has the yardage record of 1,076 set in 1993. Only four Big Green receivers have had 1,000 yards in a season.
- Since the start of the 2013 season, only The Citadel (8) and William & Mary (11) have thrown fewer interceptions than Dartmouth (14). Both have attempted fewer passes with Citadel (347) throwing less than half of the Big Green’s total (817).
- Senior K.J. Booze recorded his first career reception, gaining seven yards at CCSU during the Big Green’s final possession.
- Dartmouth is tied for the second longest winning streak in the FCS at eight (with Jacksonville and Dayton of the Pioneer Football League). Only Harvard (19) has a longer current streak.
- The Big Green’s road win streak (7) is also second longest, tied with James Madison and trailing only the Crimson (13).
- David Caldwell broke up five passes (3 PBU, 2 INT) against Yale, the second most of any player in an FCS game this year.
- Dalyn Williams had a passing efficiency of 257.70 at Penn, the fifth highest in an FCS game this year.
- Ivy League quarterbacks have completed more passes per game (21.5) than those from any other FCS league this year, and at a better rate (60.9 percent completion percentage), too.
- In each of Dartmouth’s eight straight wins, the scoring margin has been at least 21 points. It is the longest streak of wins with that margin in program history; the previous longest streak was five.
- A win over Columbia would push Dartmouth’s all-time winning percentage to an even .600. It is currently .5997.
Over the last 40 years, Dartmouth has held an opponent to 60 or fewer rushing yards in a game 43 times, three coming this season. In those 43 games, the Big Green are 41-2. Dartmouth leads the FCS in rushing defense, having allowed just 63.4 yards per game.
Dartmouth has won all five of its games by at least 21 points, extending the team’s streak to eight such victories dating back to last year, the longest streak in the program’s history. This is just the sixth time the Big Green have won five straight in that manner, joining a group that includes the 1970 squad that won eight of its nine games like that.
Dartmouth has thoroughly dominated its opponents this season, so much that it has trailed for a total of only 2:30 in the first five games. Georgetown scored first in the season opener, but the Big Green answered right back to tie the score. Ever since then, Dartmouth has been out front or tied.