#21/23 DARTMOUTH (8-1, 5-1)
vs. PRINCETON (5-4, 2-4)
MEMORIAL FIELD, HANOVER, N.H.
SATURDAY, NOV. 21, 2015 • NOON
Video: American Sports Network and Ivy League Digital Network — Scott Sudikoff (play-by-play), Ken Dunek (analyst)
Live Audio: Ivy League Digital Network and iHeart Radio — Adam Giardino (play-by-play), Wayne Young ’72 (analyst)
Radio: 99Rock WFRD (99.3 FM)
All-Time Series: Dartmouth leads 47-43-4
18th Title on the Line
No. 21/23 Dartmouth enters the final game of the season with the opportunity to earn at least a share of the Ivy League title for the first time in 19 years. In order to lay claim to their 18th crown — more than any other Ancient Eight school — the Big Green will have to knock off a Princeton squad that hopes to play the spoiler. Don’t think for a moment the Tigers wouldn’t relish that role after the Big Green ruined their perfect run through the Ancient Eight two years ago on this very field, forcing Princeton to share the 2013 crown with Harvard.
While Dartmouth got the helping hand it needed last weekend to be in position to grab a share of the championship as Penn knocked off 12th-ranked Harvard, 35-25, the Big Green took care of their own business at hand with a 34-18 triumph at Brown.
The blustery conditions wreaked havoc throughout the game as the two teams combined for barely 200 passing yards and 13 turnovers, including four by the Bears in the first quarter alone. That helped Dartmouth jump out to a 14-0 lead, and only two Brown touchdowns in the final five minutes brought the score back to respectability.
Big Green quarterback Dalyn Williams had an uncharacteristically rough day, recording his fewest total yards in a game in 32 career starts. He does, however, remain among the top 25 QBs in the FCS in eight offensive statistical categories, including passing (258.9 ypg), total offense (284.4 ypg), completion percentage (63.3) and passing efficiency (144.28).
With the passing game limited to 110 yards at Brown, the running game enjoyed its second straight productive week with Kyle Bramble (17 carries, 93 yards, TD) and Brian Grove (8-90, TD) providing the bulk of the work. Grove’s touchdown was the first score of the day on a 61-yard run immediately following a Brown fumble.
The Big Green remain a very dangerous passing team with Williams — the school’s all-time leading passer — behind center. And with two of the top 10 receivers in Dartmouth history in Ryan McManus (162 catches, 2,186 yards) and Victor Williams (130 for 1,585), look for Robert L. Blackman Head Football Coach Buddy Teevens to have his squad air it out a bit more in the trio’s final game.
What has helped boost the Big Green to the top of the standings, perhaps more than anything else, has been a stout defense. No FCS team has allowed fewer points (10.1 per game), and Dartmouth has not only yielded the third-fewest yards on the ground, but is ranked second in passing efficiency defense.
Linebacker Will McNamara heads up the defensive unit with a team-high 59 tackles while picking off four passes, matching free safety David Caldwell for the team lead. Cornerback Vernon Harris had two interceptions himself last weekend, and as a team Dartmouth has 17 to rank third in the nation (as well as third in turnover margin). With A.J. Zuttah and Cody Fulleton on the line stuffing the running game, the Big Green defense is formidable.
Last year, Dartmouth handed the Tigers a 41-10 defeat at Princeton Stadium as Williams completed 30-of-35 passes for 305 yards and four touchdowns, three to Bo Patterson. At the half, the Big Green lead was just 17-3 before they scored 24 points in the first 18 minutes of the second stanza. The defense limited the host Tigers to 228 yards of offense.
Scouting the Tigers
Since opening the season with four consecutive victories, Princeton has fallen on hard times, dropping four of five with the lone win a 47-21 blowout over Cornell. But three of those four losses have been by a touchdown or less, including an overtime defeat at Penn two weeks ago only because the Tigers had a field goal blocked on the final play of regulation.
Princeton owns an offense every bit as formidable as the Big Green’s, averaging 31.3 points a game, topping 40 on four occasions. Quarterback Chad Kanoff averages about 230 yards a game through the air while completing 57.6 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and six interceptions. But Dartmouth will need to be wary of the halfback pass as well with John Lovett completing 11-of-15 throws with three touchdowns this season.
This is a team that spreads the wealth when it comes to yardage, both on the ground and through the air. Five receivers have between 20 and 30 receptions for at least 200 yards, led by Isaiah Barnes with 29 for 429 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Preseason All-Ivy receiver Seth DeValve missed four games due to injury, but has caught 14 passes in the last two games since returning to the field.
Joe Rhattigan is the featured running back with 111 carries for 555 yards and seven touchdowns, but his 5.0-yard average is just the fifth-best among the five backs with at least 100 yards on the ground. Lovett is one to watch at 6.6 yards per carry and nine touchdowns, plus he is second on the team with 25 catches for 318 yards.
The separator for these two teams is on the other side of the ball. Whereas Dartmouth has the stingiest defense among FCS schools at 10.1 points allowed per game, Princeton has surrendered 24.4 points while yielding 438.7 yards per game, 97th nationally out of 123 teams. The pass defense has been particularly exploited for over 270 yards each time on the field (116th).
Free safety Dorian Williams is tied for the league lead with 81 tackles, including 15 last week in a 35-28 loss to Yale. Linebacker Matt Arends has a way of causing problems with his team-leading six tackles for a loss with 1.5 sacks. As a team, Princeton has picked off nine passes this year, two each for linebacker R.J. Paige and strong safety Khamal Brown.
The kicking game is in good shape with Nolan Bieck connecting on 11-of-12 field goals — four from at least 40 yards out — and 31-of-33 PATs. Tyler Roth handles most of the punting duties, averaging just under 40 yards per kick, but Kanoff has been known to pooch punt on occasion. Fielding kicks, Dré Nelson is a dangerous return man, leading the league in kick return average with a 100-yarder to his credit this year.
The Tigers are under the care of the Charles W. Caldwell Jr. ’25 Head Coach of Football, Bob Surace, finishing up his sixth campaign with the Tigers with a current record of 25-34. Prior to coming to Princeton, he served as an assistant coach with the Cincinnati Bengals, helping the team to an AFC North title in 2009. His other head coaching experience came at Western Connecticut State where he led the Colonials to an overall record of 18-3 in 2000 and ’01. He was an All-Ivy first-team center back in 1989 at Princeton, which won a share of the conference crown.
Big Green on the Small Screen
The game against Princeton is being televised by American Sports Network, making it the fourth TV game of the season. Dartmouth has appeared in a televised football game 87 times, sporting a 32-54-1 record. Even with the agonizing 14-13 loss at Harvard on Oct. 30, another contest shown on TV, the cameras have been a bit more accommodating recently with the Big Green winning seven of their last nine. This is just the fourth time Dartmouth has played Princeton in front of the television cameras, and first time since 1989, going 1-2 against the Tigers.
Maintaining Spot in All-Time Titles
The first Ivy League season was played in 1956, won by Yale. Dartmouth won its first crown two years later, and when the Big Green won its second in 1962, no other team had more. Since the fourth Ivy title to Dartmouth’s credit in 1965, the Green have always had more football championships than any other Ancient Eight squad. A victory over Princeton would assure Dartmouth maintains that distinction for a 51st consecutive year as both Harvard and Penn have 16 on their ledgers and the Green 17.
Three-Way Tie in Play
- Not since 1982 has there been a three-way tie for first in the final Ivy League football standings, yet here we are with Dartmouth, Harvard and Penn tied with one game to play. Should all three win (or all three lose) on Saturday, it would be just the fourth time three teams shared the crown, all of which have involved the Big Green:
- In 1966, Dartmouth won its final four games to tie Harvard and Princeton at 6-1;
- Three years later, the Green fell back into a three-way tie at 6-1 with Princeton and Yale when the Tigers ruined Dartmouth’s bid for an undefeated season in the final game of the year, 35-7; and
- This year’s trio (Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn) all finished 5-2 as the Big Green won their final three to earn their share of the title.
Nine Would Be Nice
A Dartmouth victory over Princeton would give the Big Green nine victories for the 2015 campaign, just the sixth time in program history it would hit that mark on the nose (the 1996 team won 10 games). The 1962, ’65 and ’70 teams all went unblemished at 9-0, but the last time Dartmouth had a record of 9-1 came in 1903, two years after the team had that exact same record.
Shutting Down Opponents
The Big Green lead the nation in scoring defense having yielded 91 points in nine games, an average of 10.1. No Dartmouth team has held the opposition to fewer than 10 points per game since the 1979 squad allowed just 86 total over nine games (9.6). If Princeton scores no more than a touchdown, the Big Green will join the other eight Dartmouth squads to accomplish the feat in the Ivy era (1956-58, ’60, ’62, ’65, ’70 and ’79), five of which won titles.
Class of 2016 Looking for 29th Win
Another benefit of beating the Tigers would be that the members of the senior class would earn their 29th victory, matching the most over any four-year period since 1970-73 when the team won 30. On only four other occasions has Dartmouth won 30 over a four-year span — 1901-04 (31), 1911-14 (30), 1962-65 (31) and 1969-72 (school-record 32).
Harris to Start All 40 Games
No Dartmouth player has ever started 40 varsity games. That will change with the Princeton game as senior cornerback Vernon Harris will start his 40th and final collegiate game. He arrived in the fall of 2012 and was immediately thrust into the starting lineup, quickly making an impact by forcing a Holy Cross fumble with 11 seconds to play to set up Dartmouth’s game-winning field goal in a 13-10 triumph. He enters this game with 185 career tackles (sixth most over the last decade), 27 passes defended of which six are interceptions, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
Although Dartmouth coughed the ball up six times at Brown — its most in a game in nine years — the Big Green still managed to not lose the battle of turnovers by forcing seven by the Bears (the most by an opponent in eight years). The 13 combined turnovers are the most in a Dartmouth game since a 41-0 victory over Columbia on Nov. 8, 1986 (also 13), and just the ninth time in the last 40 years with at least 10. Of those nine game, the Big Green have won seven times.
Like a Rolling Stone
Sophomore Ryder Stone returned a kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown in the 34-18 win at Brown on Nov. 14 to help him earn Ivy League Special Teams Player of the Week honors. It was the first Dartmouth score on a kickoff return since Kirby Schoenthaler brought one back 79 yards at Yale on Oct. 6, 2012. But Schoenthaler had a longer return at New Hampshire last year (92 yards) without reaching the end zone. The last one for the Green at Memorial Field came on the first play of the 2012 season when Miles Gay — not one of the designated return men — scooped up a Butler kick and rumbled 85 yards for the touchdown.
Double-Digit Passing Yards Again
The Dartmouth defense held Brown to just 95 yards through the air, marking the second straight week the Big Green opponent had not amassed 100. The last time the Green managed to hold consecutive opponents under 100 was 27 years ago in a loss to Yale and a win over Columbia.
Bramble, Grove Top 90
Before the Brown game, Dartmouth did not have a single player record even 90 yards on the ground in a game, partly due to using several running backs in a rotation. That changed against the Bears as both Kyle Bramble and Brian Grove ran for 93 and 90 yards, respectively. For Grove, it was a career high, and on just eight carries, one of which was a 61-yard touchdown run, matching the longest carry of his career.
From Blockee to Blocker
Defensive tackle A.J. Zuttah is one of the top linemen in the Ivy League and is used to having blockers in his way when trying to get into the backfield. He became the blocker, however, on Brown PAT attempts as he swatted not one but two kicks to deny the Bears those extra points. Those two blocks matched the total for the rest of the team all season, both of which came in the previous two contests.
Williams Looking to End Strong
Dalyn Williams would like nothing better than to end his collegiate career on a high note. The quarterback is 23-8 as the Big Green starter behind center, but suffered one of his worst statistical games last week at Brown as he completed just 11-of-22 throws for 110 yards with a career-high three interceptions. And his negative-25 yards rushing matched a career low. In addition, although he led Dartmouth to a win over Princeton here two years ago, he was held to a mere four completions in 15 attempts for 92 yards with two interceptions (his only other career game with more than one). So I’d say, expect big things from the quarterback with the following career accomplishments to date:
- He is the first Dartmouth QB with 7,000 passing yards to his credit (7,196, 7th all-time in the Ivy League) and 5,000 Ivy yards (5,276, 6th) as well.
- Williams is just the ninth Ivy QB to post seven or more 300-yard passing games with his 311-yard performance at 15th-ranked Harvard.
- His 206 total yards against Cornell made him the first Dartmouth QB and fourth Ivy Leaguer to top 6,000 yards in Ivy games alone (currently 6,153, 38 yards shy of third all-time).
- Williams passed former NFL QB Jay Fiedler ’94 in career total yards earlier this season and currently has 8,695, third most in Ivy League history.
- He set a school record by completing 92 percent of his passes (23-of-25) against Penn. The previous record was held by Bill King since the 1962 season.
- Another school record fell the following week with 435 passing yards against Yale, breaking the mark held by Fiedler.
- Yet another school record: 453 total yards vs. Yale, breaking his own mark. He has also topped 400 yards four times in his career, one more than everyone else at Dartmouth combined.
- In the Ivy League annals, he also ranks in the top 10 in career completions (589, 7th), career Ivy completions (424, 5th), career accuracy (62.4 percent, 7th), career passing efficiency (143.11, 5th) and career touchdown passes (55, 6th).
- Became the first Dartmouth QB to top 300 passing yards (313 against Sacred Heart, 336 at Penn, 435 vs. Yale) in three straight weeks.
- Led Dartmouth to its first win at Penn since 1997.
- Named national FCS Offensive Player of the Week by STATS, College Football Performance Awards and College Sporting News after the Penn game, plus was named the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week after Penn and Yale, giving him six in his career (one shy of Fiedler’s school record seven).
- Also earned the Gold Helmet Award from the New England Football Writers for a second time.
Did I Mention the Turnovers?
As noted earlier, Dartmouth forced seven Brown turnovers on Nov. 14. Among the highlights from those miscues:
- Vernon Harris picked off two passes — the third Big Green player to do so this year — to earn the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week award.
- Lucas Bavaro not only recorded his first career interception, but recovered a fumble as well.
- Eric Wickham intercepted a throw for the second time in his career, returning it eight yards while looking like a veteran ball carrier.
- David Caldwell collected a career-high 10 tackles and added a forced fumble to his season totals that include four picks and three fumble recoveries.
- Kyran McKinney-Crudden also fell on a fumble during kickoff coverage, his first career recovery.
4th-and-18? No Problem!
In the third quarter at Brown, Dartmouth held a 21-6 lead but faced fourth down with 18 yards to go at the Bear 24. With the wind howling and no better choices available, the Big Green chose to go for it. Dalyn Williams, suffering through one of his worst games, was spot on for this play, however, rifling a 24-yard strike to junior Houston Brown in the end zone for the touchdown, sending Dartmouth on its way to a 34-18 victory.
Three Named Academic All-District
Dartmouth had three of its players named to the Capital One Academic All-District I Football Team — junior NB Lucas Bavaro, senior RB Kyle Bramble and senior C Jacob Flores. Bavaro is an economics major with a 3.31 GPA, Bramble an engineering major with a 3.36 GPA and Flores is studying religion and sports a 3.47 GPA.