Final Non-conference Game
Having lost consecutive games for the first time in three years — both to unranked teams for the first time in that time span as well — Dartmouth is looking for some answers. Then again, so is the team it is hosting, Towson, which enters this game with a 1-4 record.
Making matters worse for the Big Green is that their two losses came in the first two Ivy League games of the year, almost effectively taking them out of the race for its 19th conference crown. Only twice in the first 60 years of Ivy League football has a team with two losses finished tied atop the heap, though both instances (1963 and 1982) did involve Dartmouth.
In order to keep their slim hopes alive, the Big Green must right their ship and get back on the winning track. The 37-24 loss to Penn and 21-13 defeat at Yale last week both came against teams without a win in their ledger. And Towson’s 1-4 record is a bit deceiving, with two of its last three losses coming against ranked opponents and the other versus another just outside the top 25 (not to mention its first loss coming against an FBS school just outside that top 25).
Last week the offense continued to move the ball throughout the game, collecting over 400 yards for the fourth time in as many outings. Quarterback Jack Heneghan set personal marks with 32 completions in 57 attempts for 348 yards — tied for 12th all-time at Dartmouth. But the Big Green found the end zone just once and failed to score from the red zone on three occasions.
The running game, which had been so effective in the first two games, struggled to maintain any consistency with just 69 yards on 28 carries. Miles Smith provided nearly two-thirds of those yards (44) on 15 carries, while Ryder Stone was the only other running back to take a handoff.
Heneghan continued to spread the love with his passes, connecting with 10 different receivers throughout the afternoon. No one had more than five, however, led by Drew Hunnicutt and Stone with five apiece. Both Hunnicutt and freshman Hunter Hagdorn have emerged as popular targets this season with 17 catches each, with senior Houston Brown hauling in 15 more.
The Big Green defense uncharacteristically surrended 422 yards of offense to Yale, ending a streak of 16 straight games of holding a team under 400. The last team to boast at least 422 yards also happened to be Yale the last time Dartmouth trekked to New Haven in 2014 when the Green outlasted the Bulldogs, 38-31, despite yielding 480 yards.
Linebacker Folarin Orimolade continues to live up to his preseason All-America billing, collecting a pair of sacks and forcing a fumble last week. The 6-0, 235-pound senior not only leads the team with 33 tackles, but tops the league with 8.5 tackles for a loss, 4.0 sacks and three forced fumbles.
Another bright spot on defense has been Lucas Bavaro. The nickelback is second on the squad with 29 stops, has broken up a pair of passes and recovered two fumbles as well.
The focus for the defense this week will be in stopping the run. Not only did Yale run for 241 yards last week, but one of its running backs accounted for 180 of those yards, the most against a Big Green defense since week seven in 2014. Towson features a strong running game, even if its star back is still unavailable.
On special teams, David Smith has shown increasing confidence in his placekicking, converting both field goal attempts last week. He is now 4-for-5 on the season and a perfect 10-for-10 on PATs. Ben Kepley is close to his career-best average on punts (38.5 yards per), but the Big Green must do a better job of covering those punts as the team has allowed over 100 return yards already. That’s more than any entire season since Kepley became the team’s punter as a freshman three years ago.
After two weeks of kickoffs at the 40-yard line (due to the experimental rule in Ivy League games), Dartmouth will likely see fewer touchbacks this week with both teams kicking off from the 35 for the final time this year.
Scouting the Tigers
Last week Towson was in the driver’s seat with a 17-7 lead at the half at home against CAA foe Stony Brook, only to have the Seawolves rattle off three second-half touchdowns to take a 10-point lead with 5:50 to play. After a Tiger field goal cut the deficit to seven, Stony Brook fumbled away the ensuing kick, giving Towson a golden opportunity to tie the score. Yet the Tigers mustered only a single yard in four plays, allowing the Seawolves to run out the clock.
The Towson offense is in the middle of the FCS pack when it comes to gaining ground, but slightly below average in scoring at 24.8 points per game. Quarterback Ellis Knudson has been hit or miss, completing exactly 50 percent of his passes for 894 yards with five touchdowns and five interceptions.
The running game had been dominated by tailback Darius Victor, who in his career has run for more than 3,300 yards and 41 touchdowns, including all four scores in a 31-28 loss to sixth-ranked Richmond. But he missed last week’s game and is not listed on the depth chart, though his true status is unknown. In his stead, Shane Simpson and Deshaun Wethington will likely split the duties as they did last week while combining for 147 yards on 26 carries.
Christian Summers leads a solid receiving corps with 23 catches for 493 yards (a whopping 21.4-yard average) and a pair of TDs. Another favorite target is Andre Dessenberg with 22 receptions for 318 yards and a score. Towson has nearly exclusively thrown to its wide receivers (67 of 77 receptions).
The Tiger defense, which has surrendered more than 36 points a game, is led by middle linebacker Diondre Wallace with 38 tackles. The pressure in the backfield generally comes from the linebacking corps with four of them recording two sacks apiece. When it comes to pass coverage, safety Monty Fenner has broken up as many passes (5) as the rest of the team, although cover man Justice Pettus-Dixon has two of the team’s three picks.
The kicking game is in excellent shape with Aidan O’Neill converting all 14 of his PATs and six of his seven field goal attempts (the lone miss coming from 52 yards). Punter Jake Ryder is second in the FCS with a booming 46.7-yard average. And Simpson is a dangerous return man, bringing back kickoffs an average of 26.5 yards.
Rob Ambrose, a 1993 graduate of Towson, is in his eighth season (44-45) at the helm. After beginning his coaching career at his alma mater, he spent the 2001 season at Catholic University before a seven-year stint with the UConn Huskies. Ambrose returned to Towson as the head coach for the 2009 season, going 3-19 in his first two campaigns before leading the team to a CAA title and 9-3 overall mark for its first appearance in the FCS Playoffs. In 2013, Ambrose guided his squad to a stellar 13-3 record, advancing to the FCS Championship game while earning numerous Coach of the Year honors.
Four-Game Streak Ends at Yale
Dartmouth was riding a personal four-game win streak against Yale when it traveled to the Yale Bowl on Oct. 8. But the Bulldogs, which had won the previous nine contests before this stretch, reclaimed the lead in the series during the Ivy era with a 21-13 victory over the Big Green. Yale is now 30-29-2 against Dartmouth since the first official Ivy League season in 1956.
Yale Bowls Its Way to 400+ Yards
Before the Bulldogs put up 422 yards of offense against Dartmouth on Oct. 8, no team had topped 400 yards since Nov. 1, 2014, when Harvard posted 414. The last time a team had more than 422 yards? That would be Yale, at the Yale Bowl, on Oct. 11, 2014, when it had 480, a game Dartmouth still managed to win. Since 2012, the Big Green are 6-6 when yielding 400 or more yards, but lost 21 straight such games before that.
Big Green Bites from Yale
Dartmouth ran for just 69 yards at the Yale Bowl, its lowest total in a game since its last visit there in 2014 (46).
• Between Jack Heneghan’s 57 pass attempts and the one by WR Drew Hunnicutt, the Big Green posted its most passes in a game since heaving the ball 60 times at Colgate in 2004.
• With 417 total yards, Dartmouth has topped 400 for four straight weeks. The last time the Big Green reached that total in five consecutive games, that coming in 1993, while the school record is eight in the legendary 1970 campaign.
• Sophomore LB Jake Moen led the Dartmouth defense with a career-high nine tackles.
• Junior DE Nick Tomkins recorded his first career sack, plus forced a fumble on the same play.
• The Big Green recovered three Yale fumbles in the game, giving them seven on the season to tie for the league lead and rank fourth in the nation.
Heneghan Putting Up Numbers
Dartmouth entered the 2016 season needing to replace its all-time leading passer, Dalyn Williams, following his graduation. Junior Jack Heneghan has emerged as the man behind center, ranking 15th among FCS quarterbacks with 276.5 passing yards per game, and 10th in total offense with an average of 302.5 yards. If he keeps up those pace, he will end the year second on both Big Greem single-season charts.
Spreading the Wealth
Looking at the team leaders in rushing and receiving, one quickly notes that no one player is dominating for the Big Green. Running backs Miles Smith and Ryder Stone have shared the load with the former running the ball 28 times for 208 yards (7.4 avg.) and the latter 30 times for 147 yards (4.9 avg.). QB Jack Heneghan actually leads the team with 31 rush attempts.
Among the receivers, Drew Hunnicutt and Hunter Hagdorn each have 17 catches with nearly identical yardages (198 to 190, respectively), while Houston Brown has 15 receptions for 187 yards. Charles Mack is the lone receiver with two touchdown grabs, though.
What Have You Done F-Orimolade-ly?
Playing a little Mad Gab here, and while it might be a stretch, I laughed a little. Anyway, LB Folarin Orimolade was named a preseason second-team All-American by STATS, and he certainly is living up to the billing. The senior leads the Ivy League in sacks (4.0), tackles for a loss (8.5) and fumbles forced (3) after four games, while his 33 tackles lead the team.
Desire for Balanced Attack
When you hear a team talk about establishing the running game, there is a reason for it. Case in point, when Dartmouth has run the ball more than it passes it since 1974, the Big Green has a record of 175-119-7. On the flip side, when the team throws the ball more often than running it, Dartmouth is 16-92-1 in that time frame. How about twice as much? Run the ball at least twice as much: 102-23-3. Pass the ball twice as much? 1-20.