Homecoming Hope vs. Harvard
With the possibility of a second straight conference crown all but lost (but not completely as detailed on page 2), Dartmouth is playing to please the masses that will descend upon Hanover for homecoming this weekend. The football team is one of seven varsity squads scheduled to play at home on Saturday, and it would like to put last week’s wind-blown, 9-7 loss at Columbia behind it.
Recent history is working against Dartmouth, however, with Harvard winning each of the last dozen meetings on the gridiron, the last of which was a 14-13 heartbreaker in Cambridge last fall that kept the Big Green from recording their first perfect season since 1996. The Crimson have also won the last 10 contests here at Memorial Field, dating back to a 39-34 Dartmouth victory on Oct. 30, 1993.
To beat Harvard, the Big Green will need to do a better job of moving the chains on third-down plays. Over the past three weeks, Dartmouth has managed to convert just 7-of-45 third downs into 1st-and-10s, and the Lions held the Green to a woeful 1-of-17.
Part of those struggles stem from difficulty running the ball. Dartmouth had just 74 yards last week and is averaging just 100 over the last four contests. The leading rusher against Columbia was RB Rashaad Cooper with a mere 23 yards on five carries. Ryder Stone, who leads the team with 259 yards on the ground, mustered just 20 on 11 attempts.
The air attack somehow found a way to pile up 248 yards despite the 25-40 mph gusts of wind inhabiting Wien Stadium. But QB Jack Heneghan completed just 13-of-38 throws on the day and was picked off once. The junior is second in the Ivy League with over 240 yards per game, and fourth with eight TDs.
The lone score of the day went to WR Hunter Hagdorn, who caught a deep throw cutting against the wind before coasting into the end zone for a 65-yard TD, the first scoring grab of his career. The freshman needed just three catches to top 100 yards (114) for the first time as well, boosting him into the team lead in both receptions (21) and yardage (302).
Last year the defense led the FCS in fewest points allowed, and despite graduating 10 starters from that unit, has continued to perform well, ranking 14th in the country to date. Preseason All-America LB Folarin Orimolade has lived up to his billing, leading the Ivy League with six sacks (including one last week) and 10.5 tackles for a loss.
Dartmouth may have struggled converting third downs last week, but the defense did the same to Columbia, which was just 3-of-18. The Lions also had 14 complete possessions throughout the game, and advanced the ball more than 30 yards just three times. in the first half, the Big Green limited Columbia to a paltry four first downs, and 12 for the entire game.
The kickers would be happy to play in a calmer setting this week. Ben Kepley tied a personal record by punting 11 times (32.2-yard average), and David Smith attempted two field goals in the fourth quarter from 50 and 47 yards, the former of which was wide, the latter just short in the waning seconds.
Scouting the Crimson
Over the last 15 seasons, Harvard has finished either first or second in the Ivy League standings 14 times with eight conference crowns to its credit, including at least a share in each of the last three campaigns. The Crimson are bidding to continue those streaks as they enter today’s game with a perfect 3-0 mark in league play and 5-1 overall.
Offensively, Harvard is averaging just over 30 points a game with QB Joe Viviano leading the charge. The senior has completed 64.5 percent of his passes for 1,149 yards and nine TDs while throwing just three picks (though all three came last week in a 23-20 OT victory at Princeton). He is also mobile, ranking second on the team with 203 rushing yards and four TDs.
Semar Smith has had the bulk of the carries with 79 for 359 yards and six scores. Against the Tigers, however, he ran just seven times for 20 yards while Viviano had nearly half (23) of the team’s 47 rush attempts. Overall the team is averaging just 3.4 yards per carry, and Princeton held Harvard to a mere 2.2.
Viviano has a number of options to throw to, most notably Justice Shelton-Mosley. Though he’s played in just four of the six games, the athletic wide receiver has 29 catches for 327 yards. With all the attention Shelton-Mosley gets, it is H-back Anthony Firkser that leads the team with 33 catches for 520 yards and a league-best six touchdowns.
The Harvard defense is always tough, and is second only to Dartmouth in fewest points allowed at 20.0 per game, placing the Crimson among the top 20 nationally as they are against the run. The passing efficiency defense is also ranked among the top 20, and they have intercepted nine passes.
The top three tacklers on the team are made up of the starting linebacking corps, led by Luke Hutton with 39 stops. Of Jordan Hill’s 33 tackles, more than half (17) came at Princeton. And Anthony Camargo sits in between the two with 35 stops to go with two INTs.
DE D.J. Bailey is second in the league to Big Green linebacker Folarin Orimolade with five sacks, while DT James Duberg is a handful as well. CB Sean Ahern is the top cover man for the Crimson having broken up eight passes, but safety Tanner Lee leads the squad with three picks.
Harvard kickers are a perfect 6-for-6 on field goals this year with a long of 37 yards, but have missed a pair of PATs. The punting of Zach Schmid has been solid with a 38.7-yard average, while Shelton-Mosley has been limited on kick returns, partly due to missing two games.
Harvard is coached by Tim Murphy, now in his 23rd year in Cambridge and 30th overall as a collegiate head coach. The boyhood friend of Dartmouth head coach Buddy Teevens is 161-64 during his Crimson tenure with seven Ivy championships to his credit, and 193-109-1 in a career that included stints at Maine and Cincinnati. Murphy was a four-year starter at Springfield College, earning All-New England honors for small colleges as a linebacker before graduating in 1978. In 2007, he was inducted into his alma mater’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
Last Year at Harvard
Dartmouth controlled the game for more than three quarters, culminating with a defensive stand for the ages when it kept the Crimson out of the end zone on five straight plays from the one-yard line. Leading 13-0 with 10:11 to play, the Big Green nearly had the game clinched when Harvard faced 4th-and-12 from the Dartmouth 39, only to surrender a long TD pass with 6:38 remaining. Both teams traded punts before the Green fumbled the ball away near midfield with 2:54 on the clock. Three times the Crimson converted third-down plays, the last a five-yard scoring strike with a PAT to take a one-point lead with 38 seconds left. Dartmouth wasn’t done, however, as it lined up for a 46-yard field goal attempt with one second to go. But Harvard swatted the long try to win its 12th straight in the series.
So You’re Sayin’ There’s a Chance?
True, no Ivy champion has ever had three losses on its ledger. And only twice has the title gone to teams with two losses (both times Dartmouth figured into it in 1963 and 1982). But mathematically speaking, the Big Green are still alive to successfully defend its conference crown. Don’t believe me? Well, there are several scenarios in which it could happen, but I'll just give you one (Dartmouth obviously must win each game):
• Oct. 28-29 — Columbia beats Yale, Cornell beats Princeton, Brown beats Penn
• Nov. 5 — Princeton beats Penn, Harvard beats Columbia, Yale beats Brown
• Nov. 11-12 — Penn beats Harvard, Yale beats Princeton, Columbia beats Cornell
• Nov. 19 — Cornell beats Penn, Yale beats Harvard, Columbia beats Brown
In this instance, there would be a six-way tie for first with Dartmouth, Columbia, Harvard, Penn, Princeton and Yale all sitting at 4-3. And who wouldn’t like to see that? But first things first; if Penn and Harvard both win this weekend, not only would the Big Green be eliminated from the race, but the league champ could have no more than two losses.
No Double Digits for Dartmouth
For the first time since Yale shut out Dartmouth on Oct. 8, 2011, the Big Green were held to single digits in the 9-7 loss at Columbia. That ended a streak of 51 consecutive games with at least 10 points, the longest in Dartmouth history. Prior to this stretch, the Green had not gone more than 32 games scoring in double figures (1993-96).
No TDs Allowed, But a Loss
On Oct. 22, Dartmouth suffered a 9-7 loss at Columbia, not only ending a personal-game win streak against the Lions, but also handing the Big Green their first defeat without surrendering a touchdown to the opposition in 12 years. Oddly enough, it was Columbia which had that honor previously, knocking off the Big Green, 9-6, back in 2004. That was also the last time Dartmouth lost a game in which it allowed fewer than 10 points, winning 16 straight in between. The Big Green are 143-11-2 when an opponent scores in single digits since the Ivy League started formal play in 1956.
The last time a Buddy Teevens coached Dartmouth squad lost without yielding a TD? Back in 1989, Harvard eked out a 6-5 win in Cambridge. Much like this year, though, the Green still had four games to play, and went on to win all four. Can history repeat itself for Teevens?
Hagdorn Goes Deep for 100
Freshman WR Hunter Hagdorn had tasted the end zone earlier in the year on a 10-yard TD off an end around. But at Columbia, the rookie hauled in the first TD pass of his career, which also happened to be the longest scoring strike for Dartmouth in four years at 65 yards. His modest three catches on the day amounted to 114 yards, the most by a Big Green receiver this year and just the second instance over 100 (Drew Hunnicutt had 108 against Penn).
What Have You Done F-Orimolade-ly?
Playing a little Mad Gab here, and while it might be a stretch, I will continue to use it. 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 (6.0), tackles for a loss (10.5) and fumbles forced (3) after six games, while his 50 tackles lead the team.
Kepley Climbs Punting Charts
As he matched a career high with 11 punts at Columbia (one shy of the Dartmouth record), senior Ben Kepley has punted more times (181) than any other Big Green punter other than Wayne Schlobohm ’00, who booted the ball a whopping 259 times. Kepley’s total punt yardage is also second to Schlobohm (10,416 to 6,749).
Smith Pushes His Limits
Junior David Smith had a career-long 38-yard field goal split the uprights against Towson on Oct. 15, but had not attempted anything longer until taking the field at Columbia the following week. With a stiff wind at his back, Smith got the call to give it a shot from 50 and 47 yards in the fourth quarter. The 50-yarder had the distance but veered to the right at the last instant, while the 47-yarder fell just short. No Dartmouth kicker has successfully converted a field goal of at least 47 yards since Tyler Lavin hit a 50-yarder in the last Big Green victory over Harvard on Oct. 30, 2003.
This Swann Song Just Starting
Freshman CB Isiah Swann, with just three tackles to his credit, was thrust into the starting lineup for the first time against Towson on Oct. 15. He certainly made the most of his opportunity by recording 13 tackles, breaking up three passes and intercepting another to help Dartmouth defeat the Tigers, 20-17. Swann not only was named the Ivy League’s Defensive Player and Rookie of the Week, but also the STATS FCS Freshman Player of the Week. The following week at Columbia, he collected his first career sack as well on a corner blitz.
With six sacks this year, senior Folarin Orimolade has jumped three spots on the Dartmouth career charts into fourth place and now has 20.5 during his four seasons, passing Cliff McDonald ’92, former NFL linebacker Zack Walz ’98 and Ryan Conger ’05. He needs three more to slide into second place on the list behind Anthony Gargiulo ’06, who has the all-time record of 25.0.