Roaring Back Against the Lions
Dartmouth is looking to capture its magic in non-conference games with the resumption of Ivy League play at Columbia. The Big Green won all three of their games outside of the Ancient Eight to extend their non-conference win streak to seven, but to keep their slim hopes alive in the Ivy standings, they must win their final five contests. In order to do so, Dartmouth will have to find a way to beat the Lions for the eighth straight meeting.
The bad news for the Green is that on only two occasions has the Ivy League champion been saddled with two losses — 1963 and 1982. The good news is that in both instances, Dartmouth managed to be one of the teams tied atop the heap. But no Ivy team has suffered losses in its first two league games and still rallied to tie for the title.
Last Saturday, the Big Green knocked off a Colonial Athletic Association team for the second time this year in a 20-17 victory over Towson. In the first-ever meeting between the two schools on the gridiron, Dartmouth needed two blocked field goals in the final 2:19 — one from just 22 yards by Charlie Miller — to preserve the three-point win.
For the first time this year, however, the Big Green offense failed to amass at least 400 yards. QB Jack Heneghan, who was among the top 15 in the FCS in passing yards per game, was held to just 96, although he did complete a season-high 66.7 percent (14-of-21) of his throws.
The biggest pass of the day was thrown not by Heneghan, but rather RB Abrm McQuarters. After catching a lateral, the senior heaved a 23-yard touchdown toss to wide-open WR Drew Hunnicutt for what turned out to be the winning score. Hunnicutt leads the Big Green with 19 catches, 228 yards and two TDs, but has company near the top with three other receivers boasting at least 180 yards.
That scoring strike came one play after Dartmouth’s biggest gain of the day, a 40-yard run by RB Ryder Stone. He finished the game with a season-high 92 yards on just 14 carries, reclaiming the team lead in rushing from injured Miles Smith. Stone also led the Green with five receptions for 25 yards.
Two plays before Stone’s gallop, the defense thwarted a Towson drive as Miller leaped high for an interception at the Dartmouth 10, returning it 17 yards. It was the second pick of the day, with the other provided by CB Isiah Swann, making his first career start. The freshman also had 13 tackles and three pass breakups in the game to earn Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week as well as the weekly rookie honor, not to mention the STATS FCS Freshman Player of the Week.
While the defense held Towson to just 17 points, it did yield a season-high 470 yards of offense, its most in over two years. But LB Folarin Orimolade continued to make his presence known, registering his league-leading fifth sack to go with seven tackles, giving him a team-high 40. He also tops the loop with 9.5 tackles for a loss.
Junior PK David Smith has emerged as one of the most accurate kickers in the league with two more field goals to his credit in the victory. He is now 6-of-7 on the season with a long of 38, and has converted all 12 of his PATs.
Scouting the Lions
Columbia has had its share of close games with three of the five being decided by no more than four points. The lone Lion win came against Wagner two weeks ago, 15-13, while their first two contests were tough losses to St. Francis (13-9) and Georgetown (17-14).
The two Ivy League games, however, have not been close with Princeton handing Columbia a 48-13 defeat, and Penn a 35-10 loss just last week.
The Lions have yet to score more than 15 points in a game, ranking among the bottom five teams in the FCS with just 12.2 per game. Anders Hill has been the exclusive quarterback the last three games and has completed just over 50 percent of his passes (57-of-113) for 604 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions.
The running game has averaged just three yards per carry with Hill recording the most carries (62), partly due to opposing defenses registering 20 sacks. Alan Watson is the featured back and has a team-high 217 yards on 55 carries (3.9 average).
Hill figures to target one of three receivers with regularity — Josh Wainwright (19 catches, 216 yards, 1 TD), Scooter Hollis (19 for 132) and Cameron Dunn (15 for 166 and a TD). But 10 other players have also caught at least one pass this year.
The defense has been Columbia’s saving grace, ranking a solid 32nd nationally in yards allowed. The Lions find ways to wreak havoc in the backfield with more than seven tackles for a loss per game (17th in FCS) and have allowed just 85 first downs — only two more than the offense has recorded.
Linebacker Gianmarco Rea spearheads the defensive unit with an Ivy-leading 51 tackles, seven going for a loss. Rea and fellow linebacker Christian Conway are the most adept pass rushers with two sacks apiece as well. Safeties Landon Baty and Brock Kenyon lay claim to the team’s two interceptions.
Freshman Oren Milstein took over the placekicking duties after the first two contests and has shined, providing all 15 points with five field goals in the win over Wagner to earn Ivy Rookie of the Week honors. He also added a 42-yard field goal to his ledger last week. The punting duties have been split between Cameron Nizialek and Matthew Panton, whose combined net punting of 38.4 yards ranks 19th in the nation.
Columbia is in the second year of the Al Bagnoli era, the dean of Ivy League coaches 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. In his first season with the Lions, Bagnoli posted a 2-8 record.
Last Year vs. Columbia
Dartmouth entered this game last year with a perfect 5-0 record and an average win margin of nearly 30 points. But the Big Green got a little more than they bargained for against a 1-4 Lions squad that lost by just four as the Columbia defense held Dartmouth to 13 points, barely one-third of its season average. Dalyn Williams threw for 235 yards and a touchdown but was sacked six times. Ryder Stone ran for 68 yards on just 11 carries, but the lone rushing touchdown was provided by Abrm McQuarters with a 20-yard scamper up the right sideline. Nearly half of Columbia’s 167 total yards came on its lone touchdown drive to start the third quarter. The Lions did not cross midfield again the rest of the game.
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 last week. 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.
Miller Time for Gold Helmet Award
Swann wasn’t the only Big Green player to rake in the awards after the 20-17 victory over Towson on Oct. 15 as SS Charlie Miller picked up the Ivy League Special Teams Player of the Week and the Gold Helmet Award from the New England Football Writers’ Association. All Miller did was make seven tackles, break up one pass, pick off another with a 17-yard return and block a field goal. That field goal just happened to come with 2:19 to play from a mere 22 yards, allowing Dartmouth to maintain its 20-17 lead en route to the victory. Miller is the second Big Green player to win the Gold Helmet this year (Jack Heneghan) and ninth in the last eight seasons.
While Miller blocked a 22-yard field goal, the game was not yet over. Towson got the ball back and drove to the Dartmouth 39 with one second to play, giving the Tigers a desperation 56-yard field goal attempt to tie the score. Senior Jeremiah Douchee made sure that kick came nowhere near the goalposts as he, like Miller, batted the ball down to preserve the victory. It was the first time in at least 42 years that the Big Green had blocked two field goals in the same game.
Making a Good First Impression
Until the 2010 season, Dartmouth rarely played a football team it hadn’t faced before. But for the fourth time in the past seven seasons, the Big Green entertained a first-time opponent, this time in the form of Towson. And like the other three teams, Dartmouth emerged victorious with a 20-17 triumph over the Tigers. The Big Green have won each of their last seven games against first-time opponents with the last loss coming against Fordham — in 1951. There are three more teams on the schedule for the first time over the next five seasons — Stetson next year, Marist in 2019 and Valparaiso in 2021.
McQuarters Flips Pass for TD
Dartmouth reached into its bag of tricks to defeat Towson on Oct. 15. Leading 13-10 in the third quarter, the Big Green threw a lateral to RB Abrm McQuarters, who then tossed a 23-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Drew Hunnicutt in the end zone. It was the first scoring strike by a player other than a quarterback since Ryan McManus ’15 heaved a 54-yard score in the 2012 season finale at Princeton, a 35-21 Dartmouth victory.
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 (5.0), tackles for a loss (9.5) and fumbles forced (3) after five games, while his 40 tackles lead the team.
Sweep of Non-Ivy Teams
The Big Green won all three of their games against competition from outside the Ivy League for just the fifth time since the 10-game schedule was instituted for the 1980 season. The other instances came in 1995, ’96, 2010 and last season. In both 1996 and 2015, Dartmouth won at least a share of the conference crown as well. Before those four seasons, the Big Green had not won three games against teams outside of the eventual Ancient Eight since 1941 (Norwich, Amherst, Colgate).
51 Straight in Double Digits
Ever since Yale shut out Dartmouth on Oct. 8, 2011, the Green have scored at least 10 points in every game, a span of 51 games entering this showdown with Columbia. Until this stretch, Dartmouth had not gone more than 32 games of scoring in double figures (1993-96).
Kepley Climbs Punting Charts
With three more punts to his credit, senior Ben Kepley will have the second-most punts at Dartmouth, passing Kevin Griffin ’88, and his 6,395 yards are already second in the Big Green annals. But don’t expect him to take over the top spot on either list. Wayne Schlobohm ’00 booted the ball a whopping 259 times for 10,416 yards. That 40.2-yard average is also a Dartmouth career record.