Harvard Headed to Hanover for Homecoming
Location: Memorial Field, Hanover, N.H.
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 29 at 5 p.m.
Series Record: Crimson lead, 65-45-5
Television: Comcast SportsNet New England —
Online Video: Big Green Insider — Dick Lutsk (play-by-play), Wayne Young (analyst), produced by NSN
Radio: WFRD 99.3 FM; Online - Dartmouth Sports Network
Live Stats • Complete Game Notes
Harvard a Homecoming Challenge
Dartmouth is attempting to change its recent fortunes when it comes to playing Harvard on the gridiron while playing on television with a raucous homecoming crowd rooting on the Big Green. The Crimson have won the last eight meetings with Dartmouth, and 14 of the last 15. And after suffering a shocking 39-34 loss at Princeton last week, Harvard is trying to avoid losing consecutive games for the first time since 2006.
The Big Green, on the other hand, are coming off a 21-16 victory on the road at Columbia in which they marched 91 yards to score the winning touchdown with barely a minute on the clock. Sophomore Alex Park completed 6-of-7 passes on the drive and ran for 13 yards to deftly guide the offense downfield in little more than a minute and a half.
With both running back Dominick Pierre and wide receiver Michael Reilly on the sidelines nursing injuries, sophomore Ryan McManus stepped up as a go-to player for the offense, catching four straight passes from Park that gobbled up 63 yards. McManus now leads the Big Green with 26 receptions, which have covered 336 yards.
Reilly, who has been a big-play receiver throughout his career, is expected to play against the Crimson on Saturday. His 354 receiving yards top the team, as does his 17.7-yard average per catch.
The same can’t be said of Pierre, who had a recurrence of his ankle injury suffered at Yale, senior center Rob Bathe or senior tight end Justin Foley. Robert L. Blackman Head Football Coach Buddy Teevens will look to freshman Brian Grove and senior Greg Patton to find some holes against a Crimson defense that leads the FCS in rushing defense, yielding less than 60 yards a game.
The Dartmouth defense, on the other hand, is quite healthy and ready for the challenge the potent Harvard offense brings to Memorial Field. The Crimson are averaging 515 yards per game, whereas the Big Green surrender less than 300 yards on average, a figure which ranks ninth nationally.
Despite ranking so high in total defense, Dartmouth doesn’t have one star player on defense, but rather several key figures, one of whom is junior Michael Runger. The linebacker is tied for third in the league with 9.2 tackles per game and has recorded double-digit tackles in half of the six games to date. Another linebacker, junior Bronson Green, had 10 stops at Columbia and was named the Ivy League Player of the Week.
Another surprising aspect of this strong defense is that it took six full games for the Big Green to record its first interception of the year, that by safety Stephen Dazzo on the last Columbia play of the game. Overall, Dartmouth has gained just five turnovers all year, a total only one FCS team has not surpassed — Penn with three. Yet because the Big Green have allowed opponents to record fewer than 17 first downs per game (eighth in the country), the defense has still been successful.
This is the 17th time these two will square off on television, with Harvard owning a 9-7 edge and three straight wins on TV.
Ivy Defensive Player of the Week
For the third time in his career, linebacker was chosen as an Ivy Player of the Week, this time for his contributions to the defensive effort against Columbia in the 21-16 victory on Oct. 20. The junior tied for the team lead with a season-high 10 tackles, one of which came on a crucial 3rd-and-1 that stopped the Lions in their tracks and forced them to try a long field goal that ended up off the mark. Green earned the defensive weekly award last year after the season opener, and was a rookie of the week in the final game of his freshman campaign.
The 70 Percenters
Sophomore quarterback Alex Park completed at least 70 percent of his passes for a third time this year when he connected on 20-of-28 throws (71.4) at Columbia on Oct. 20. He also topped the mark in the season opener against Butler by hitting 15-of-20 receivers (75.0) and again versus Penn with 21-of-29 (72.4). The last time a Dartmouth QB attained that mark even twice in one season was 1983 when Frank Polsinello ’84 did it against Holy Cross, William & Mary and Cornell. For the season, Park has completed 62.6 percent of his throws, which would rank second in the Big Green annals. The highest percentage is 64.1, set by Jay Fiedler in 1992.
Pick of the Day
Or even pick of the year. Entering the Columbia game, Dartmouth was one of two teams at the FCS level that had yet to intercept a pass. The Big Green nearly made it through the entire game without that changing, but sophomore secured a desperation 4th-and-30 throw on the Lions’ final play to seal the victory. The last interception by a current Big Green player came against Columbia last year, courtesy of who had two.
Williams Making Most of Chances
Freshman Dalyn Williams is a part of Coach Teevens’ two-headed quarterback this year, spelling at times to give opposing defenses a different look. At Columbia, he made the most of his opportunities, completing 3-for-4 passes for 87 yards, including his first touchdown on a 67-yard bomb to sophomore Bo Patterson (the longest pass so far this year). Earlier in the game, he also ran for his first career score on a one-yard keeper.
Spreading the Wealth
Against Columbia on Oct. 20, the quarterbacks completed passes to no fewer than nine receivers for the second time this season, also accomplishing the feat at Yale on Oct. 6. The last time Dartmouth had nine players catch a pass was for the Big Green came in the final game of the 2009 season at Princeton. Well, one of those passes against the Tigers was batted at the line and caught by lineman Will Montgomery, so to find a game in which nine eligible receivers caught a pass, you would have to go back just a little further to the Penn game that same year. Two of the receivers in the Princeton game also caught a pass at Yale and Columbia — seniors Michael Reilly and Mitch Aprahamian.
Last year, Dartmouth was one of the least penalized teams at the FCS level, ranking seventh in fewest penalties per game and sixth in penalty yardage. But against Columbia, the Big Green were seeing yellow quite frequently with 12 penalties for 123 yards, the second most yards against them in the last 35 years and first time over 100 yards since playing the Lions in 2009. Even with all of those flags, Dartmouth still ranks among the top 25 in fewest penalties per game this year at 5.17.
Injuries Hit Offense at Columbia
Dartmouth had a number of offensive players forced to the sideline in New York against the Lions, yet the Big Green were still able to pull out the win in the final minutes. Junior running back Dominick Pierre, who had been very effective in his return to the field with 52 yards on just seven carries, aggravated his ankle injury in the second quarter and did not return. Other players leaving the game were receivers , Kirby Schoenthaler and , center Rob Bathe and tight end Justin Foley. Of that sextet, only Reilly is expected to be back for the Harvard game.
Shake and Bakes
With the game on the line, the clock winding down and three receivers and a tight end out with injuries at Columbia, quarterback hooked up with on four consecutive passes to cover 63 yards and advance into the red zone. After hitting freshman Victor Williams on a seven-yard pass under duress, Park and the Big Green shocked the Lions by throwing the winning score to junior tight end Dean Bakes for not only his first career touchdown, but first catch as well.
Stout Second-Half Defense
Dartmouth has one of the stingiest defenses when it comes to scoring. First in the Ivy League in total defense (299.5 yards per game) and second in the Ivy League in scoring defense, the Big Green allow just 17 points per game to rank ninth nationally in the FCS. But their best work comes after halftime as the opposition has scored 28 points thus far in the six games in the second half. In the four Dartmouth victories, the other side has failed to score altogether in three of the four games after the intermission.