Official Website of Dartmouth College Varsity Athletics

Football Prepares for Key Showdown at Harvard

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By Bob Mondshine
The Game: Dartmouth (3-3, 2-1) at Harvard (5-1, 2-1)
Location: Harvard Stadium, Cambridge, Mass.
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 2 at 5 p.m.
Series Record: Crimson lead 66-45-5
Video: Big Green Insider
WFRD 99.3 FM — Dick Lutsk (play-by-play), Wayne Young (analyst)
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Key Showdown with Harvard
It has been 10 years since Dartmouth defeated the Crimson of Harvard on the gridiron, but that Big Green 30-16 victory took place at the site of the showdown between these two schools — Harvard Stadium in 2003. Robert L. Blackman Head Football Coach Buddy Teevens is gearing his team up to end the personal nine-game skid against the Crimson and remain viable in the Ivy League race.

Both teams are 2-1 in conference play, but are coming off vastly different games. Last week Harvard suffered its first loss of the year, falling to Princeton at home in triple overtime, 51-48. Dartmouth, on the other hand, cruised to its biggest margin of victory in 77 years in a 56-0 shellacking of Columbia.

The Big Green racked up 575 yards of offense — their most in 22 years — even though sophomore quarterback Dalyn Williams and senior running back Dominick Pierre were pulled in the middle of the third quarter. Williams completed 11-of-18 passes for 149 yards and a touchdown, while Pierre galloped for 160 yards on 26 rushes, including a 37-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.

Pierre is the league’s leading rusher with 770 yards on the ground (128.3 per game) and has topped 100 in four of the six games thus far. He has also been used more and more as a receiving target with his 18 catches the second most on the squad.

Since posting at least 340 total yards in each of the first three games, Williams has seen his numbers come back to earth a bit. But his accuracy was back over 60 percent against the Lions after seeing it drop below 50 in each of the previous two contests. If given some time, he will have a chance to put up some gaudy numbers this week against a defense that is yielding more than 320 passing yards a game.

The defense last week may have been even more impressive, surrending just 95 yards (the fewest for an opponent in 21 years) while blanking Columbia for a second straight time at Memorial Field. Sophomore linebacker Will McNamara was a key player in the rout, becoming the first Dartmouth player ever to return two interceptions for touchdowns in the same game. The Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week had a 24-yard return in the second quarter to make it a 28-0 game at the half, and his 51-yard return capped the day’s scoring in the final period.

Leading the defense are linebacker Michael Runger and nickelback Mike Banaciski with 37 tackles apiece. The latter has the most tackles for a loss (4.5), while linemen Cody Fulleton and Corbin Stall share the team lead in sacks with 2.5 each. Coach Teevens will shuffle his players in and out on defense with no less than 17 players recording at least 10 tackles this season.

Last year, Harvard won its ninth straight game in the series, 31-14. The Crimson built up a 21-0 lead at the half before the Green rallied to within a touchdown in the third quarter. Alex Park threw for 310 yards, but the running game was mostly nonexistent with Pierre (six carries for 22 yards) battling an injury.

Scouting the Crimson
As has been the case this century, Harvard is among the elite teams in the Ivy League with a high-powered offense. But the defense is a bit more suspect than usual, which could make this critical conference contest a shootout.

Despite graduating many of the key players from last year’s offense, the Crimson have averaged more than 40 points a game and have scored at least 34 every weekend to date. Quarterback Connor Hempel has stepped right in and kept Harvard among the top 10 scoring teams nationally, completing 62.5 percent of his passes while averaging nearly 280 yards a game through the air. His backup, Michael Pruneau, started twice when Hempel was unavailable, and was even more efficient with a completion rate over 70 percent.

Four Crimson receivers have at least 15 catches, led by Ricky Zorn with 32 for 528 yards and three touchdowns. Andrew Fischer has reached the end zone three times as well among his 24 receptions, and Cameron Brate is tied for the team lead with four scoring catches, along with Tyler Ott.

Running back Paul Stanton gives the Crimson a shot at a balanced attack, having picked up 534 yards with 10 touchdowns on the ground. But Harvard still has more than twice as many yards via the pass (1,762) than the rushing game (828).

Defensively, the Crimson are the only Ivy team with a better turnover margin (+8) than Dartmouth (+4), thanks to 10 fumble recoveries and nine interceptions. No less than eight Harvard defenders have picked off a pass.

While linebacker Eric Medes leads the team with 50 tackles, the star is defensive lineman Zach Hodges who leads the league in tackles for a loss (10.5) and sacks (5.5), plus has returned a fumble 53 yards for a touchown. Even so, Harvard struggles to defend the pass as opponents have thrown for nearly 325 yards a game. It makes up for it by covering the ground game well (less than 100 yards per game).

Special teams have been solid, but for the past two games the Crimson have not had their All-Ivy placekicker, David Mothander. Still, his replacement was named the Ivy League Special Teams Player of the Week last week. Andrew Fischer returns kickoffs to the tune of 23 yards per return, and Scott Miller handles punt return duties capably.

Harvard is coached by Tim Murphy, now in his 20th year in Cambridge and 24th overall as a collegiate head coach. The boyhood friend of Dartmouth head coach Buddy Teevens is 133-62 during his Crimson tenure with six Ivy championships to his credit, and 165-107-1 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.

Make That a Pick-12
History was made in the 56-0 shutout of Columbia on Oct. 26 as sophomore linebacker Will McNamara picked off two passes and returned both for a touchdown. Never before had a Dartmouth player accomplished that feat in a game. Heck, it is rare to have two interceptions returned for TDs by Dartmouth teammates; the last occurrence came 19 years ago against Lafayette when Chris Boran ’95 and Brian White ’95 each recorded a pick-six. McNamara’s historical performance earned him not only the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week honor, but also the New England Football Writers’ Gridiron Club of Greater Boston Gold Helmet Award.

Top Rookie of the Week
Freshman Jon Marc Carrier had to play catch-up this fall after missing most of the preseason with an ankle injury. With numerous injuries among the receiving corps, the son of former NFL receiver Mark Carrier has made the most of his opportunities and earned the Ivy League Rookie of the Week award on Oct. 28 for scoring the first two touchdowns of the 56-0 rout of Columbia. His two-yard end-around in the first quarter and 17-yard reception in the end zone were also the first two touchdowns of his career. He finished the day with three catches for 39 yards and his two-yard scoring run. He is the first Big Green wide receiver to earn the league’s weekly rookie honor since Tim McManus ’11 in 2007.

Roaring Past the Lions

  • After playing five straight games decided by a touchdown or less to start 2013, Dartmouth won a 56-0 blowout over visiting Columbia on Oct. 26.
  • The last Dartmouth shutout came two years ago, also against Columbia, by a 37-0 final. The Lions have been outscored at Memorial Field 121-6 during their last three trips to Hanover.
  • The 56-point margin of victory is the largest for the Big Green since defeating the University of Vermont by the same score 77 years ago in 1936.
  • Since Buddy Teevens graduated from Dartmouth in 1979, the Big Green have pitched a dozen shutouts. Half of those have come against the Lions.
  • This was just the eighth time in the Ivy era (since 1956) Dartmouth has put up at least 50 points in a game. Again, half have come against Columbia.
  • Senior Dominick Pierre posted his fourth 100-yard rushing game and eighth of his career with 160 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries. And he was lifted from the game with more than nine minutes left in the third quarter.
  • Dartmouth amassed 575 yards of offense, its most since a 45-13 victory over Brown in 1991 when the Green had 582 yards (445 on the ground).
  • Pierre also moved into sole possession of second place on the Big Green’s all-time rushing list with 2,344 yards. He would need to average more than 200 yards a game to catch the leader, former teammate Nick Schwieger ’12, who ran for 3,150.
  • The 56 points were the most for the Green since a wild 59-31 victory over Cornell in 2007.
  • Ten different players were credited with at least one rush, six of which gained at least 20 yards.
  • One of those rushers was 31-year-old senior Kevin Price, a former Army Ranger and veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq. His first run was a 53-yarder, but a penalty reduced his official yardage on the run to eight. He finished with 21 yards on five runs.
  • The defense was just as dominant, holding the Lions to 95 yards. The last time the Big Green held a team under 100? That would be 1992 in a 48-0 blanking of Holy Cross, which managed just 92 yards.
  • Columbia had just five first downs, the fewest for a Dartmouth opponent in at least 40 years.
  • The Big Green ran almost twice as many plays as Columbia (93-49).

Ivy Leader
Thanks to that shutout victory over Columbia, Dartmouth now leads the Ivy League in scoring defense (20.2 ppg), total defense (351.3 ypg) and pass efficiency defense (106.2).