Football Finishes Season Hosting 19th-Ranked Princeton
Location: Memorial Field, Hanover, N.H.
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 23 at 1:30 p.m.
Series Record: Big Green lead 45-43-4
Video: Big Green Insider — Dick Lutsk (play-by-play), Wayne Young (analyst)
Radio: WFRD 99.3 FM
Online Audio: DartmouthSports.com
Live Stats • Complete Game Notes
Tough Test to End Season
Dartmouth may have been eliminated from the Ivy League title chase last weekend, but the Big Green can still have an impact on who wins the conference crown.
The league-leading and 19th-ranked Princeton Tigers invade Memorial Field on Saturday having already earned at least a share of the championship with their perfect 6-0 mark in the Ancient Eight. But a Dartmouth victory would open the door for Harvard, playing The Game at Yale, to tie Princeton for a share of the top spot.
The Big Green currently sit in third place all alone, thanks to a 24-20 victory on the road at Brown last weekend. A Dominick Pierre touchdown just before the end of the third quarter gave Dartmouth the lead for good, and the defense came up with two big stops in the fourth quarter to secure the win.
Pierre, slowed a bit by a nagging injury, still managed to provide 94 yards on 18 carries with his score, giving him a rushing touchdown in every game to make him the first Big Green player with at least one in nine games in a season.
But the run of the day belonged to sophomore Kyle Bramble, who bolted 70 yards for the second Dartmouth score of the game. It was the longest run for the Green since Shon Page had a 79-yard burst against Harvard — in 1990.
The Brown defense did an admirable job of containing quarterback Dalyn Williams, who threw for just 135 yards and one touchdown while completing 12-of-18 passes, and ran for a season-low six yards. Since throwing for at least 200 yards in each of the first three games, Williams has topped out at 188. But he can still move into Dartmouth’s single-season top 10 with 167 yards through the air in the finale.
Passing yards have been more difficult to come by partly due to the fact that 11 different wide receivers have caught passes this year due to various injuries. Last week, junior Jordan Aré caught his first four career passes, including an 11-yarder on a 4th-and-6 play that set up Dartmouth’s first score.
But with Ryan McManus missing the last seven games, Victor Williams out the last four (with a brief appearance at Brown) and Kirby Schoenthaler in and out for various reasons (to name a few receivers), has had to adjust on a weekly basis.
The Dartmouth defense continues to shine, led by senior linebacker Michael Runger, who had 14 tackles at Brown to earn the Ivy League co-Defensive Player of the Week, his third such honor. He is fourth in the league in stops, helping the Green lead the loop in scoring defense (19.0 ppg), total defense (345.1 ypg) and pass defense (203.7 ypg).
Placekicking has been stabilized with the insertion of freshman Alex Gakenheimer, who took home the league’s Special Teams Player and Rookie of the Week awards this week. He has converted all three of his field goal attempts and seven PATs since getting the nod before the game versus Cornell.
Last year Dartmouth had to rally from a 14-0 deficit at Princeton, beginning with a touchdown before halftime, then three more in the first six minutes of the second half thanks to a pair of Tiger fumbles. Williams finished the game with 284 passing yards and three touchdowns, and Runger had a career-high 17 tackles in the 35-21 win, the third straight victory for the Big Green over Princeton.
Scouting the Tigers
Some of the drama has been taken out of this game as Princeton clinched a share of the Ivy League title last week with a 59-23 thrashing of Yale. It was the Tigers eighth straight victory as they remained perfect in conference play at 6-0. With the Big Green 4-2 against the Ancient Eight, the most Dartmouth can do to dampen Princeton’s festivities is keep the Tigers from its first undefeated Ivy season since 1964 and drop them into a tie for the league lead with Harvard, which would need to defeat Yale in The Game to do so.
Princeton has scored points at an historical rate this year, having already broken the Ivy League records overall (413) and in conference play (293). Even if Dartmouth were to shut the Tigers out, they would still become the first Ivy League team ever to average 40 points over an entire season. And with 340 yards of offense, Princeton would set a new record for total offense in a seven-game Ivy season.
Leading this juggernaut is quarterback Quinn Epperly, though he splits time behind center with Connor Michelsen, and the two will regularly be deployed at the same time. Epperly has completed 71.8 percent of his 252 passes for 1,889 yards and 23 touchdowns with just two interceptions. Three weeks ago he set an FCS record by completing his first 29 passes against Cornell.
Epperly is a big threat to run as well with even more yards on the ground (529) than Big Green quarterback(506), not to mention a league-leading 17 rushing touchdowns. Four other Tigers have between 200-500 yards running the ball, led by tailback DiAndre Atwater with 457 on 97 carries. Princeton leads the league in rushing yards per game with 226.4, while Dartmouth ranks second at 217.1.
The leading receiver is Roman Wilson, who is second in the conference with 79 receptions and 893 yards to go along with a league-leading 10 touchdown catches. But the Princeton quarterbacks will also go to Matt Costello (44-490), Seth DeValve (40-412) and Connor Kelley (37-409) with regularity.
The Tiger defense is just about as stout as Dartmouth’s as well, ranking second in total yards allowed (347.3), third in scoring defense (24.2 points per game) and fourth in pass defense (233.3 yards per game), categories in which the Big Green sit atop the league. Defensive end Caraun Reid is an NFL prospect, though his numbers belie this fact as he has faced numerous double teams throughout the year.
Linebacker Mike Zeuli leads Princeton with 66 tackles, including 3.5 sacks and an interception. But when it comes to picks, Phillip Bhaya is the Tigers’ best, snaring three errant throws and returning them for 63 yards. As a team, Princeton leads the Ancient Eight with 14 interceptions and 32 sacks, while tying Dartmouth for fewest interceptions thrown with four and yielding just six sacks, which is tied with Brown for the league lead.
On special teams, Princeton has punted the fewest times, but also has the lowest net average. The placekicking has been solid with seven field goals in 11 tries this year, having made everything within 40 yards after the first week of action.
Princeton is under the guidance of the Charles W. Caldwell Jr. ’25 Head Coach of Football, Bob Surace, finishing up his fourth campaign with the Tigers. Prior to coming to Princeton, he served as an assistant coach with the Cincinnati Bengals, helping the team to an AFC North title in 2009. His other head coaching experience came at Western Connecticut State where he led the Colonials to an overall record of 18-3 in 2000 and ’01. He was an All-Ivy first-team center back in 1989 at Princeton, which won a share of the conference crown.
An Ivy League First
Until last week, Buddy Teevens was the only person in Ivy League football history to win a conference championship as a player (1978) and a coach (1990, 1991). That all changed when Princeton clinched at least a share of the Ivy League crown last week, allowing Bob Surace to join the exclusive club, having won a title as a Tiger in 1989. Now for the first time ever, two coaches square off on the gridiron with Ivy football titles as players and coaches.
More Ivy Players of the Week
The Ivy League handed out three of its four weekly honors to Big Green players after Dartmouth defeated Brown on Nov. 16, 24-20. Senior linebacker was named the co-Defensive Player of the Week — his third career award — while freshman placekicker earned both the Special Teams Player and Rookie of the Week awards. Runger matched his season high with 14 tackles, including a key third-down stop in the fourth quarter, while Gakenheimer converted all three of his PATs and added a crucial 21-yard field goal in the final minutes of the game to help secure the victory. Dartmouth has received eight weekly honors this year, second only to Yale’s 10.
Pierre Close to Milestone, Record
With his two-yard touchdown run at Brown, senior has rushed into the end zone in all nine games thus far. He already is the first Big Green player to do so in nine games of any season, and has an opportunity to make it 10 if he can add one more against Princeton. Pierre also can become just the fifth Dartmouth player to amass 1,000 rushing yards in a season if he can gain 48 yards against the Tiger defense. The native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is second all-time with 2,526 yards with only former teammate Nick Schwieger ’12 ahead of him at 3,150.
Teevens To Return
Dartmouth Athletics Director Harry Sheehy announced early in the week that Robert L. Blackman Head Football Coach will return to coach the Big Green in 2014 and beyond. Over the past four seasons, Teevens has guided Dartmouth to a 22-17 record overall and 15-12 mark in the Ivy League, finishing in a tie for second in 2011 and third in 2012. This year the Green at worst will be tied for third place with a shot at a tie for second.
Runger Rings the Bell
A first-team All-Ivy selection as a junior, senior is well on his way to that distinction again in 2013, ranking fourth in the league with 70 tackles. He is approaching 200 in his career, needing just three against the Tigers to achieve the milestone.
Defense Putting on the Clamps
Through three games this year, the Dartmouth defense surrendered an average of 485 yards. But since then, the Big Green have yielded just 275 yards per game, a figure that would rank fourth in the nation.
When Dartmouth tossed two interceptions at Harvard on Nov. 2, it doubled the team’s season total to four, which is tied for second lowest in the nation. Going back over the last three seasons, Big Green QBs have thrown just 16 interceptions in 813 attempts, a total bested by just two others teams — Cal Poly (14) and The Citadel (15) — though neither have thrown anywhere near as many passes (552 and 340, respectively).
Bramble Breaks Loose
Sophomore became the third Big Green back to run for 100 yards in a game this year when he took the handoff 24 times to pile up 110 yards in the 34-6 victory over Cornell. The last time Dartmouth had three different players post 100 rushing yards in a game during one season came in 2007. Then against Brown, Bramble had a 70-yard touchdown, the longest run by a Dartmouth player in 23 years. The last time the Big Green had a run of at least 70 yards was when Shon Page scored on a 79-yard jaunt against Harvard in 1990.
Seniors On the Board
Facing a 4th-and-6 at the Cornell 30 in the fourth quarter on Nov. 9, junior Alex Park went for all of the marbles and connected with senior Dana Barbaro, who made a diving catch in the back of the end zone for his first career touchdown on just his fourth career reception. One week later, it was another senior receiver scoring his first touchdown in Robbie Anthony, who scurried nine yards after catching the ball for the opening score at Brown.
More Receiver Talk
Dartmouth has had more than its share of injuries to wide receivers this year. When junior hauled in a 4th-and-6 pass for a first down in the second quarter at Brown, it not only was his first career reception, but also made him the 11th wide receiver to catch a pass in 2013. No less than 17 players in all have receptions this year, equaling the most for the Big Green since the 2000 squad had 18.