The Game: Dartmouth (2-3, 1-1) vs. Columbia (0-5, 0-2)
Location: Memorial Field, Hanover, N.H.
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 26 at 1:30 p.m.
Series Record: Big Green lead 65-17-1
Video: Big Green Insider — Dick Lutsk (play-by-play), Wayne Young (analyst)
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Homestand Ends with Columbia
The Big Green welcome the Columbia Lions to Memorial Field this week for the 84th meeting between the two schools on the gridiron. Dartmouth has won each of the past four meetings with the Green winning the two here in Hanover by a combined 65-6 score.

After last week’s surprising 17-14 loss to a Bucknell squad that had lost its previous four contests, Dartmouth is hoping to continue its dominance over the Lions at Memorial Field. The two have played 38 times at the venue with the Big Green emerging victories 34 times. Two of Columbia’s wins came in consecutive trips to Hanover in 1999 and 2001.

Dartmouth will need sophomore quarterback Dalyn Willliams to bounce back from the worst outing of his eight career starts. He entered the game averaging more than 300 total yards, including over 80 on the ground, but was limited to just nine rushing yards and 104 through the air. Yet he still remains among the top 20 in the FCS in total offense.

Supporting Williams in the backfield is the premier running back in the Ivy League in Dominick Pierre, who two weeks ago became the third Big Green player to surpass 2,000 career rushing yards. While he had his string of three straight 100-yard games come to an end against Bucknell, Pierre remains the league-leader in rushing average (122.0) and ninth in the country. He is also an effective receiver out of the backfield as he is third on the team with 14 catches for 145 yards.

Speaking of receivers, the Big Green are a bit banged up in that regard with four of their top-eight pass catchers expected to be sidelined for this game. Thankfully, sophomore Victor Williams with his 21 catches for 316 yards and junior Bo Patterson with his four touchdown receptions both will be lining up as targets for the Big Green.

While the offense struggled last week with a season-low 252 yards — ending a stretch of seven straight games with at least 400 — the defense came through with another solid effort. After holding the Bison scoreless in the first half, Dartmouth eventually wore down, however, as Bucknell maintained possession for more than 20 minutes after the intermission. Even so, the Green surrendered just one touchdown drive; the eventual winning score came when the Bison converted a turnover at the Dartmouth 11 into a quick TD.

The pass rush was more effective against Bucknell as the Big Green registered four sacks. Linemen Evan Chrustic and Corbin Stall each had one, as did linebackers Eric Wickham and Folarin Orimolade. Senior linebacker Michael Runger, an first-team All-Ivy selection a year ago, made nine tackles, tying him for the team lead with nickelback Mike Banaciski with 34 on the season.

Last year the Big Green spoiled Columbia’s homecoming game by answering a late Lion touchdown with one of their own with 1:09 to play for a 21-16 victory. Alex Park guided Dartmouth on the game-winning drive and finished the day with 197 passing yards by completing 20 of his 28 throws. Pierre and Brian Grove combined to run for 108 yards, while Ryan McManus hauled in seven passes for 96 yards. Tight end Dean Bakes scored the winning touchdown with the first catch of his career, a nine-yard scoring strike.

Scouting the Lions
With a transfer quarterback from Stanford, it appeared that Columbia might be ready to make a move up the Ivy League standings this year. But when that transfer, Brett Nottingham, suffered a season-ending injury in the opening game, those hopes were quickly dashed. Halfway through the season and the Lions are winless and have been outscored by an average of nearly 30 points.

Although the offense has managed less than 200 yards per game, Columbia does have a couple of weapons, beginning with running back Marcorus Garrett. The senior has all four of the Lions’ touchdown runs this season while compiling 458 rushing yards. The rest of the team, however, has lost 131 yards rushing thanks in large part to allowing 22 sacks of the three quarterbacks.

Among the receivers, Connor Nelligan leads the Lions with 20 receptions for 163 yards. Both Scooter Hollis and Ryan Flannery have a scoring reception (Hollis’ went for 70 yards), but those are the only two touchdown tosses Columbia has recorded in the first five games.

With Nottingham out, the Lions turned to Trevor McDonagh behind center. After three starts and completing just 40 percent of his throws, Kelly Hilinski was handed the signal-calling duties and went 8-of-22 passing for 85 yards against Penn last week. Hilinski does lead Columbia with 260 yards through the air but has managed to connect on just 42.1 percent of his 57 passes for the season.

The defense which was burned for more than 50 points twice in the first three contests, has stiffened a bit of late, holding nationally ranked Lehigh to 24 points and Penn to 21 the last two weeks. Linebackers Zach Olinger and Vinny Pugliese are among the finest in the Ivy League as the duo rank 1-2 in tackles per game, respectively. Olinger is the only player in the conference averaging 10 stops, while Pugliese is close behind, plus has four tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles. Still, due to those early-season blowouts, however, Columbia has yielded more than 500 yards per game.

The Lions feature a prolific punter in Paul Delaney, who boots the ball an average of 42.3 yards per punt with nine of at least 50 yards. Placekicking hasn’t been much of an issue as Columbia has attempted just three field goals, making the only one inside 40 yards, and is 6-for-6 on PATs.

Guiding the Lions on the sideline is the Patricia and Shepard Alexander Head Coach of Football, Pete Mangurian. The former head coach at Cornell (1998-2000) and veteran NFL coach is in his second season at Columbia with a 3-12 mark to date. He has more than 30 years of football coaching experience and has coached in five bowl games, four AFC Championship games and two Super Bowls. Among Mangurian’s other collegiate stops are Stanford and his alma mater, Louisiana State.

Games Decided by One Score
So far in 2013, every game in which Dartmouth has played has been decided by no more than seven points. The last time the Big Green had that many outcomes decided by one score consecutively came in 2010 (including an eight-point win over Holy Cross). But the 2002 iteration had nine of its 10 games decided by eight points or less.

Halfway Point
With five games in the books and five still to come, it can be fun to project the statistics for various players. For instance, doubling Dominick Pierre’s rushing total would make him the fifth Dartmouth player ever to rack up 1,000 rushing yards in a season (1,220). He also would tie the school record for rushing touchowns (14) in a season. Dalyn Williams is on pace to become the sixth Big Green quarterback with 2,000 passing yards (2,170) and post the third-most total yards (2,854) in a season at Dartmouth. And the offense is not far off pace of the school record for yards gained. The 1992 squad boasted 4,740 yards while this year’s team is looking at 4,404 at its current rate.

Sack Attack
The Dartmouth defense sacked Bucknell quarterbacks four times on Oct. 19, its most since registering four against Cornell two years ago. That’s still well short of the school record of 10, which also came against Cornell the year before in 2010. But the four Big Green sacks were no match for Bucknell as the Bison had seven of their own.

Rookie Receivers
With the receiving corps beset with injuries, freshmen Houston Brown and Jon Marc Carrier got an opportunity to step into more prominent roles against Bucknell. Brown got the starting nod and notched his first three catches for 34 yards, while Carrier also picked up his first career reception — a 13-yarder — and returned three kickoffs for 49 yards.

No Return to Sender
It took five games before any Dartmouth opponent could return a punt forward even one yard. Bucknell was able to pick up nine yards in the second quarter on a punt return, but probably wished it hadn’t advanced a punt a second time. The long snapper, freshman Graydon Peterson, hustled down the field and jarred the ball loose late in the fourth quarter to keep the Big Green’s hopes alive. Dartmouth ranks fifth in the country in punt return defense at a mere 1.86 yards allowed per return.

Pierre Power
Senior Dominick Pierre packed in a plethora of fantastic feats in the 20-13 victory over Yale, earning Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week honors. Here is a rundown of his accomplishments:

  • He took the handoff a career-high 37 times for 167 yards (three shy of his career best), including the game-winning, six-yard TD in the fourth quarter.
  • Combined with his four catches for 63 yards (another personal best), he racked up 230 all-purpose yards, the eighth-most ever by a Dartmouth player.
  • Pierre’s 167 yards was his third straight 100-yard game and seventh of his career.
  • His first carry of the second half, a 10-yard run, pushed him past 2,000 career yards, just the third Big Green player to achieve the milestone. With 2,184 yards entering today, he needs 68 to move into second place on Dartmouth’s all-time list.

Banaciski is Bona Fide
Known as one of Dartmouth’s hardest-hitting defenders with a knack of being in the right place at the right time, senior Mike Banaciski had a team-high 10 tackles in the 20-13 homecoming win over Yale. But his biggest plays came on loose balls as he covered up a pair of Bulldog fumbles, helping to seal the Elis’ fate. The second of those recoveries came with little more than two minutes to play, allowing the Green to run out the clock. The nickelback was selected as the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week for his performance.