DARTMOUTH (6-2, 3-2)
vs. BROWN (2-6, 0-5)
Friday, Nov. 10, 2017 • 8 p.m.
Ivy League Football at Fenway
For the first time since 1944, Dartmouth is playing football in the oldest stadium in Major League Baseball — Fenway Park. The Big Green will clash with Brown on Friday night at the venerated venue to kick off the three-game Fenway Gridiron Series this year. The next day, Maine and UMass will square off at 4 p.m., and the following Saturday will feature UConn and Boston College at 7 p.m.
This is Dartmouth’s seventh game at Fenway Park, but first since a loss to Notre Dame in 1944. The first five games went a bit better for the Green, winning all five, including two against Brown in the 1922 and 1923 campaigns.
Last week Dartmouth snapped a two-game skid by shutting out Cornell in Hanover, 10-0. It was the first Big Green blanking of an opponent since a 56-0 whitewashing of Columbia in 2013, and their first against the Big Red in 41 years.
The Dartmouth defense was the star of the game, holding Cornell to just 250 yards of offense and 12 first downs, the last four coming on the final drive of the game with the outcome well in hand. Particularly impressive were the linemen with Nick Tomkins and Rocco Di Leo leading the Green with eight stops apiece (career highs for both), and Jeremiah Douchee chipping in seven more.
The defensive effort up front led to a mere 52 rushing yards on 34 attempts, which spells trouble for Brown this week as it ranks among the bottom 20 FCS teams in rushing yards per game.
The pass defense was no slouch, either, as the Big Red completed just 16-of-37 passes with 13 pass breakups and an Isiah Swann interception in the fourth quarter that set up the game-clinching field goal. Swann leads Dartmouth with two of the squad’s nine picks, while the other starting cornerback, Danny McManus, has a team-best nine passes defended.
Running back Ryder Stone was the key figure on offense, putting in a workman-like effort with career highs of 28 carries and 119 yards on the ground. He was a big reason Dartmouth was able to hold the ball for more than 35 minutes.
The passing game produced a modest 141 yards as Jack Heneghan completed 16-of-30 throws. The most important connection came in the first quarter when sophomore Hunter Hagdorn caught a 23-yard pass in the end zone, giving Heneghan his ninth straight game with a TD pass. Despite missing essentially three games this year, Hagdorn leads the Big Green in both receptions (35) and yardage (382), going over 1,000 in career yards two weeks ago.
The win over Cornell seemed to be mostly about special teams, however, as the two teams combined to punt the ball 23 times, believed to be an Ivy League record. Davis Brief had 11 of those boots for Dartmouth, one shy of the program record, with the other dozen going to the Big Red’s Nickolas Null, tying the Ivy record, with seven ending up inside the 20. Senior David Smith provided the 33-yard field goal with 1:19 to play, and he leads the Green with 39 points, plus has converted all 44 PATs in his career.
Scouting the Bears
What began as a promising season for Brown with wins over Bryant and Rhode Island in two of its first three games, has devolved into a winless Ivy League slate to date while being outscored over the last four contests, 138-21. Last week, it was league-leading Yale who handed the Bears a 34-7 defeat on Friday night.
Brown has tried three quarterbacks during the season with senior Thomas Linta — who led the Bears to a 24-21 victory over Dartmouth in Hanover last year — getting the majority of the work. But none of the three has completed even half of their passes (47.3 percent combined) for 1,441 yards and a passer rating of 92.28, among the bottom five efficiencies in the FCS.
When the Bears do connect with their throws, it will likely be Jakob Prall (42 catches for 468 yards) or Jaelon Blandburg (20-227) on the receiving end, although five others have at least 10 receptions. Both Isaac Whitney and Demitri Jackson have a pair of touchdown grabs, making up half of the team’s total.
There isn’t one player on the team that has had even eight rushes per game this season, but rookie Darius Daies leads the team with 58 carries for 254 yards (4.4-yard average) and three touchdowns. David Moodie has shared the load with 43 rushes for 204 yards (4.7), and the other four scores on the ground have come courtesy of the quarterbacks (Linta one and Nicholas Duncan three).
The defense ranks among the bottom 30 in the FCS for yielding nearly 440 yards and over 30 points per game, but there are bright spots. Defensive end Richard Jarvis is second in the Ivy League with six sacks and leads the Bears with four fumbles forced and 55 tackles, 10 going for a loss. Free safety Connor Coughlin has 48 stops and a team-high six pass breakups to go with an interception. Dartmouth will also need to keep an eye on DL Keegan O’Hern (four sacks) and linebacker Isaiah Thompkins (three sacks).
Ryan Kopec has been called upon a league-high 68 times, and his big leg has produced a 40.4-yard average (second-best in the league) and no less than 23 inside the 20. Place kicker Ben Rosenblatt has not seen as much action, converting just 1-of-4 field goals and 13-of-14 PATs. On returns, Scott Boylan has averaged 25.7 yards on kickoff returns with a 95-yard touchdown to his credit as well.
Head coach Phil Estes, now in his 20th season guiding the program, is the second winningest coach in Brown football history with a record of 114-85. He has three Ivy League crowns to his name, including the Bears’ first-ever outright title in 2005, and was a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Award each of those three years. Raised in Laconia, New Hampshire, Estes is a member of the Laconia High School Hall of Fame. He went on to become a first team All-New England and Yankee Conference selection as a senior at UNH before graduating in 1980.
NBC Sports Network
This is the last of four televised games for Dartmouth this season, and the second on NBC Sports Network. The Big Green have lost six of their last seven games that have been on TV, but that one win was a 16-13 triumph at Penn earlier this year. This is the seventh time that Dartmouth will take on Brown on TV, splitting the first six meetings. Overall, the Big Green are just 35-60-1 in televised games since first appearing on NBC against Holy Cross in 1953.
Last Time Against Brown
The outcome of last year’s meeting came down to the last five minutes of the first half when the Bears put 17 points on the board, the last three as time expired on a 52-yard field goal. That kick proved to be the difference in the 24-21 Brown victory over Dartmouth in Hanover, the sixth win by the road team in the last seven meetings. Thomas Linta threw for 220 yards on 17-of-26 passing for Brown, while Big Green QB Jack Heneghan doubled that total with a school-record 440 yards by completing 37-of-53 throws. Hunter Hagdorn had career highs with 13 catches for 171 yards, and Miles Smith ran for 111 more on just 17 carries. The problem for Dartmouth was five turnovers on three picks and two fumbles, not to mention a 26-yard field goal that was blocked on the game’s opening possession.
Ivy League Race
With two weeks left in the season, no less than seven of the eight Ivy League teams could still win a share of the title. Yale is the only team that truly controls its own destiny as the only team with one loss, but there is a chance that the season could end in a seven-way tie. In order for that to still be a possibility entering the final weekend of play, the games this week must go in this fashion:
• Dartmouth beats Brown at Fenway Park;
• Princeton beats Yale;
• Cornell beats Columbia;
• and Penn wins at Harvard.
Should that all go down, if the results on Nov. 18 go like this:
• Harvard wins at Yale;
• Penn beats Cornell;
• Columbia beats Brown;
• and Princeton wins at Dartmouth;
the seven-way tie would be a reality with seven teams owning a 4-3 record and Brown being 0-7. Granted, Big Green fans would be much happier with a win over Princeton, which would give Dartmouth the title outright. And it would leave five teams tied for second, which is still pretty cool.
Nine Straight Over Cornell
Much like Harvard has Dartmouth’s number in recent years, the Big Green have proven to be the better Big by beating the Cornell Big Red for the ninth straight year in the 10-0 victory on Nov. 4. This is the third streak of at least nine wins for Dartmouth against the Big Red, having nine in a row from 1955-63 and 11 straight from 1968-78. The Big Green are now 60-40-1 against Cornell all-time.
Pitching a Shutout
The 10-0 win over Cornell on Nov. 4 was the first shutout for Dartmouth since a 56-0 blanking of Columbia four years ago. And it was the third shutout for the Green since Buddy Teevens returned to coach the team in 2005, the other being a 31-0 triumph over Princeton in 2010. Teevens also had three shutouts in his previous tenure from 1987-91. But the last time Dartmouth held the Big Red scoreless was back in 1976 by a final of 35-0, when Teevens was a sophomore on the Big Green squad. Dartmouth has shut out every other team in the league at least once since that season.
The Rolling Stone
Senior Ryder Stone just rolled through Cornell during the 10-0 victory on Nov. 4, racking up career highs with 28 rushes and 119 yards on the ground. It was his second 100-yard game of the season and the third of his career. He had never taken a handoff more than 17 times in a game previously, having done so in each of the first two games this year. And with two receptions, his 30 touches are by far the most of his career, besting his previous high of 21.
For folks who enjoy footballs being kicked high into the air, or tennis matches for that matter, they were in for a treat in the 10-0 win over Cornell on Nov. 4. The two teams combined to punt the ball 23 times, setting what is believed to be an Ivy League record. Big Red punter Nickolas Null booted the ball a dozen times, tying the Ivy mark, while sophomore Davis Brief sent 11 soaring back to the Big Red.
Nine Straight Games with TD Pass
With the touchdown toss against Cornell in the first quarter, Jack Heneghan became just the third Dartmouth quarterback to throw one in nine consecutive games. The only other Big Green QBs to do so were (unsurprisingly) Jay Fiedler ’94 and Dalyn Williams ’15. Fiedler actually set the program record of 11 by connecting in every game in 1992 and the season opener in 1993. Heneghan would have to have a scoring strike in each of the final two games to match Fiedler’s mark.
A Little Breathing Room
With a 10-point margin of victory against Cornell, Dartmouth ended a string of six straight games decided by five points or less. The Big Green won the first four in that stretch by a combined eight points before losing the next two by eight. But the breathing room didn’t come until there was 1:19 left in the game when David Smith booted a 33-yard field goal to make it a two-score game, effectively sealing the victory.
Quick Hitters from Cornell
• The 10 combined points scored in the game were the fewest for the Big Green since a 6-3 triumph over Harvard back in 1996.
• Cornell completed just 43.2 percent of its passes (16-of-37), the lowest percentage for a Dartmouth opponent since … Cornell two years ago (31.0 pct.).
• No less than five defensive linemen either set or matched career highs for tackles in the game, led by Nick Tomkins and Rocco Di Leo with eight apiece, and Jeremiah Douchee with seven.
• The 13 pass breakups by the defense were its most since disrupting 16 tosses by Princeton in the 2013 season finale.
• WR Hunter Hagdorn caught his third TD pass of the year, tying Emory Thompson and Drew Hunnicutt for the team lead.