DARTMOUTH (0-0) vs.

SATURDAY, SEPT. 17, 2016 • 7 P.M.
Televison: Fox College Sports Atlantic (Comcast 171, Dish 430, DirecTV 608) — Scott Sudikoff (play-by-play), Steve DeOssie (analyst)
Radio: 94.5 ESPN Radio (94.5 FM, 1230 AM)
Live Audio: Ivy League Digital Network — Brett Franklin (play-by-play), Wayne Young ’72 (analyst)
Live Stats: DartmouthSports.com
All-Time Series:
New Hampshire leads 19-17-2

Season Opens with Granite Bowl
The Granite Bowl returns to Memorial Field for the first time since 2008 as perennial top-25 foe New Hampshire invades Hanover to open the Dartmouth football season. While the series has gone in the Wildcats’ favor (19-17-2) only slightly since the first game back in 1901, the Big Green have not beaten UNH in 40 years, spanning 20 meetings.

Dartmouth is coming off a 2015 campaign in which it shared the Ivy League crown with Harvard and Penn, giving the Green a league-record 18 titles to their credit. But to finish on top of the heap this year, Robert L. Blackman Head Coach Buddy Teevens will have to fill the void of 17 graduated starters, including record-setting quarterback Dalyn Williams.

Junior Jack Heneghan won the battle behind center during training camp and will call the signals for the offense, though sophomore Bruce Dixon IV will likely get some action as well. The two may be short on experience (13 career pass attempts combined), but Teevens is confident in their ability.

At running back, junior Ryder Stone might not have been the official starter last year, but he led Dartmouth in rushing yards (375) and touchdowns (8) while gaining 5.0 yards per carry. Along with senior Abrm McQuarters, and sophomores Vito Penza and Rashaad Cooper among others, the Big Green should be able to keep talented, fresh legs on the field all season.

The receiving corps will miss Ryan McManus and Victor Williams, both of whom were All-Ivy and among the top five receivers in Dartmouth history. But seniors Houston Brown and Jon Marc Carrier (40 catches, 568 yards, 5 TDs combined in 2015) will be two experienced targets for the quarterbacks. And healthy juniors Charles Mack and Emory Thompson certainly add to the quality, as do sophomores Emmanuel Soto and Drew Hunnicutt.

Some of the Big Green’s best weapons may be at tight end with juniors Cameron Skaff and Stephen Johnston. The former was the leading receiver at the position for Dartmouth last year, while Johnston missed 2015 after starting as a freshman.

Two starters return on the offensive line in seniors Dave Morrison and Zach Davis, while junior Ben Hagaman has settled into right tackle. Opponents may have a hard time telling the other two linemen apart as the Kilcommons twins — John and Patrick — will complete the formidable front with junior Justin Call spelling either guard.

The stingiest defense in the FCS last year will be replacing a whopping 10 starters with senior linebacker Folarin Orimolade — a preseason All-American — holding down the fort. But thanks to Coach Teevens’ liberal substitutions on defense, he has plenty of game-tested players at the ready, including senior linemen Brandon Cooper and Zach Husain. In the secondary the Big Green feature seniors in nickelback Lucas Bavaro, safety Charlie Miller and cornerback Danny McManus. For more about Dartmouth’s defense check out the story in the game program.

The kicking game is well-spoken for with senior PK Alex Gakenheimer looking to return to his All-Ivy form from two years ago, and two-time All-Ivy punter Ben Kepley.

Scouting the Wildcats
Last week, 22nd-ranked UNH rebounded from a 31-0 defeat at San Diego State of the FBS to knock off the next Dartmouth opponent, Holy Cross, 39-28. The Crusaders nearly spoiled the debut of UNH’s renovated and renamed Wildcat Stadium as they held a 28-19 lead midway through the third quarter. But the host scored 20 unanswered points, the last coming courtesy of a 28-yard interception return.

The game was extremely offensive — in a good way — as New Hampshire outgained the Crusaders (558 yards to 498), but how they amassed their yardages was quite different. The Wildcats pounded the ball on the ground for 362 yards, 199 from Dalton Crossan alone with a pair of touchdowns. Holy Cross, on the other hand, completed 42 passes for 427 yards and three scores.

The Dartmouth defense will have to deal with dual-threat quarterback Trevor Knight, who connected on 11-of-18 throws for 190 yards and two TDs while running for 87 yards to keep the Wildcat offense purring.

New Hampshire receivers made their modest mark as well. Neil O’Connor caught four passes with a TD as the primary target, and Rory Donovan gave the Wildcats their first lead of the season with a 62-yard haul near the end of the third quarter.

The defense has had its troubles slowing down the opponents’ passing game, yielding more than 700 yards on a 66 percent completion rate. Two throws were intercepted, however, including the aforementioned pick by Casey DeAndrade, the Wildcats’ top cover man.

Lineman Jae’Wuan Horton heads up the pass rush with two of UNH’s four sacks, and linebacker Quinlen Dean has been disruptive as well. Overall, the defense has been much more effective against the run thus far, ranking 33rd among FCS schools, while containing ball carriers to 3.5 yards per carry.

Max Pedinoff handles the punting duties and has been consistently solid, averaging over 38 yards a boot with a long of 43. The placekicking has had its issues, on the other hand, with one PAT getting blocked and another failing last week. But Morgan Ellman did not miss a field goal attempt last year (all from inside 30 yards) and was 6-of-7 on PATs.

Guiding the New Hampshire squad that has advanced to the FCS playoffs for each of the past dozen seasons (the longest streak in the nation) is Sean McDonnell, a 1978 alumnus of the university. In his 18 years at the helm, the Wildcats have posted a 133-78 (.630) record and enjoyed a streak of 162 consecutive weeks in the top 25 that ended last October, coincidentally ending at the same time Dartmouth appeared in the polls for the first time in nearly 19 years. McDonnell twice won the Eddie Robinson Award as the FCS National Coach of the Year and led UNH to back-to-back appearances in the FCS semifinals in 2013 and 2014.

Preseason Poll
In each of the last seven seasons, the Big Green have outperformed their expected finish before the season began. After getting picked to finish last in 2009, Dartmouth started its slow climb up the standings by tying for sixth. The next year, the Big Green outperformed their seventh-place prediction to come in fifth. In 2011, Dartmouth was picked by the media to finish fifth, yet ended the year in a tie for second. The following season the Big Green were picked to place sixth, yet when the final bell sounded, there they were in a tie for third. In 2013, Dartmouth turned a fourth-place prognostication into a third-place finish, just one game behind the co-champions. The Big Green were then slotted for third in 2014 yet finished alone in second before sharing the title last year after being pegged for second.

This year, Dartmouth was chosen for a third-place showing with Harvard atop the standings despite Penn earning more first-place votes. One other good sign for the Green is that over the past 19 years, the media has correctly picked the champion just three times — Penn in 2003, and Harvard in 2008 and 2015. The complete poll can be found on page seven of these notes.

The Experience Factor
As noted, Dartmouth lost quite a bit of production to graduation from last year’s title-sharing team. But how much did they lose? Offensively, the Green lost all but eight completions and 2,592 of the 2,657 yards (97.6 percent). But that is to be expected with a durable senior quarterback. The running game fares better, losing just 61.7 percent of its yards (892 of 1,446), with the receiving corps waving goodbye to a little more at 65.1 percent (1,730 of 2,657). On defense, the top seven tacklers have moved on, leading to a total of 508 of 744 stops (68.3 percent) gone from the ledger. Also, just four of 18 interceptions are back, as are three of 14 fumble recoveries.

For the sixth time in the past seven seasons, Dartmouth will feature three captains leading the squad — seniors Brandon Cooper, Dave Morrison and Folarin Orimolade.

Returning All-Ivy Performers
Last year, the Big Green claimed a total of 17 players who earned All-Ivy honors, eight of which made the first team. Of those 17 players, however, only two return to the field for Dartmouth this fall — LB Folarin Orimolade was on the first team, and P Ben Kepley was a second-teamer.

Preseason All-American
Senior linebacker Folarin Orimolade not only earned a spot on the STATS FCS Preseason All-America Second Team, but also the STATS Defensive Player of the Year Watch List. The 6-0, 235-pound linebacker ranked second in the Ivy League in both tackles for a loss and sacks last year, and enters this season seventh on the Big Green all-time sack leaders with 14.5 to his credit.

CSM Preseason All-Ivy
The College Sports Madness website released its three preseason All-Ivy League teams, and Dartmouth was well-represented with not only Orimolade on the first team and the Defensive Player of the Year, but eight other names as well. Big Green players on the second team were senior OLs Dave Morrison and Zach Davis, along with senior P Ben Kepley. On the third team were junior RB Ryder Stone, senior WR Jon Marc Carrier, junior TE Cameron Skaff, and senior DBs Lucas Bavaro and Charlie Miller. Both Harvard and Yale had six players listed on the first team, and Yale had the most players on all of the teams with 16.

Last to Kick Off
The Ivy League football schedule always starts a couple of weeks after the rest of Division I. For the fourth time in the last five years, Dartmouth will be the last team to kick off its season, due to the 7 p.m. start time. Each of the other seven conference schools kick off earlier in the day, or the day before even as in the case of Harvard hosting Rhode Island on Friday night.

Still All-Time Ivy Champs
Thanks to earning a share of the Ivy crown last year, Dartmouth maintained its claim to the most conference championships, 18, since the league played its first season in 1956. Had the Big Green not garnered a share in 2015, both Harvard and Penn would have moved into a three-way tie for the honor. As it stands, both schools now have 17, leaving Dartmouth in the precarious position of ceding the claim for the first time since 1964 when the Big Green and Princeton each had three titles to their names.

Record Book Watch
As noted previously, Folarin Orimolade is seventh all-time at Dartmouth wtih 14.5 sacks. He’ll need to get to the quarterback 11 times to top the career record of 25 set by Anthony Gargiulo ’06. The single-season record is 12, set by George Neos ’93 and matched by Scott Hapgood ’97 and Gargiulo.

Punter Ben Kepley has quietly put together one of the most prolific punting careers at Dartmouth. He ranks fifth in punts and punting yardage, and his career average of 37.6 yards per boot ranks fourth among those with at least 50 punts to their credit. By the end of the year, he will likely rank second in both punts and yardage.

Another kicker has also posted some impressive career numbers, that being senior Alex Gakenheimer. He enters the year with 141 career points, 10th most in Dartmouth history, and has a chance to become just the fifth Big Green player ever to put 200 points on the board.

Highlights from 2015
I imagine most people remember quite a bit from last year, but if you are like me, you still need a little refresher on how things shook out:
•    Dartmouth finished the season 9-1 overall and 6-1 in the league, earning a share of the Ivy League crown for the first time since 1996.
•    The Big Green enjoyed winning records for conference and overall play in four consecutive seasons for the first time since 1990-93.
•    The lone loss came at Harvard by a single point in the final minute of action, and even then, Dartmouth had a chance to win when it lined up for a 47-yard field goal attempt. Unfortunately, it was blocked to end the game at 14-13.
•    The Dartmouth defense led all of the FCS in scoring defense (10.1 points allowed per game), turnovers gained (32) and red zone defense (51.9 percent scoring rate), plus was among the top five in rushing defense (third), pass efficiency defense (third), first down defense (fourth) and total defense (fourth).
•    Other top statistical rankings came in kickoff returns (25.9 avg., 2nd), turnover margin (+1.2, 2nd), fumbles recovered (14, 7th), punt return defense (3.6 avg., 8th), passes intercepted (18, 9th) and kickoff return defense (17.0 avg., 10th).
•    Head coach Buddy Teevens was named the regional coach of the year by both the AFCA and the New England Football Writers.
•    Quarterback Dalyn Williams garnered the Bulger Lowe Award as the top Division I player in New England while breaking school records for career passing yards and career total yards that were set by former NFL quarterback Jay Fiedler ’94.

We’re not talking Most Valuable Player here, but rather the Mobile Virtual Player. Concussions in football have been a hot topic recently, and last year the Big Green debuted its MVP, a robotic tackling dummy dreamed up by Coach Teevens and made a reality by the Tuck Engineering School at Dartmouth. Headed up by professor John Currie, the MVP became a reality through the work of a team of students, and the most prominent were former football player Elliot Kastner ’13 and a former rugby player, Quinn Connell ’13. The response has been overwhelming, with numerous articles written about it as well an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. NFL teams came calling this summer with MVPs deployed at several training camps, including the Pittsburgh Steelers and San Francisco 49ers.

Free Agents
Following the 2015-16 year, three Dartmouth players were signed by NFL organizations — Dalyn Williams (Chicago Bears), Jacob Flores (Green Bay Packers) and Vernon Harris (Kansas City Chiefs). While the first two were released, Harris is listed on the Chiefs’ injured reserve list. He is not eligible to play or practice with the team this year, but he is keeping the dream alive. The last Big Green player to play in the NFL was FB Casey Cramer ’04, who played for five years with the Carolina Panthers, Tennesse Titans and Miami Dolphins.

Other NFL Connections
Two seniors have famous fathers that played in the NFL. Defensive back Lucas Bavaro is the son of Mark Bavaro, a tight end who caught 351 passes and 39 touchdowns in his nine years in the league, most notably for the New York Giants. Wide receiver Jon Marc Carrier is following in the footsteps of his father, Mark Carrier, who played 12 years in the NFL. His biggest seasons came with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Carolina Panthers, including 1,422 yards in his Pro Bowl year with the Bucs in 1989, finishing his career with 569 receptions for 8,763 yards and 48 touchdowns.

Sophomore quarterback Harry Kraft might have a familiar surname. He is the grandson of Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots.

Head coach Buddy Teevens has his own NFL connection, having served on the staff at the Manning Passing Academy for every one of the 21 years of its existence. He is now the associate director of the famed academy, overseeing all aspects of the on-field operation and coaching staff.