100th Game with Cornell
In the 100th meeting between Dartmouth and Cornell, both teams are trying to turn around their recent fortunes with the Big Green having dropped four of their last five and the Big Red each of their last four. The last two Dartmouth defeats have been especially difficult, coming up two points short at Columbia and again last week on homecoming against 23rd-ranked Harvard.
The Big Green never enjoyed a lead against the Crimson, falling behind in the opening quarter, 14-0. But the offense was able to get on track and produce three long touchdown drives — all of at least 79 yards — over the final three quarters as Dartmouth nearly pulled off the upset.
Jack Heneghan, who did not take the field until the final Big Green play of the first quarter, ended up posting his second 300-yard game through the air by completing 32-of-48 passes for 301 yards. The junior leads the Ivy League in completions (22.6 per game) passing yards (249.3) and total offense (273.3).
The last two weeks, Heneghan has consistently found freshman Hunter Hagdorn, who has caught 19 passes for 232 yards in those games combined. The rookie is now fourth in the league in receptions and fifth in yardage, and no Dartmouth freshman has ever had more than his 420 receiving yards.
Hagdorn isn’t hogging the ball, however, with three other receivers averaging over 40 yards a game in Drew Hunnicutt (23 catches), Houston Brown (22) and Emory Thompson (17). And both Charles Mack and TE Stephen Johnston have two TD receptions, along with Hunnicutt, giving Heneghan numerous options at which to throw.
The running game has been a bit troublesome of late, failing to post even 75 yards on the ground in the last three losses. The return of Miles Smith — he of the 6.1-yard average per carry — last week will hopefully pay more dividends this weekend, while Ryder Stone still tops the team with 267 rushing yards.
The defense, which leads the league in fewest points allowed once again, is spearheaded by LB Folarin Orimolade, who leads the league in sacks (6.0) and is second with 10.5 tackles for a loss. But for the second time in the past three weeks, it was a freshman leading the defense as CB Isiah Swann recorded nine stops while also intercepting a pass. The rookie is now tied for the team lead with a pair of picks and is sixth on the team with 30 tackles.
Special teams have had some special plays of late, particularly by DE Jeremiah Douchee. The senior twice blocked kicks against Harvard, once on a PAT, the other on a 38-yard field goal attempt, making him just one of five FCS players to block two kicks in one game this season. Added to his field goal block against Towson, he is tied at the top among FCS players this season.
Two-time All-Ivy Second Team punter Ben Kepley had a better showing at Harvard, and the Big Green need his leg to perform in the battle for field position. Placekicker David Smith is one of two Ivy players to convert all of his PATs, but did not get an opportunity to add to his six field goals (second in the conference) versus Harvard.
Scouting the Big Red
Cornell was the pleasant surprise of the Ivy League in September, winning its first three games after going 1-9 a year ago. That third victory came against a Colgate team that was ranked in the national polls, 39-38. But the Big Red have stumbled since, dropping four straight, the most recent a 56-7 drubbing at the hands of Princeton.
The offense has struggled to find a balance on the ground and in the air during the skid. Cornell failed to gain even 70 rushing yards the last two games, with leading carrier Chris Walker (third in the Ivy League at 65.2 yards per game) limited to just five attempts for six yards against the Tigers.
Quarterback Dalton Banks has certainly improved the outlook for the Big Red going forward, winning the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week award twice already this year. He is second only to Heneghan with 1,709 yards and 145 completions, but also has been victimized for a league-high 10 interceptions. A capable runner as well, Banks leads Cornell with four rushing touchdowns to go with his 13 scoring strikes.
No one receiver stands out for the Big Red, though Marshall Deutz leads the team with 29 grabs. No less than five players have amassed between 200 and 300 receiving yards, with Ben Rogers topping the squad with 285 as well as five TD receptions.
The defensive unit has yielded over 450 yards per game, but safety Nick Gesualdi is a legitimate star with an Ivy-best five interceptions to go with his 57 tackles, tied for the team lead with LB Reis Seggebruch. Gesualdi also has 1.5 of the Big Red’s 13 sacks, a total that is distributed among 12 different defenders.
Preseason All-America punter Chris Fraser averages a strong 41.7 yards per punt, but the punt coverage team has allowed more return yards than anyone else in the league. Placekicking has had a change of feet, however, after a successful start by Zach Mays (4-4 FG, 10-10 PAT). Over the past four games, Nickolas Null has handled those duties, converting 1-of-2 FG and 8-of-9 PAT.
The Cornell return game has not produced much this year, ranking among the bottom 20 FCS schools in both kickoff and punt return average.
Cornell is led by The Roger J. Weiss ’61 Head Coach of Football David Archer, a 2005 graduate of the school. The former Big Red captain is the youngest Division I coach in the country (by three days) and has led the team to a 8-29 record in three-plus seasons. He has had 12 All-Ivy League selections, including the league’s Rookie of the Year in each of his first two campaigns, as well as a pair of All-Americans.
Last Year vs. Cornell
Coming off the heartbreaking 14-13 defeat at Harvard, Dartmouth guarded against an emotional letdown and defeated the Big Red, 21-3. It took a quarter to get things in gear as Cornell booted a field goal after 13 minutes of play for a 3-0 lead. But in the second quarter, the Big Green strung together two long scoring drives, capped by a Ryder Stone two-yard plunge and an eight-yard TD pass from Dalyn Williams to Ryan McManus. Williams later added the final touchdown on a four-yard keeper as Dartmouth posted just over 200 yards both on the ground and through the air. The Big Green defense was superb, allowing less than 200 total yards as Cornell had just two plays that started past midfield after the first quarter.
Miller Academic All-District
Senior safety Charlie Miller was among the 25 Division I players to be selected as Academic All-District I players this year as chosen by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). An economics major with a 3.51 GPA, Miller is tied for the team lead with six passes defended (one an interception) and fifth with 31 tackles. His block of a 22-yard field goal helped ensure Dartmouth’s 20-17 victory over Towson on Oct. 15 as well. Miller is one of a dozen Ivy Leaguers to earn a spot on one of the district teams, and Dartmouth has had at least one player honored on the team for nine straight years.
300 Passing Yards Not Enough
For the third time in the past five years, Dartmouth quarterbacks threw for at least 300 yards against the Harvard Crimson. But all of those yards have not added up to a victory for the Big Green as the No. 23 Crimson continued their hex over Dartmouth by winning their 13th straight in the series in a 23-21 final on Oct. 29. It was also Harvard’s 11th straight win at Memorial Field, with the last Big Green triumph coming on Oct. 30, 1993.
In the 23-21 loss to 23rd-ranked Harvard, senior Jeremiah Douchee accomplished what only four other FCS players have done all year — block two kicks in one game. First, he swatted away a PAT attempt that kept Harvard from extending its lead to 10 points in the third quarter. Then in the fourth, he got a piece of a 38-yard field goal attempt to thwart another Crimson scoring opportunity. He joins A.J. Zuttah ’16 as the only Big Green players to block two kicks in the same game over the last 14 seasons.
Three Bills Off the Bench
Junior Jack Heneghan threw for 301 yards against No. 23 Harvard on Oct. 29, the 33rd time in Dartmouth history one of its quarterbacks topped 300 in a game. But this was the first instance in which the QB did so even though he did not start the game. Heneghan first entered the game on the Big Green’s final offensive play in the first quarter, replacing Bruce Dixon IV, who made his first career start.
Too Many Completions?
Dartmouth completed 33 passes against No. 23 Harvard on Oct. 29, tied for the fifth most in program history. While you might think that successfully throwing that many passes would lead to good things, consider that the Big Green are now 2-4 when receivers catch 33 or more passes. What if we drop the bar to say, 27 completions? That gives us 30 games, and the Big Green are just 7-23 in those contests.
Two Points Too Little Again
The 23-21 loss to No. 23 Harvard marks the second straight two-point defeat for the Big Green, having stumbled at Columbia the week before, 9-7. The last time Dartmouth suffered back-to-back losses by a total of four points or less? That would be 2004 against the very same teams in a 9-6 loss at Columbia and a 13-12 home loss to the Crimson.
Go-To Receiver Emerging in Hagdorn
For most of the season, no one receiver has been the primary target for QB Jack Heneghan. But for the second straight week, freshman WR Hunter Hagdorn has led the receiving corps in yardage with his second straight 100-yard game. The rookie snared 11 throws for 118 yards, both of which are season highs for anyone on the team. Against Columbia, Hagdorn produced the longest TD catch in four years at 65 yards. For the season, he leads the Big Green with 32 catches for 420 yards, the latter tying the Dartmouth freshman record set by Jay Barnard ’04. He needs nine more receptions to surpass Barnard for that mark, too.
Swann Song Continues
Freshman CB Isiah Swann, with just three tackles to his credit, was thrust into the starting lineup for the first time against Towson on Oct. 15. He certainly made the most of his opportunity by recording 13 tackles, breaking up three passes and intercepting another to help Dartmouth defeat the Tigers, 20-17. Swann not only was named the Ivy League’s Defensive Player and Rookie of the Week, but also the STATS FCS Freshman Player of the Week. The following week at Columbia, he collected his first career sack as well on a corner blitz, and then he led the defense with nine stops and another interception against 23rd-ranked Harvard.
Third Down Turnaround
Whereas Dartmouth had been struggling to convert third-down situations, most notably going just 1-for-17 at Columbia, the Big Green markedly improved against Harvard’s defense, picking up a first down nine times in 18 chances. The 50 percent success rate matches a season best, first achieved against Penn (6-for-12). But Dartmouth failed three times on fourth down, the first time this season without moving the chains at least once on fourth down.
Despite its losing record of 3-4, Dartmouth has outscored its opponents this season, 142-138. In each of the first three quarters, however, the opposition has had the upper hand on the scoreboard (42-37 1st quarter, 45-38 2nd, 42-24 3rd). But the fourth quarter belongs to the Big Green with 43 points compared to just nine for the bad guys.
What Have You Done F-Orimolade-ly?
Playing a little Mad Gab here, and while it might be a stretch, I will continue to use it. Anyway, LB Folarin Orimolade was named a preseason second-team All-American by STATS, and he certainly is living up to the billing. The senior is tied for the Ivy League lead in sacks (6.0) and fumbles forced (3), plus ranks second in tackles for a loss (10.5) after seven games, while his 57 tackles lead the team.