Football stays home to face Columbia

by Josh Schiefelbein | 10/24/13 10:00pm

Saturday marks the 84th meeting between both programs in a series that dates back to 1899. Dartmouth (2-3, 1-1 Ivy) enters with four-straight victories against Columbia (0-5, 0-2 Ivy) whose last victory was a 21-13 triumph in 2008.

Dartmouth hopes to rebound after laying an egg last week against Bucknell University in a 17-14 loss. Dalyn Williams '16 was contained every time he walked onto the field as the offense failed to click into rhythm, despite support from one of the better showings from the defense.

"We didn't really move the football," head coach Buddy Teevens said. "When the other offense scores 17 points, with the offense we have, we expect to win by a bunch, but we struggled."

If Dartmouth's defense plays like it has the past two weeks against Bucknell and Yale University and the offense returns to its early season form, Saturday should be a cakewalk against winless Columbia, who ranks in the bottom two of the Ancient Eight in every offensive and defensive category and has been outscored by an average of almost 30 points.

Despite the defense's overall strong showing, it was caught flat-footed and listless during crucial, game-changing moments. The offense appeared even more stagnant, earning its lowest yardage during a game of the season with 252 yards.

"We had four pretty good contests where we played with high energy, high focus and high emotions," Teevens said. "It just didn't happen against Bucknell."

To win, the Big Green must maintain its focus, execute properly and play at a higher energy level.

"I pride myself on always playing with full energy," Evan Chrustic '15 said. "It doesn't matter what game it is. We could be playing anybody but we have to come out playing 100 percent with focus and high energy."

Dartmouth ended the game down three after Alex Park '14 threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Bo Patterson '15 in the final minute. Dartmouth failed to recover the ensuing onside kick, allowing Bucknell to ice the game.

A few untimely and unnecessary penalties cost the Big Green down the stretch and the team will try to limit the mental mistakes in preparation for Columbia.

"Anytime you lose, the only thing that goes through your head is what could I have done better?'" Chrustic said.

Columbia's defense will hope to contain Williams, who is currently in the midst of a two-game slump. Bucknell succeeded in shutting down Williams, prompting Teevens to insert Park to inject some life into the offense.

If Columbia succeeds in containing Williams, Park said he is ready to step in again and help guide Dartmouth to victory.

"I prepare every week as if I'm the starter," Park said. "Coach Teevens does a great job at getting us prepared and that we have a great understanding of the game plan."

Park, however, will likely not enter the game until garbage-time, as Williams and the first-string offense should pick apart a weak Columbia defense that thrives off of turnovers. Columbia's best playmakers on defense are defensive linemen senior Nick Melka, sophomore JD Hurt and junior linebacker Vinny Pugliese, who lead a unit that has forced three interceptions, recovered four fumbles and registered seven sacks despite giving up over 500 yards per game.

Williams will have to be careful in the red zone, Columbia's best defensive strength. After allowing 36 trips into the red zone, Columbia's defense has allowed the opponent to score 26 times, good for a 72 percent scoring and making them 24th in the FCS. Additionally, four of Columbia's eight takeaways occurred in red zone territory. Four of the top eight receivers for the Big Green are out injured for the game, which should complicate the process. Last week against Bucknell, Williams looked out of sync with the largely freshman receiver corps.

All five of Columbia's losses have been by double digits, two by 45 or more, and its offense has yet to put more than 14 points on the board in a single game.

Few bright spots exist this year for Columbia, such as senior punter Paul Delaney, who was named the John Toner Homecoming player of the game after punting 12 times, averaging 45.2 yards per attempt with a long of 58 and dropping two inside the 20-yard line. Delaney's punting forced the University of Pennsylvania into poor field position all afternoon, contributing to Penn beating Columbia by just 14 points.

Delaney's season net punting average of 39.6 yards leads the Ivy League and ranks in the top-10 of the FCS. Williams and the offense will likely be forced to sustain long drives from deep within Dartmouth territory in order to score.

Senior Marcorus Garrett is the lone bright spot on Columbia's offense, rushing 60 times for 467 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 91 yards per game. He is a decent option in the pass game, catching six passes for 37 yards, taking one of them 21 yards.

Garrett currently ranks third on the Lions' all-time list with 1,710 career yards and is 283 yards away from moving into second place.

Garrett looks to earn a nice chunk of yardage against Dartmouth's run defense, which has given up an average of 156.8 yards per game.

Outside of Garrett, Columbia has no weapons on offense and an unstable quarterback situation, starting three different quarterbacks in just five games.

The lack of weapons and a quality quarterback is why Columbia's offense averages just 192 yards, 10 first downs and nine points per game. Dartmouth's defense, while not as stingy as last season, should have an easy time building on its impressive performances against both Bucknell and Yale.

Kick-off occurs at Memorial Field at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday.