Football preps to take on Holy Cross over Homecoming

by Brett Drucker | 10/16/14 1:28pm

Coming off a dramatic 38-31 victory over Yale University at the Yale Bowl, the Big Green returns to Hanover to take on the College of the Holy Cross in its homecoming matchup.

Last year, the two teams met in Dartmouth’s home opener, and Holy Cross pulled out a 31-28 victory on a game-winning field goal with less than a minute remaining. The field goal capped off a 10-0 Crusader run to win the game. Holy Cross’s quarterback Peter Pujals was the star of the game, completing 25 of 37 passes for 290 yards and two touchdowns in addition to rushing for another 125 yards and two scores.

“Ever since I’ve been here, Holy Cross has moved the ball on us from a defensive standpoint,” safety Troy Donahue ’15 said. “We need to take that as a challenge. This is a good offense that’s coming in. They’ve kind of had our number since we’ve been here, so we definitely can’t take them lightly.”

Last week, despite being in a 10-point hole at the half, Dartmouth outscored the Bulldogs 24-7 in the second half to move to 2-0 in the Ivy League for the first time since 2001.

“That was probably the most excited I’ve seen the locker room here in a long time,” Donahue said.

After relying mostly on the running attack early in the season, the Big Green offense unleashed its aerial weapons against the Bulldogs, throwing 47 passes compared to only 31 rush attempts. Entering the game, quarterback Dalyn Williams ’16 had thrown for only 431 yards on the season before totaling a career-high 388 yards last Saturday against Yale.

“We were very successful throwing the football at a time when we thought we needed to,” offensive coordinator Keith Clark said. “We’re probably more known as a running football team, but it’s something that we’ve worked very hard to try to improve to make ourselves more balanced, so I feel like now we now we have the confidence that we can do either facet offensively.”

Clark said many of the plays were originally called as run plays with a pass option and that Williams did a good job taking advantage of the looks that Yale presented. The performance earned the junior signal-caller the New England Football Writers’ Association Gold Helmet Award for an outstanding contribution to a New England FCS team.

Williams got plenty of help from his receiving corps, especially Ryan McManus ’15, who caught 12 passes for a career-high 188 yards in addition to returning a punt 60 yards for a Dartmouth touchdown in the second quarter. McManus was named the Ivy League Player of the Week for his performance.

Despite the early success, players remain focused on the season-long goal.

“I think we still know that there’s a lot of work ahead of us,” Donahue said. “We haven’t really won anything yet. I think everyone realizes that there’s still a lot to do, so we can’t be too excited.”

Clark agreed, noting that despite winning a big game last week and playing a non-league opponent this week, the team does not intend to take its foot off the gas.

“As a coach, you have to push your guys,” he said. “Even when you win, you have to find the things that need correcting because it’s easier to overlook.”

This season, Holy Cross has struggled to find consistency and returns to Hanover on a four-game losing streak. Last week, the Crusaders were narrowly edged by Brown University 27-24 in two overtimes after the Crusaders missed a 39-yard field goal on their possession and the Bears followed with a successful field goal attempt.

Sophomore quarterback Pujals returns for the Crusaders averaging the second highest passing yards per game in the Patriot League, where he is also the eighth leading rusher. The Holy Cross defense also boasts the third leading tackler in the Patriot League in junior linebacker John Zakrzewski.

This will be the 78th clash between the two teams, which first met in 1903. Holy Cross has won eight of its last 10 games against Dartmouth.

The Big Green has seen mixed results at recent Homecoming games, going 2-2 across the last four matchups. However, the enthusiasm of the parade, bonfire and swarming of campus by hordes of alumni always leads to a special atmosphere, wide receiver Bo Patterson ’15 said.

“The excitement is really cool across campus,” he said. “It gets us excited, it gets the fans excited, it gets the alumni excited.”

As the team reaches the season’s midpoint, Donahue said it relishes any opportunity to play in front of the home crowd.

“Any time fans come out to our games, there’s always something to prove,” Donahue said. “It’s a good platform to show the school how good we really are.”

The game kicks off at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday at Memorial Field.

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