Big Green shoots for title
If you haven't heard the news yet, it's the final week of the season for the Dartmouth football team, the Ivy League trophy is up in the air, and, just like in the movies, it has all come down to who can step up on Saturday.
Two teams need to step up, to be exact, for the Big Green to take home a piece of their league-leading seventeenth Ancient Eight Title.
If Dartmouth can beat the pants off of Princeton at Memorial Field Saturday, and if Pennsylvania cooperates by taking Cornell to the cleaners in Philadelphia, the unbelievable will happen. For the first time ever, four teams will be crowned 1995 Ivy League Champions.
To those purists who think there should be only one champion, well, this is not a perfect world, and for the Dartmouth football players this year, having to share with the likes of Cornell, Princeton and Pennsylvania is the only option they have.
But before the Big Green even start worrying about the possibility of having to share trophies with a bunch of other football teams, they have got a little thanking to do. For instance, to the team that made this mess all possible, the Yale Bulldogs.
The lowly Bulldogs, who have had little to cheer about this year, played the spoiler role to perfection last week, gunning down the Tigers at Princeton, 21-13. That shocker ended Princeton's bid for an undefeated season and vaulted Cornell to a tie with the Tigers for first place, at 5-1. Meanwhile, Dartmouth and Pennsylvania, the two dominant teams of the 1990s, hung on to second place at 4-2, setting the stage for the weekend's showdowns.
"They are a team that has won six in a row, and they believe in themselves," said concerned Princeton Coach Steve Tosches in a telephone interview. "They've got some good momentum going."
With star tailbacks Greg Smith '97 and Zack Ellis '98 back in the lineup after sitting out last week due to injuries, Dartmouth should be able to muster an even better attack than they did in their 10-7 victory against Brown last Saturday.
With Smith, co-Captain tailback Pete Oberle '96, Ambrose Garcia '97 and rookie speedster Dylan Karczewski '99 in the backfield, along with quarterback Jon "Option" Aljancic '97 taking a good portion of the snaps, the Big Green will live and die by the run Saturday, just as they have done all year.
Princeton's offense, also of the grind-it-out variety, is led by running back Marc Washington, who needs only 92 yards to join the 1,000 yard club this week, and running quarterback Brock Harvey, an Ivy League honorable mention last week, carrying for 103 yards and passing for 129 more.
"Brock Harvey is their best offensive weapon," linebacker Zach Walz '98 said. "We've got to keep up the pressure and contain him. They run an option offense, and our defense is well-suited to that. We're a quick defense."
If the past games this season are any indication, defense should be the deciding factor between the Big Green and Princeton, who have both been carried by their resistance corps.
The Tigers have been suffocating opposing offenses all season. Princeton is tops in the league in rushing defense (90 yards/game) and points allowed (11.6 points/game).
Dartmouth's defense, statistically second in the league, has consistently come up big all year for the Big Green. Last week, the Big Green defense laid its heart on the line, holding a Brown offense, averaging 30 points a game, to a single touchdown, which came in the first quarter.
Walz has been Dartmouth's biggest surprise, and the spirit of the gridders' all-out, aggressive defense. Brown will have a hard time forgetting Walz's performance last week, who had 12 tackles and three quarterback sacks, all at crucial times in the game. That performance earned the first year letter winner an incredible third Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week Award.
Already, this roller coaster season has been a tremendous success for the gridders. Who would have thought in week three, when the Big Green were 1-2 overall and winless in two Ivy League games, that Dartmouth would have a chance, and not a bad one, at capturing part of the coveted Ivy crown.
But the Big Green did fight back from the brink of disaster in week three, and six consecutive wins later, Dartmouth needs only two more pieces to fall into place to make the impossible happen.
Game time is 1:00 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Field in Hanover.