Big Green shift focus to Brown
Dartmouh faces a familiar challenge when Brown brings its high-octane offense to Hanover this weekend. The Big Green must shut down the Bears while hoping their offense can put enough points on the board to get the victory. Sound familiar?
Lehigh's run-and-gun offense came into Hanover and stunned the Big Green quickly, taking advantage of Dartmouth turnovers to end the Big Green's 22-game unbeaten streak.
Brown, who came 11 yards away from knocking off Dartmouth last season for the Ivy title, has reloaded on offense, bringing the league's top two threats to town in quarterback James Perry and wide receiver Sean Morey.
The stakes are as high as they get for the Big Green, who need a win over Brown to stay alive in the Ivy title hunt. Sitting one game behind Harvard, a Dartmouth loss would almost certainly knock the Big Green out of title contention.
Although it maybe hard to believe, Pete Sellers '98 had a breakthrough game against Columbia last weekend. Sellers remained in control and was impressive in leading the offense despite throwing two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns. Sellers rebounded to throw two touchdown passes in the first half, the first time he had accomplished that feat since the fourth game against Fordham. Sellers still must throw the ball effectively against the top ball-hawking secondary in the Ivy League.
Quarterback was supposed to be a weak spot for the Bears after the graduation of all-Ivy quarterback Jason McCullough. However, sophomore James Perry has stepped in and hasn't missed a beat. In fact, his numbers to date are better than McCullough's were last season. Perry leads the Ivy League with just under 2,000 yards passing and 17 touchdowns. He is also a dangerous runner. Dartmouth must stop him to win.
Dartmouth finally seems to have settled into its running back by committee scheme, roughly at the same time as sophomore Reggie Belhomme made a strong claim for the job by gaining 72 yards in the win over Columbia. Dylan Karczewski '99 remains the starter for this week, but expect him to split time with Belhomme until one of the two earns the remainder of the carries. The Big Green game plan is to run the football and keep Brown's offense off of the field, so Dartmouth needs 125 yards from their ground game for a chance to win.
On paper, Brown's running game is not that impressive, with their leading rusher, Azibo Smith, gaining only 53 yards per contest. But the Bears rank second in the Ivy league behind Harvard running the ball, averaging 150 yards a game. The running backs aren't threats individually, but combined with Perry's elusiveness out of the pocket, they can help set up the passing game.
Zach Ellis '98 and company must come up with a big catch early to set up the Big Green running game. Ellis leads the Big Green with 30 catches, but needs help from Eric Morton '97 and Ken Bollens '98 so that defenses dont focus on him. Expect a big game from tight end Will Harper '98 as Dartmouth tries to go to a ball-control system.
Brown's all-universe wideout Sean Morey has more yards (1130) and touchdowns (11) than Dartmouth's receiving corps combined. Morey is the Ivy League's best player, and can wreak havoc on opposing defenses. As if that wasn't enough of a challenge, Brown's second leading receiver, Mike Wall, has more catches than anybody on the Big Green squad.
After struggling against Harvard's strong line, the Big Green unit rebounded to hold off Columbia and give sellers time to throw. Against Brown's secondary, Sellers will need time to make the right decisions. Plus, the Big Green had their strongest rushing output in three games. Controlling the line of scrimmage is crucial for the Dartmouth running game.
The Bears offensive line is one of the highlights of their squad and a reason for their success. Pre-season All-American left tackle Dan McClutchy leads a veteran group that is bookmarked on the other side by all-Ivy tackle Shelton Magee.
Dartmouth's defensive line will challenge Brown's offensive line in what could be a snowy battle in the trenches. The Big Green has been effective in getting heavy pressure on opposing quarterbacks, which will be necessary to disrupt Brown's run-and-shoot attack. Furthermore, the line needs to stop the run first so the defense can concentrate on stopping Perry and Morey.
The Bears are sixth in rushing defense, a mirror image of Dartmouth's sixth-ranked rushing attack. The Bears must give up less than the 150 yards a game they have given up all season, a tough task on the road with a young defensive front that was punished by Harvard last week.
It seems like every week, Zach Walz '98 does something to add to his highlight footage. Last week, it was on pass defense as Walz tipped a Columbia pass to Brad Verber '99 to end the Lions last offensive threat and preserve the Big Green victory. Walz and Jon Gibbs '99 are the team's top-two tacklers, and should spend most of the afternoon trying to contain Perry. Steve Varney '00 played the best game of his career last week splitting time with Dan Liebsch '98.Joe Karcutskie leads a young Brown linebacking corps that will bear the brunt of the defensive work for the Bears on Saturday behind the inexperienced front. Expect Brown to blitz the linebackers in an attempt to force Sellers into bad decisions.
Lloyd Lee '98 and company will be put to the test by Brown's aerial assault. While the secondary will undoubtedly give up a lot of yards, the focus will be on not giving up the big play and keeping the Bears out of the endzone. The cornerbacks must contain Morey and keep him under 150 yards, but need to pay attention to the rest of the strong receiving corps.
Brown leads the league in pass defense efficiency and boasts two of the top defensive backs in the league, who have combined for 15 interceptions on the season. However, strong safety Roderic Parson, who owns eight interceptions, may not play because of an injury.
Dave Regula '98 broke the school-record last weekend by connecting on his 36th career field goal. However, Regula has been just part of an effective unit that boasts the league's top punter and top return units. In the games the special teams has performed well, Dartmouth has won.
Brown beat Fordham on the strength of back-to-back blocked punts returned for touchdowns. While their place-kicking has been average, their return game is almost as strong as Dartmouth's. The Big Green need to keep Brown's returnmen from big gains to force the Bears offense to go the length of the field.
Dartmouth is faced with a must-win situation, sitting in second-place in the Ivy League. The predicted snow should help their cause by slowing the Bears down. There is no room for error for the Big Green. Also, Dartmouth knows that Harvard faces their last real test in Penn.
Brown will obviously be trying to avenge last year's heartbreaking 27-24 defeat in Providence that cost them the title. Dartmouth vowed to avenge their title elimination by Princeton two years ago and defeated the Tigers 24-0 in their next contest. However, they have struggled in recent weeks and may be losing early season focus.
Can Dartmouth run the football to win the game? Good games by Karczewski and Belhomme and minimal turnovers will help keep Brown's offense off of the field. Dartmouth can't compete in a shootout with the Bears, they are outmanned at every offensive position. Rather, ball control and strong defense are the keys for Dartmouth. Unless Dartmouth holds the ball for 37 minutes or more, they lose this football game. Even if they do hold it for that long, the Big Green defense must step up to keep this game close and keep Harvard within range.
Final Score: Brown 20, Big Green 14