Green hope to set Bears trap
Last season, Brown brought their high-flying offensive attack to Memorial Field and put up a school record 473 yards passing, didn't allow the Big Green inside the 20-yard line and held Dartmouth to under 250 yards of offense. Oh, by the way, they lost, 13-7.
Tomorrow's contest against Brown (5-3, 3-2) should shape up in much the same way except for one big difference: Dartmouth's defense is not what it was a year ago. A unit last year that bent but never broke has struggled in recent games, especially in the first half. Combine those struggles with devastating injuries in the secondary, and it appears that only a miracle could halt the Brown offense, which enters the game tops in the Ivy League, averaging over 460 yards of offense per contest.
The Bears boast perhaps the nation's finest passing-receiving combination in James Perry and Sean Morey. Brown's passing attack is second in the nation, averaging 340 yards per game. Morey, a surefire NFL draft pick, leads Division I-AA in catches per game and is 10th in the nation is receiving yards per game. All of this against a Big Green secondary which lost its top player, Brad Verber '99, to an injured groin two weeks ago.
"The secondary is our big concern, absolutely," Big Green Head Coach John Lyons said. "Perry is an outstanding quarterback and everybody knows about Morey. But three of their receivers have 50 catches, and we are hurting in the secondary."
Dartmouth's best defense on Saturday could be its offense, which seems to have found a rhythm the past few weeks. While they haven't put many points on the board, Mike Coffey '99 and company have put together sustained drives and won time of possession in the last three contests.
"We know we are going to have to score points," Lyons said. "Their defense has played well in recent weeks, but we feel there are some things we can do running and passing the football that should be effective against them."
If this game is a shootout, then Dartmouth (2-6, 1-4) will be in trouble. But don't tell that to Coffey, who has a recurring dream about Saturday.
"Brown goes out and scores 58 points on us, but we put up 60 points and beat them by two points," Coffey said. "That would make a statement."
Coffey's performance against Columbia was the best by a Big Green quarterback in the past 14 games. Although the offense struggled early, Coffey tossed for a career-high 231 yards while taking a substantial beating. Undoubtedly, the renewed confidence from that gutsy performance will emerge on Saturday.
Perry is the best quarterback in the league since Jay Fiedler '94. Despite playing on a torn ACL suffered in September, the Bears signal-caller is fourth in the nation with 2,570 yards and is averaging over 320 yards per game. He has tremendous weapons around him to help him out, but he is the real deal.
The Big Green is still last in the Ivy League in rushing after eight contests. Reggie Belhomme '00 had a breakout day against Brown last year, rushing for 144 yards on 33 carries. A strong running performance from Belhomme could lead Dartmouth to victory, but the Big Green back has not rushed for 100 yards since that game.
After struggling to run the ball earlier in the year, Brown has found a successful combo in Mike Powell and Kevin Coyne. The two ran combined for over 200 yards against Cornell two weeks ago and have provided some balance to a typically passing-oriented offense. Their recent success has helped lead Brown to three straight wins.
Tight end Adam Young '99 hauled in a career-high nine catches for 106 yards last weekend, marking the second time this year he has gone over the century mark. Wide Receiver Damon Ferrara '98, according to Coffey, is the gutsiest receiver he has ever seen and has proven that with big catches in traffic.
However, Dartmouth's receiving corps doesn't even compare to Brown's weapons. Morey, last year's Ivy League Player of the Year, is an emerging superstar, averaging nearly 10 catches and 100 yards per game. Sophomore Steven Campbell seems more than willing to take over the load once Morey graduates, having hauled in almost 60 passes this season. Tight End Zach Burns has 53 catches as well.
Coffey took an immense pounding last week as the Big Green front five gave up eight sacks, the most the unit has given up this season. While the responsibility should not fall solely on the offensive line, this group has struggled to protect its quarterback all season long. However, the run-blocking has improved.
Conversely, the Bears' offensive line has given up only eight sacks all season long in 350 attempts. They do an excellent job against the pass and have given Perry plenty of time to throw.
The Big Green have struggled to put pressure on the quarterback all season long, and that has allowed opposing signal callers to have big days against Dartmouth. If that trend continues against Brown, it could be a long day. Kyle Schroeder '00 and Brent Crombie '99 should be healthy to play this week for a unit that has been banged up all season.
After changing their scheme in recent weeks, the Brown front four has been able to apply more pressure on the opposing quarterback. As a result, the Bears have given up only three touchdowns in the past two weeks. Defensive end Fry Wernick has been an all-Ivy selection the past two seasons.
A big game out of Steve Varney '00 and Jon Gibbs '99 may not be enough for the Big Green, but it could make a difference. Varney had an outstanding game against Columbia, recording 14 tackles to give him 108 stops on the season, nine of those for losses. Tri-captain Gibbs is second on the team with 96 tackles.
Earnest Dean leads a Brown unit that has been soft against the run, allowing 163 yards per game. Brown is last in the league giving up 27 points per game and the inexperience at linebacker has been one of the main reasons.
The loss of Brad Verber '99 killed the Big Green against Columbia, as Lions quarterback Paris Childress found openings in the defensive backfield all afternoon. Dartmouth's second-rated pass defense will have considerable difficulty against the talented Brown receivers. Tom Reusser '00 can hold Morey in check and Brad Eissler '01 leads the league in interceptions, but who will cover Campbell and Burns?
The Bears pass defense ranks well below Dartmouth, but has fewer problems to contend with. Captain Alex Pittz leads the fifth-rated secondary that has come up with seven interceptions this season, but is giving up well over 225 yards per game. Dartmouth feels it will be possible to take advantage of this aggressive unit.
Dartmouth's punting and kickoff units have been solid, and they need to be against Brown's solid return tandem of Campbell and Morey. Expect punter Wayne Schlobohm '00 to kick punts out of bounds away from Campbell and for the Big Green to try and pin Morey into corners on kickoff returns.
As mentioned above, Brown's strength is in return units. The punting and kicking games are just average, but Campbell and Morey are extremely dangerous with the ball in their hand.
A shootout is a possibility if the two offenses click, but Dartmouth would prefer to run the football and keep Brown off of the field. Even if they can do that, Brown's offense is too much for a depleted Green defense.
Final Score: Brown 38, Green 21