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The Dartmouth
April 15, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Football tries to right ship against 'Commodore' Perry

Three weekends ago, Dartmouth was in a similar position to where it stands now.

Coming off a number of tough losses and standing last in the Ivy League, the Green hosted Cornell, the Ivy League leader. Though a heavy underdog, the home team won 20-17.

The Green (1-7, 1-4) have once again dropped several games in poor fashion and now host the new co-League leader, Brown (7-1, 4-1).

Can they pull another upset?

Like in the Cornell game, the conventional wisdom says no.

After all, Dartmouth's tale of woe spans a season of missed opportunities and rookie mistakes. At the beginning of the season its captains promised hard-nosed play and warned about growing pains with many youthful starters.

Excepting lapses in already-lost contests, the honest effort has been apparent. Unfortunately for the team, the team's inexperience has superceded any advantages from hard work.

In contrast, Brown entered the season as the League favorite, returning an All-Ivy quarterback and several other notable skilled players. Except for an early hiccup against Cornell, the Bears have not disappointed.

They currently stand tied with Yale for first place in the Ivy League. By virtue of their 25-24 victory over the Bulldogs in the first game of the season, the Bears just have to win out against Dartmouth and Columbia for their first Ivy League title in 23 years.

But, as alluded to earlier, if the conventional wisdom is not really so wise, all of the compelling evidence on paper can come to nothing.

So what? So, the Green can win. Maybe.

Gimme an O

The old clich about team play is that 'there's no 'I' in team.' There is an 'o' in loss, but it hasn't been so obvious in some of the Green's defeats this season.

Another old clich is 'there's nothing as constant as change.' This saying does apply to the Green, whose most constant offensive trait has been inconsistency.

Quarterback Brian Mann '02 has typified the on-again-off-again performance of the Dartmouth attack. His 59 percent completion rate and 1,298 yard are solid, especially for so young a starting quarterback.

Mann showed signs of stardom against Lehigh, Cornell and Harvard.

But his 12 interceptions, many of which resulted from throws into traffic, have come more often than his touchdown passes, of which he has four. On a several occasions in recent games, Mann has led the Green down the field with a series of short passes only to give the ball away with the team close to the goal line.

On other occasions, Dartmouth has managed to punch it in.

"What we're trying to do is be consistent thorughout the course of the game," Dartmouth head coach John Lyons said.

Last weekend the Green even got a boost from its running game -- an important aspect of any offense that had been missing earlier in the year. Tailback Reggie Belhomme '00 averaged 5.2 yards on 15 carries and had a sweet nine-yard touchdown scamper.

Because the Green were trailing at Coumbia, "We got away from running it as much as we liked," Lyons said. "I thought Reggie ran the ball well last week."

Dartmouth's receivers have also shown themselves to be competent of playing in Lyons' quick-pass offense.

Wideouts Damien Roomets '02, Mat DeLellis '02 and Matt Davis '03 and tight end Lee Roach '01 have all been on the receiving end of Mann's dump passes over the middle and quick outs to the sidelines.

"Sometimes when we've gone deep we've had trouble protecting the quarterback and other times we've had trouble getting open," Lyons said. "We would definitely like to get the ball down the field more."

Belhomme and fullback Bob Bunn '01 can function as secondary receivers in the offense. The Green also employ a shovel pass to Belhomme, which has been used several times in each of the past few weeks.

The bottom line is Dartmouth is able to move the ball at times, but has a knack for giving it away or for stalling at inopportune moments. If they find a way to cut down on mistakes, they can certainly score on Brown.

Growl

This can be said for the Bears defense: they have held seven of eight teams to point totals below that of their offense.

While they have not been the stingiest in the Ivy League -- the team gives up 25.6 points per game -- Brown has defended sufficiently well to win. Of late, against Fordham and Harvard, the Bears only allowed 28 combined points.

For some ominous perspective, remember the Crimson lit up the Green for 63 points.

"Defensively last week against Harvard they played extremely well -- they forced six turnovers," Lyons said. However, "People have moved the ball on them and scored some points and hopefully we can do that."

Brown allowed 28 points in eking out a win against a weak Lafayette squad, then gave Cornell 33, Princeton 30 and Penn 37 points.

The Green have not scored over 21 points in any game this season, so perhaps facing the Brown defense will help to fix that.

Roar

It is on offense where Brown truly excels. Despite graduating, All-American wide receiver Sean Morey, the Bears return a talented group, led by senior quarterback James Perry.

"James really makes plays for them," Lyons said. "They do a good job protecting for him [and] he has a lot of weapons. He spreads it around quite a bit."

In earlier games this season, Perry broke the Ivy League career records for passing yardage, completions and touchdowns -- the last of which was held by Dartmouth graduate and current NFL player Jay Fiedler '94.

Against Princeton, Perry completed an Ivy League-record 42 passes with three touchdowns. Against Penn, he racked up 440 yards in the air and threw for five touchdowns. Perry completed 30 of 37 passes against Fordham for 327 yards.

Perry is the best quarterback in the Ivy League, as his statistics show. To date, he has a 63.4 percent completion rate, with over 2,500 yards passing and 22 touchdowns.

His 14 interceptions give the Green hope that they can force Brown into costly turnovers.

But the Bears offense does not solely revolve around the passing game. In Perry's long shadow, tailback Michael Malan has put together a fantastic campaign in the Brown backfield.

"They're so much more effective offensively this year," Lyons said, attributing this change to the addition of a large running back. "He used to be a linebacker. He runs real hard and has very deceptive speed."

Malan's 807 yards and 5.6 yards per carry average put him near the top of the Ivy League. He has also scored nine touchdowns on the ground, proving he is a good runner in short or long yardage.

Considering the Green's troubles with top runners such as Colgate's Randall Joseph, Lehigh's Ronald Jean and Harvard's Chris Menick, they may be in for a long afternoon.

Gang Green-ous

The Big Green defense has had its ups and downs throughout the season, particuarly in recent weeks.

Against Harvard two weekends ago, the Green were burned repeatedly in a 42-point loss. Against Columbia last weekend, the Green essentially gave up one touchdown. The other two scores resulted from blocked punts that left the Lions under 10 yards to go for scores.

Three weeks ago, Dartmouth held Cornell when it counted most, and won its first and only game of the season.

So yet again the questions becomes, which Dartmouth defense will show up?

The one that allowed 28 points to Colgate in the first half or seven points in the second half? The one that was demolished by Harvard and Yale or the one that hung close with Penn and Cornell?

Lyons explained the Green's game plan: "Hold on to the football and keep our defense off the field. We really need to try to limit big plays."

Good call

A sports writer could make a career of picking Dartmouth losses this season, and I've done pretty well in that racket myself.

Unfortunately, this week looks like another one.

Brown is a talent-rich veteran team with an explosive offense led by probably the best player in the Ivy League.

Assuming this win and one over another last-place team, Columbia, next weekend, Brown will win the Ivy Championship that narrowly eluded it last season.

At this point in the year, Dartmouth is not playing for any accolades or trophies. The Green are simply trying to finish their seasons respectably.

If they play Brown close, they will have accomplished this.

It is fortuitous that the Green's offense is just now reaching its peak production of the season -- though last weekend witnessed a bit of a downturn -- as they face one of the League's mediocre defenses.

Fans considering whether to attend Saturday's game should be encouraged by the likelihood of a shootout.

Fans considering whether to come to Memorial Field should expect to be disappointed by a Dartmouth loss.

Prediction: Brown 38, Green 24