Football tries to take down Brown
If a dead guy can win a Senate seat in Missouri, the Dartmouth football team can certainly beat Brown. After all, the Big Green are showing signs of life.
Dartmouth tied a season high with 31 points last weekend, even leading in the third quarter over first-place Cornell. Senior defensive lineman Dan Hutchinson recorded 2.5 sacks in the contest while freshman wideout Jay Barnard established himself as a reliable receiver, catching seven balls for 92 yards.
Tailback Michael Gratch '02, who entered the season as the third string, became the first Dartmouth back to rush for 100 yards in almost a year. And new starting quarterback Greg Smith '02 completed 56 percent of his passes for 202 yards.
Granted, Smith turned the ball over three times on an interception and two fumbles. True, the defense gave up 49 points for the third weekend in a row.
And yes, the Big Green haven't won an Ivy League football game all year.
But as Ralph Nader might say, it's time for a change. Perhaps the Big Green can turn around their 2000 campaign.
Running against Dartmouth is a Brown Bears team similar to last week's opponent, Cornell, in most facets other than record. Although they stand fifth in the Ivies at 2-3, the Bears boast a superior offense and bemoan a leaky defense that have come together to average 64 points per game between Brown and its opponents.
"They have given up some yards and some points but they've been able to overcome that offensively in most cases," Dartmouth Head Coach John Lyons told The Dartmouth yesterday.
Brown senior quarterback Eric Webber, in his first year replacing All-Ivy standout James Perry, leads the Ivy League in completions (231), passing yardage (2,567) and touchdowns (22).
By comparison, Dartmouth has scored 20 total touchdowns all season.
Webber's 64.5 completion rate is second behind Penn's Gavin Hoffman.
"He's good, he seems to be very accurate, he runs their system very well," Lyons said. "He's got a lot of options."
Wide receiver Stephen Campbell leads the Ivies by far with 96 catches on the season, or an average of 12 per game. The tall senior has been aided by two other top-notch wideouts on the Brown side.
Chas Gessner, built like Campbell, has hauled in 47 passes per game. Billy Rackley, a speedier flanker, has caught 37 balls and averages 11.8 yards per reception.
"Campbell's a great receiver," Lyons noted. "You have to be always aware of he is, but they have a lot of other threats."
That Brown's passing attack is dangerous is similar to the threat the Big Green faced last weekend against Cornell quarterback Ricky Rahne. What Dartmouth was less worried about last weekend was the running game.
Brown, on the other hand, starts one of the three best running backs in the Ivy League. Tailback Michael Malan trails only Columbia's Jonathan Reese -- who hung 236 yards on Dartmouth several weekends ago -- in the Ivy League rushing race. Malan has 1,033 yards on the season.
He averages 4.9 yards per carry, and has caught 15 balls out of the backfield.
"Offensively they're better than Cornell because they have a better running back in Malan," Lyons said. "They're by far the best offense in the league."
This does not bode well for a Dartmouth defense that has allowed at least 40 points in six of the eight games it has played. These numbers can in part be attributed to the offensive turnovers that have given opposing offenses good field position.
"Our defense hasn't been able to defend the field position well," Lyons said.
But the defense also has been unable to cause turnovers to help out its mistake-prone offense. Against Cornell, the team lost three turnovers and received none.
"We have to try to keep their offense off the field," Lyons said of Brown. "We just can't give these guys more opportunities than they already get."
Lyons also said the Big Green will need to continue to limit big plays, as they did last week, and to tackle well, which they struggled with against Cornell.
Brown's defense has had similar difficulties as Dartmouth's, yielding big plays and high yardage totals.
"People have hurt them throwing the ball at times," Lyons said.
The Big Green will attack Brown's weakness with last week's stars, Smith and Barnard -- neither of whom figured to see so much playing time early in the year.
Smith, the backup quarterback until a week ago, has a strong arm. His decision-making has been shaky at times -- several incomplete passes last weekend were almost intercepted -- but he has put up good numbers in his relief appearances this year.
Barnard and Matt DeLellis start at wide receiver with two original starters out for the year -- Matt Davis '03 with injury and Damien Roomets '02 due to disciplinary action.
At running back, Gratch will attempt to repeat his performance from last weekend. Opening-day starter Reggie Belhomme '00, whose injured leg continues to improve, should see more time on the natural grass surface.
Superstar offensive lineman Caleb Moore '01 returns this weekend from a badly sprained ankle, but he won't be at full strength.
Moore, the team captain, is one of a core group of seniors who will play their last home game of their college careers tomorrow.
"We don't have a lot of seniors left with us, Lyons said. "And the guys who are left hung in there and played through some tough times in terms of the success we've had. I just hope that in their last game here we can go out and get us a win."
To do that, the Big Green will need to cut down on offensive turnovers and pray their defense can come up with some stops.
If they don't, even a recount won't help.