Season of Chutes, Ladders
Well, the season has just passed its halfway point and already it has been quite a ride. After the sobering experience of the September 11 attacks, Dartmouth's first three weeks represented the headiest days the program has seen in years. From the aborted but impressive comeback against New Hampshire in Week 1 to the one-point heartbreaker the next week against Penn, people were talking with unbridled optimism about this team's potential even before the Big Green picked up its first W against Yale in Week 3.
At that point, Dartmouth was 1-2 but striking fear into the hearts of their opponents, who saw film of Greg Smith '02, an early All-American candidate, leading his potent and multi-dimensional offense up and down the field with his deep and talented corps of receivers.
The defense also looked better than it had in years, clamping down to hold Penn scoreless in the second half and limiting UNH to a lone touchdown in the second half of a 42-38 game. Despite giving up yards, the unit showed the ability to break up big plays and make key stops.
There was hope in Hanover for the first time in a long time--but then Smith broke his middle finger, ending his burgeoning season as Dartmouth got slaughtered, 49-17, by an inferior Holy Cross team.
Stunned, shocked and forced to deal with the unexpected, Dartmouth found itself outworked in the Homecoming game against Columbia, the worst program in Ivy League history.
Freshman Evan Love, forced to take over the reigns long before he was ready to take advantage of the sophisticated and potent offense, struggled and looked out of place. The defense, despite flashes of brilliance, fell victim to several big plays that led to Columbia scores and allowed the Lions to convert a third and 9 with the game on the line late in the fourth.
Obviously, this season has been anything but predictable. There have been dizzying highs and frustrating lows, but whatever else happens in the next four games, it is safe to say that Dartmouth is in serious trouble when the team travels to play 5-0 Harvard on Saturday. The Crimson has the third-best scoring offense and the second-best scoring defense in the league and, unless Dartmouth's season takes another drastic, unexpected and improbable turn, Harvard should win comfortably; say 35-14.