Can QB Make Finale Memorable?

by Sammy Kardon | 11/16/01 6:00am

As Greg Smith '02 was walking towards the team bus after a devastating 49-17 loss to Holy Cross during which he had broken his middle finger, the then-leading passer in the Ivy League held an impromptu press conference for the few Dartmouth reporters gathered there.

I remember being surprised at how well he was handling what looked to be the end of what he would later describe as a "dream season." All Smith wanted to talk about was the rest of the team's prospects without him, which he maintained would remain good.

It wasn't until the end of the interview that a hint of the expected emotion crept into the fallen star's voice.

"I don't want this to be my last memory of football," he said and his profound disappointment was apparent to all listening.

Well, it looks like Smith is going to get his wish.

Head coach John Lyons confirmed yesterday that the quarterback has been practicing this week and is likely to return tomorrow to split time with Joe Kinder '03.

Ever since Smith and his two 400+-yard games went down in the fourth game of the campaign, the passing game has been non-existent. The succession of inexperienced back-ups -- first Evan Love '05 and now Kinder -- have made the passing game the Big Green's biggest liability instead of its greatest asset.

Although Michael Gratch '02 has blossomed into one of the premier backs in the Ivies, the lush field of smart, fast, able-handed pass-catchers has lain fallow.

It is unclear what kind of an impact Smith will have tomorrow. His cast came off last week and although he has been throwing footballs all his life, there is bound to be some rust. Smith's success was based on his ability to consistently make tough passes into tight spots to receivers who might only be open for a short time. It's hard to regain that kind of feel after four weeks in a cast.

Also, the condition of Smith's hand likely will limit him exclusively to the shotgun formation. This should allow the Tigers to load up against the pass when ever No. 10 is in there.

Last year, Smith lit up the Tigers for 308 yards on 20 of 27 passing in the Big Green's second and final victory.

This year's Tiger squad (like last year's) is not very good with a record of 2-4 in the Ivies (2-6 overall). Nevertheless, Princeton should be high coming off a 20-point win against Yale and closing out its season.

I'm a sentimentalist so I'm assuming that Smith can make a big impact on the field, even in his limited role. At the very least, he should be able to light a fire under his battered and demoralized teammates. It's hard to say that one player can make them forget about a season of frustration and inefficacy, but Smith was the team's best player before he went down

Behind that emotional edge, sharpened even further because this is the last game for every senior, I'm picking the 1-6 Big Green to win and match its win total of the past three seasons.

Let's say Dartmouth 31, Princeton 21.