Look for Green Offense to Prevail
Harvard never knew what hit them. There they were, strolling along at 5-0, getting ready to face a 1-4 Dartmouth team that had been going even further downhill since its star quarterback broke his middle finger. The Crimson fully expecting to have at least as easy a game as last year's 49-7 thrashing that spoiled the Big Green's Homecoming festivities, but Harvard had another thing coming.
Dartmouth came out like a moose on fire and stormed down the field twice to take a quick two touchdown advantage on two impressive drives. The Green's intensity held firm for the entire half as they played nearly flawless football. The defense came up with several key third and fourth down stops to short-circuit the potent Crimson offense before it could even start to sizzle. The Big Green O, without piling up the yards, picked its spots and capitalized on opportunities (like turnovers) that presented themselves to finish the half up 21-0. Also impressive was the rotating-quarterback offense which saw three different players -- QBs Evan Love '05 and Joe Kinder '03 and big tight end Casey Cramer '04 -- take snaps in an inventive manner that kept the Crimson D consistently confused and back on its heels.
We all know how the story ended: Harvard came back to score on its first four drives to take the lead before the Big Green could manage a first down and won the game relatively easily, 31-21. Nevertheless, the cloud of the defeat had a visible silver lining. The Big Green showed more zest and zeal for football than they had in the previous two losses and seemed to finally be eschewing the malaise that had engulfed them after Greg Smith '02 went down for good against Holy Cross.
Playing Cornell tomorrow will be completely different in football and emotional terms. The Big Red, like the Big Green, is 1-5, having just picked up their first win against lowly Princeton last weekend. The Big Red is also nestled next to the Big Green at the bottom of the Ivy League in scoring defense and yards allowed.
Dartmouth's offensive numbers, however, are better. Passing is easy to write off because a lot of the Big Green's advantage is left over from Smith's torrid start, but rushing, where Green outgains Red 116.0 yards per game to 97.5, should be a Dartmouth advantage.
Although it will be hard for Dartmouth to get up as high to play Cornell as it did to play the hated Crimson last Saturday, the strong start was not an illusion. Hopefully, Dartmouth will prove me right and push around a terrible Cornell team on both sides of the ball in a crisp, clean blow-out. At the very least, being at home, the Big Green should be able to scratch out a win in an ugly, mistake-filled slug-fest. Reality will probably see an outcome somewhere in between. Let's call it Dartmouth 28, Cornell 17.