Key Ivy match-up with Cornell awaits Dartmouth football
As the football season heads into the home stretch, one thing is for sure: no one is accusing the Big Green of being boring.
Out of the seven games that head coach John Lyons' squad has played this season, six have been decided by eight or fewer points. The lone exception, a 49-14 blowout loss against Pennsylvania on October 5, sparked a three-game winning streak that has the Big Green (3-4, 2-2 Ivy) on its way to the team's best record since 1997.
That streak, however, ended last Saturday at the hands of the Harvard Crimson, who spoiled Dartmouth's Homecoming with a 31-26 win.
Now, Dartmouth looks to get back on track as the team travels to Ithaca, N.Y., for an Ivy League matchup against the Cornell Big Red at Schoellkopf Field.
Like Dartmouth, Cornell is no stranger to close games, as the Big Red's last two games have both gone to overtime. However, Cornell's 32-25 overtime loss to Princeton last week dropped the Big Red to 2-5 this season (1-3 Ivy), and Cornell's statistics aren't much more impressive than the team's record.
Cornell is averaging 18.7 points per contest, the second-worst average in the Ivy League after Columbia, and the Big Red's passing offense is the worst in the Ancient Eight, good for 167.9 yards each game. Cornell's only defense has been equally woeful this season, as the Big Red have given up an Ivy-worst 32.6 points per game.
Cornell's defensive struggles should be music to the ears of Dartmouth quarterback Brian Mann '02, who presides over a Big Green offense that seems to make history every time it takes the field.
Last week against Harvard, Mann threw for a career-high 382 yards and tallied a Dartmouth-record 440 yards of total offense. With 2,012 passing yards in the season's first seven games, Mann is also eyeing Dartmouth's single-season passing record.
With three games left to play, Mann is currently within 750 yards of the record currently owned by Miami Dolphins' quarterback Jay Fiedler '94, who threw for 2,748 yards in 1992.
Meanwhile, Mann's favorite targets, wide receiver Jay Barnard '04 and tight end Casey Cramer '04, are both within 10 catches of Dartmouth's single-season reception record, set by John Hyland '94, who caught 63 passes during the 1993 season.
With 54 and 53 catches, respectively, Barnard and Cramer are also on pace to become the first pair of Ivy players to catch 70 passes each in a season since 1983. However, according to Cramer, the records aren't even a factor as the Big Green prepares for the game.
"You have to stay away from thinking of personal records like that," Cramer said. "Because if you aren't careful, they will consume your thoughts. Next thing you know, you are more worried about your stats than you are the outcome of the game, so I stay away from statistics as much as possible."
As much as Cramer stays away from Hyland's record numbers, however, he and Barnard are getting very close to them.
Meanwhile, Cornell has a record-breaking receiver of its own in senior Keith Ferguson. With 183 catches to his name, Ferguson is already the Big Red's all-time receptions leader, and is 10 yards away from Cornell's all-time receiving yardage record, currently held by Joe Splendoio with 2,337 yards. Ferguson is averaging 7.14 catches per game and, barring a freak injury, should make Cornell history on Saturday afternoon. The Big Green, however, will simply be looking to make "history" of the Big Red.
Kickoff is at 1 p.m. at Cornell's Schoellkopf Field.