Strong Big Green faces tough Crimson opposition
When looking ahead to the Big Green football team's Homecoming matchup with defending Ivy League champion Harvard on Saturday at Memorial Field, there's good news, and then there's good news.
Good news: With wins over Yale, Holy Cross, and Columbia, Dartmouth (3-3, 2-1 Ivy) is riding a three-game winning streak, the team's first since 1997.
More good news: At 4-2 (3-0 Ivy), this year's Crimson squad is hardly the unstoppable juggernaut that went undefeated in 2001 and came back from a 21-0 halftime deficit to beat Dartmouth, 31-21, in Cambridge last year.
Despite all this good news, however, the defending Ivy League champions are still no pushover, as the Crimson is tied with Pennsylvania for first place in the Ancient Eight after defeating Cornell, Brown and Princeton.
Harvard's offense is led by sophomore quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has a 143.79 quarterback rating, the second best in the Ivy League. In addition to completing 61.6 percent of his passes this season, Fitzpatrick is also a threat on the ground, as his 376 rushing yards are the fifth-most of any player in the Ivy League.
When Fitzpatrick puts the ball in the air, he has a powerful target in senior wide receiver Carl Morris, who leads the Ivy League in receiving yards with 811 on 52 catches. Senior running back Nick Palazzo adds a powerful scoring punch on the ground, leading the Ivy in points with 54. With a team scoring average of 29.8 points per game, Harvard is sure to bring a powerful offense to Hanover on Saturday.
Dartmouth's offense is having a remarkable year in its own right. Quarterback Brian Mann '02 is just 371 yards away from becoming the 10th Ivy quarterback to accumulate 5,000 career passing yards, and leads the league in total offense, with 1556 yards.
Mann has found a dynamic duo of targets in wide receiver Jay Barnard '04 and tight end Casey Cramer '04, who are both on pace to break Dartmouth's single-season reception record, currently owned by John Hyland '94.
Dartmouth's ground game has been helped by the emergence of tailback Michael Giles '04, who has recorded a pair of 100-yard games this season and is third in the Ivy League in total rushing yards with 472 yards. Mann is a force on the ground in his own right, rushing for 244 yards through the Big Green's first six games.
On defense, Harvard has held opponents to an average below 25 points per game this season, while Dartmouth has allowed over 32 points per contest. However, since the Big Green's 49-14 loss at Pennsylvania on Oct. 5, no Dartmouth opponent has scored more than 24 points.
Individually, free safety Clayton Smith '05 has led the way for Dartmouth's defense, with an Ivy-best 64 tackles to his name in the first five games of the season (43 unassisted).
Defensive back Chris Green '06 was named Ivy Rookie of the Week for his performance against Columbia. Against the Lions, Green recorded eight tackles (five solo) and broke up a key pass late in the game. Green has also emerged as a standout kick returner for Dartmouth, averaging 24.6 yards per return.
Dartmouth head coach John Lyons has his team playing its best football since 1997, when the team went 8-2, and team captain Zack Walz '98 went on to a professional career with the NFL's Arizona Cardinals. However, there was one thing that the 1997 Big Green squad couldn't do -- beat Harvard.
The 2002 Big Green gets its chance tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. at Memorial Field.