Football takes aim at Brown Bears

by Ben Reed | 11/11/05 6:00am

With its hopes of contending for an Ivy crown or finishing with a winning record thwarted after a 1-4 start in league play, the Big Green football team (2-6) will now try to play the role of spoiler, hoping to vanquish the title aspirations of its remaining two competitors, Brown and Princeton. Those two teams are currently knotted atop the Ivy standings with identical 4-1 records against league opponents. On Saturday, Dartmouth heads to Providence to take on the Bears (7-1 overall), who have won their last six games and will come into the contest overwhelming favorites.

For the Big Green to shock the Divison 1-AA world and pull off what would be the Ivy League upset of the season, the team will have to find a way to quell the offensive juggernaut that Brown has been this season. The Bears have scored at least 31 points in all eight of their games this season, posting 35 in their only loss of the season, a three-point nailbiter against Harvard.

Slowing down the Bears explosive attack would require solving a riddle that no Brown opponent has been able to decipher this season: how to stop senior All-Ivy and All-American running back Nick Hartigan.

The five-time Ivy League Player of the Week is the nation's leading rusher, averaging more than 160 yards per game for a total of 1333 yards and 15 touchdowns in eight contests, numbers rarely found outside of video games.

An Academic All-American and finalist for the 2005 Draddy Trophy (the academic Heisman) with a 3.91 GPA in political science and history, this guy's professors have been no match for him either.

But Dartmouth fans do have some reason for optimism. The Big Green defense has been stingy throughout the season, ranking 31st in the country with just under 330 yards allowed per game. Dartmouth's linebacking trio of Ian Wilson '08, Josh Dooley '06 and Joe Gibalski '07 have combined for 102 solo tackles, while bruising defensive end Anthony Gargiulo '06 has wreaked havoc in opponents' backfields, notching six sacks and 12 tackles for losses. In all, the unit has limited opponents to a mere 3.5 yards per carry.

And the defense need not look beyond last season's contest to find a blueprint for stifling Hartigan and the Brown offense. In a 20-7 Dartmouth triumph, Hartigan was held to just 65 yards on the ground. A similar effort would likely be required of the defense for the Big Green to hope for an upset this weekend.

In order to keep pace with a high-scoring team, Dartmouth's offense must also find a way to put points on the board. In five Ivy contests, the Big Green has only managed a total of 50 points. Brown, by comparison, has accumulated 72 in just its last two games.

Brown's defense, however, has been vulnerable on the ground this season, allowing an average of 4.8 yards per rush to opponents, even though its pass defense is ranked 20th in the country. Although injuries to Chad Gaudet '08 and recently Jason Bash '06 have debilitated Dartmouth's ground game this season, the Big Green must carry the ball effectively and regularly to exploit the defense and keep Hartigan off the field. In last year's victory against the Bears, Gaudet rushed for 137 yards and a touchdown to spur the men in green.

While rookie quarterback Josh Cohen '09 seems to be improving each game and posted a season-best 312 passing yards last week in a 21-10 loss to Cornell, he has also been intercepted nine times and sacked frequently. Against a strong pass defense, Dartmouth will need a balanced offensive output in order to hit pay dirt with regularity Saturday.

Against a hungry team on the brink of an Ivy championship, Dartmouth will need to bring to Providence its best efforts of the season on both sides of the ball, and maybe hope for a little luck too.

Dartmouth leads the historical series against the Brown Bears, 53-25-4, although the Bears have won six of the last seven contests. In his career, Big Green head coach Buddy Teevans owns a 4-1 record against Brown.

The game is scheduled for a 12:30 p.m. kickoff at Brown Stadium in Providence.