Big Green football looks to continue hot streak against Yale

by Brett Drucker | 10/9/14 5:02pm

Fresh off a long-anticipated victory over the University of Pennsylvania, the Dartmouth football team looks to carry its momentum to one of the most historic venues in the country.

The Yale Bowl, celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, will be the stage for this weekend’s contest between the Big Green and the Bulldogs, a rivalry that even predates the 61,446-seat stadium (their first matchup was in 1884).

This season, the matchup has a special resonance as the first major Ivy League test for two teams that look primed for runs towards the Ivy League title on the shoulders of potent offenses and opportunistic defenses.

The Big Green (2-1, 1-0 Ivy) travel to New Haven fresh off the program’s first victory over Penn since 2007. Dartmouth defeated the Quakers 31-13 last weekend in Hanover in the team’s most consistent effort of the season, with key plays coming from the offense, defense and special teams units.

“We should have beaten them the last three or four years, so to finally beat them was incredible,” defensive lineman Evan Chrustic ’15 said.

After the game, nickelback Frankie Hernandez ’16 was named the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week for his 11-tackle effort and fumble recovery.

Head coach Buddy Teevens pointed to the team’s confidence and consistent execution as the key takeaways from the game, which saw Dartmouth take an early lead and maintain control throughout a largely uneventful second half.

“There were mistakes made, but we overcame some. We forced some turnovers, we developed good field position and we were opportunistic,” Teevens said. “All components plugged together and worked well.”

Yale (3-0, 1-0 Ivy) comes into the game undefeated on the season after a thorough dismantling of Cornell University in Ithaca last weekend, 51-13. The Bulldogs have ridden their powerful offense to success, scoring an average of more than 50 points per game.

Yale boasts the Ivy League’s top passer, Morgan Roberts, who is averaging 326 yards per game and leads the league with 10 touchdowns in addition to the league’s leading rusher, Tyler Varga, who is averaging 140 yards per game and a league-leading seven touchdowns. Both Roberts, who transferred to Yale from Clemson University, and Varga were originally recruited by Teevens at Dartmouth when they were coming out of high school.

“No real surprise, they get better with time,” Teevens said.

The Bulldogs’ defense has been less impressive, allowing 33 points per game and falling in the bottom half of the league in most defensive categories.

Yale’s biggest win of the season came with a second-week upset over the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in a dramatic overtime game, 49-43 in New Haven.

“I think it’s more of a statement that the Ivy League has its talent and we can compete with some of the bigger schools, that scholarships don’t necessarily equal more talent,” Chrustic said. “It definitely shows that they’re an improved team from the past few years but in terms of overall, it just speaks to the power of the Ivy League.”

Based on the strength of both team’s offenses and defenses that have struggled to keep points off the board, this weekend is looking to shape up as classic shootout.

“As an offense, our biggest and most important key for the game is just to put points on the board,” Dartmouth center Sean Ronan ’15 said, noting the power of Yale’s offense. “We’re just going to have to do the same.”

Defensively, Dartmouth will be focused on stopping the run early which would force Yale to rely more on the pass, Chrustic said.

“If we get the run game stopped early on, then we know they have to pass the ball and it makes it a little easier getting to the passer,” he said.

Teevens praised the defensive line’s performance last week as the six-man rotating unit successfully drew double teams, stopped the run, pressured the quarterback and forced critical turnovers.

“We play a bunch of guys, and I think that’s one of the strengths we have: that we can rotate people through and there’s not a drop-off,” he said.

Competition in the trenches will likely be one of the key matchups in the game as the defenses seek to slow down their opposing offensive machines.

The Yale Bowl is also one of the few venues still featuring a natural grass field surface, with most other schools, including Dartmouth, having switched over to artificial field turf. The Big Green has been practicing on Blackman Fields to prepare.

“The turf is a little more consistent of a surface, you know what you’re getting,” Chrustic said. “On grass, there can be divots or whatnot. It’s harder for defensive linemen when our cleats don’t dig in as well.”

The game kicks off Saturday at 1 p.m.