Football to take on Yale in battle of undefeated Ivy rivals
With three decisive blowout victories under its belt, the football team will soon encounter its toughest challenge to date this season. In the conference home opener and annual Homecoming game this Saturday, the Big Green (3-0, 1-0 Ivy) now seeks to extend its strong start against the similarly formidable Yale University (3-0, 1-0 Ivy), who represents one of the larger obstacles to the Ivy League crown.
The Big Green defense will need to contain Yale quarterback Morgan Roberts on Saturday. Coming off a 2014 season in which he ranked first in the League in total passing yards and garnered second-team All-Ivy honors, the junior has posted a 7:2 touchdown to interception ratio and thrown for 915 yards through three games. Roberts’s raw totals give an impressive veneer, but his high usage rate of 43.33 passing attempts per game mitigates his efficiency. Yale currently ranks tied for sixth in the conference in yards per pass with 7.0.
This high pass rate also speaks to a broader characteristic that defines the Bulldogs: a high tempo spread offense, as the team has gotten off the second-most plays in the Ivy League this year. Part of this dynamism stems from Roberts’s ability on the move, an aspect that Dartmouth defensive back Troy Donahue ’15 believed would test his defense.
“[Roberts is] definitely a good athlete, he does a good job extending plays,” Donahue said. “When his first few reads aren’t there, that’s what can separate him from other quarterbacks that we’ve played so far, [he can] make stuff happen even if his first read isn’t there.”
Elsewhere on offense, four different Bulldog receivers have eclipsed the 100-yard mark so far this year. Michael Siragusa Jr. and Robert Clemons III have each hauled in two touchdowns and notched more than 150 receiving yards. Clemons, along with Chandler Rich who was the primary ball carrier to start the season, missed Yale’s 27-12 win over Lehigh last week due to injury, and both are questionable to return tomorrow. In Rich’s absence, running back Deshawn Salter assumed the lead backfield role and thrived, exploding for 233 yards and two scores on 29 carries.
On defense, the Bulldogs have been fairly stout in the early season, placing third in the Ivy League in both opposing yards per pass and rush. Big Green head coach Buddy Teevens pointed to Yale’s pass-rush and scheme in the back as focal points for his own team’s preparations.
“Defensively, they’re a pressure outfit,” Teevens said. “They’re not afraid to blitz, they can play man-to-man coverage with help over the top. But they’ll challenge you, and so then it comes down to the man-to-man situation, [whether] you can win your individual battle.”
For the home team on Saturday, Dartmouth will attempt to continue on an upward slope seen in its 2015 game-to-game progression. After an improvement on the season opener against Sacred Heart two weeks ago, the Big Green followed that up by dismantling the University of Pennsylvania 41-20 in the first Ivy game.
Leading the way in this effort was quarterback Dalyn Williams ’16, who experienced one of the best games of his illustrious Dartmouth career. As a result of netting over 400 yards and six touchdowns in the air and on the ground — and having just two incompletions, one on a throwaway — the senior received multiple FCS player of the week honors from national outlets.
Teevens considered the performance an outgrowth of his quarterback’s excellent decision-making.
“Everything we charged him with, he did well,” Teevens said. “He was precise with his throws... He was good with his feet, he was patient to let things develop, he would go to his third or fourth receiver on occasion in terms of his progression, aided by the pass protection… We do give him the flexibility if he sees something, he makes an adjustment, and he did a number of them on Saturday. I think that’s a plus, just the maturity he’s shown on the ball.”
In addition to Williams’s exploits, his primary target out wide had a career day. In catching 12 balls for 213 yards and two scores, receiver Victor Williams ’16 surpassed career highs in catches and yards he set a week before. His quarterback felt several things contributed to the receiver’s feats.
“Guys are singling him up and you can’t guard him,” Dalyn Williams said. “He’s fast, he’s small, he’s deceptively strong, he runs good routes. On the outside, it’s also easier to see him [than when he’s in the slot]…Putting him on the outside he’s able to take advantage of his speed.”
Furthermore, as both Dalyn Williams and Teevens confirmed, Victor Williams will now permanently move out wide from his usual position in the slot — even in the return of Ryan McManus ’15, who recently has been beset by injury — due to his success in the last two contests. With McManus likely getting back to the field on Saturday, Dalyn Williams believes his offense can have greater options and potency.
“Both of those guys are going to get open in a zone [defense],” Dalyn Williams said. “So it puts stress on the defense, you got to worry about those guys stretching the field and making plays. Now you don’t have as many guys in the box, now we run the ball, then I can run the ball. Now [the defense] has to change up what it’s doing because we’re running the ball effectively.”
At times in the contest against Penn, it looked as though Dalyn Williams had unlimited time to stand in the pocket and throw. Accordingly, Williams praised the offensive line’s performance, and touched on the group’s coalescence through three games this year.
“Kudos to my offensive line, they did an awesome job in pass protection,” he said. “They picked up every blitz, they knew what was coming… Each one of them is getting better each week. Jacob Flores [’16] being a veteran in the middle is really the foundation, and they’re just doing a good job working with each other.”
As much of a scintillating offensive show that Williams and company have put on, the Dartmouth defense has equally been a strong suit for the team in 2015. The unit has yielded an average of under 13 points per game, ranks first in the conference with 4.0 yards allowed per opposing play and has forced 10 turnovers through three games. Many of those turnovers have come early in games, a fact that Donahue feels is representative of strong game starts for the defense — and a key improvement upon the 2014 season.
“It makes it a lot easier when you can get up on a team, get the momentum going and we can just pin our ears backs and attack at that point,” Donahue said. “Last year we really struggled getting off to good starts. I think that was a point of emphasis this offseason… So far we’ve done a good job coming out fast, creating turnovers.”
The Saturday afternoon tilt between two undefeated teams and Ivy League football powers also marks the Homecoming game for Dartmouth. With the matchup already being among the most crucial to the Big Green’s title hopes, Donahue noted the added excitement surrounding the occasion.
“Homecoming’s always a blast. It’s fun playing in front of the huge community,” Donahue said. “Every game I’ve ever played against [Yale] has been a hard-fought game. I’m sure they’ll be coming in here ready to get after it. I mean you can’t ask for anything better than this, two undefeated teams playing at Homecoming — that’s as good as it gets.”