Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Ivy League: Week One

For people trying to gauge the strength or weakness of an opponent, there's no evidence that's as potentially misleading than a week one performance. The radical changes so many teams show from week one to week two should give anyone pause before they decide to make any grand statements about teams that are 1-0 or 0-1. So take just about everything you see below with a grain of salt.

Harvard 31 Holy Cross 14

Harvard has so much depth it's really disgusting. The Crimson were forced to start their second-string QB Chris Pizzotti this season because #1 Liam O'Hagan was suspended for half the season. Pizzotti goes down with an injury in the opener and sophomore Jeff Witt comes in and doesn't miss a beat. Of course, any QB is going to look good with an all-world running back like Clifton Dawson behind him. Dawson was awesome again in the game with 170 yards on 24 carries including two touchdowns. But the next four games should be a little tougher for Harvard as opponents will start putting 8 guys in the box to stop Dawson and put pressure on whoever's throwing the ball. Harvard has a recent history of dodging one bullet, but not two or three when it loses its #1 QB. In 2003, Ryan Fitzpatrick went down and the Crimson won one game with backup Garret Schires, but then they were beaten by Columbia a week later. This Saturday's game against Brown in Providence will be a toughie. If Dawson is contained in any way, the Crimson are dead.

The Harvard defense, on the other hand, looked pretty good against an admittedly mediocre Holy Cross offense. Still, holding the Crusaders, (who came up with that nickname by the way, Osama bin Laden?), to just 40 yards rushing was impressive. They did give up some big passing plays, but overall Harvard did not look like a patsy in the air. This still looks like a very, very good team and the next two weeks at Brown and Lehigh will show us whether Harvard will be a 2nd/3rd place team in this league or its champion

Brown 34 Georgetown 21

Brown began the post Nick Hartigan era with an impressive offensive show versus Georgetown. Instead of going with one guy to replace Hartigan, the Bears ran the ball by committee and had good success with 207 yards rushing on 45 carries. And the default dean of Ivy quarterbacks, Joe DiGiacomo had a solid game, going 14 of 20 for 205 yards and no INT's. The final score is a little deceiving as Georgetown scored two late, almost meaningless touchdowns after falling behind 34-7.

We won't really know how good Brown is until this weekend's game against Harvard. For the Bears, it will all be about that offensive line and whether it can get some kind of a running game going against the stingy Crimson D. DiGiacomo is a good quarterback, not a great one. And while he has the ability to win games by hooking up with star receiver Lonnie Hill a few times per game, he won't have that luxury against Harvard.

Either way, this should be another great game in a rivalry that's becoming a great one for these teams and this league.

San Diego 43 Yale 17

It seemed like embattled Yale Head Coach Jack Siedlecki was making excuses as he reacted to the Elis thrashing by San Diego at the Bowl. He basically put the loss on the shoulders of San Diego's great QB Josh Johnson and left it at that. The fact is the entire defense was weak, giving up more than 200 yards rushing to go along with the 345-yard performance from Johnson.

On the offensive side, Yale QB Matt Polhemus looked good as a runner with 54 yards on eight carries, but less impressive as a passer, going just 11 of 28 with an interception. Top Yale tailback Mike McCleod was held to 63 yards on 18 carries. I was impressed when McCleod rushed for 600+ yards last year as a freshman, but if he turns in similar stats as a soph it will be a lot less impressive. Yale might improve by leaps and bounds next week and it's possible San Diego really has become a Division-IA level squad, but I'm not so sure.

Bucknell 20 Cornell 5

The Big Red just didn't look ready to play in a shocking 20-5 loss to Bucknell on the road. But they still rushed for 234 yards and out-gained the Bison overall by 436-331. I think Cornell will bounce back strong this Saturday at home versus Yale, but it's starting to look like this team is not as good as I thought it would be and the November 11th game against the Big Red might now be a winnable one for Columbia.

Princeton 14 Lehigh 10

The Tigers put up a fine defensive effort and Lehigh is a quality opponent, but this 14-10 win does nothing to answer the questions I have about Princeton's all-new offensive line and still untested QB Jeff Terrell. The Tigers managed just 108 total yards on the ground on 34 carries for a 3.2 yards per carry average. And Terrell threw three interceptions. I will have to hold off on any pronouncements on Princeton until they play a team with a stronger offense.

Colgate 28 Dartmouth 7

Dartmouth hung in this game for a surprisingly long time, but fell apart at the end to lose by 21. It's nice that the Big Green kept it close for as long as they did, but they had just 170 total yards on offense! Again, things could change for Dartmouth, but not this Saturday against the powerhouse University of New Hampshire. New QB Tom Bennewitz did pretty well, going 14-of-22 and not throwing a pick. But he didn't get any TD's either and his 4.6 yards-per-attempt stat was positively anemic.

Penn 21 Lafayette 11

The Quakers looked like well, the Quakers, in this nice road win for Al Bagnoli's 100th career victory at Penn. Joe Sandberg had a monster game, rushing for 166 yards on 24 carries. New QB Robert Irvin was efficient, going 17-of-27 for 182 yards. This was an especially impressive win because it was the first game at Lafayette's remodeled stadium and the crowd support was definitely there for this interstate rivalry.


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