Leading off: VOTE FOR NORRIES!
In a brilliant campaign, Liberty Mutual Insurance is sponsoring an online site where people can vote for the college football coach of the year from all the major NCAA divisions. Here's the link: Coach of the Year
You also get a chance to write a little bit about why you're voting for your candidate. Here's what I wrote about Norries Wilson:
"He's brought a fire back to the Columbia football team that has already exceeded its win total from all of last season. Wilson also really takes risks to stand up for his players in an unfavorable environment. These hard-working scholar-athletes know he's on their side."
I realize these online polls are a little silly. But I'd also like to see Coach Wilson get as much support as possible. After last week, it's clear Norries is not getting the respect he deserves and some of us can do something to change that.
On to Dartmouth...
For the last several years, the Columbia-Dartmouth game has become an annual battle to avoid the Ivy cellar. But lost in the concern over the standings is the fact that most of these games have been exciting and competitive for most of the last several years. In fact, with the exception of Dartmouth's 40-0 blowout win in 1996, (and that game was actually for FIRST PLACE in the Ivies that year), and Columbia's impressive 49-21 win over the Big Green in 2000, these teams have played eight very good games over the last 10 seasons.
All of this comes after Dartmouth put together one of the most impressive in-conference dominations in league history. After the Lions pulled out a close win over the Big Green/Indians in 1971 at Baker Field, Dartmouth never lost to Columbia again until 1998. There was one tie, a 17-17 game in 1983 at Giants Stadium of all places. Columbia played there just once that season as Wien Stadium was being built. The Lions played some other "home" games at Hofstra. But I've always wondered what the attendance was for that Giants Stadium game. If anyone knows, please let us know in the comments. Anyway, during that incredible 26 game streak without a loss, Dartmouth outscored Columbia by an average of 30-12. The Big Green also recorded five shutouts. But there were some very close games. One came in 1987, when the Lions just missed a last-second field goal attempt that would have ended their record losing streak eleven months earlier than when they actually did. Another was in 1989, when Columbia blew a 12-3 lead with about two minutes to go and fell 13-12. And in 1994, the Lions lost 14-13 when Columbia Coach Ray Tellier made the gutsy call to go for the win with a two-point conversion attempt that ultimately failed. And in some games that weren't exactly close, there were still some memorable moments. In the 1982 game, Columbia QB John Witkowski lit up the Lion and the Ivy League record book going 39-for-64 for 466 yards and five touchdowns in a 56-41 loss to Dartmouth.
But the streak came to a close in 1998 in Hanover, when Columbia edged the Big Green 24-14. This was not only the first win for Columbia over Dartmouth since 1971, it was the first win for them in Hanover since 1946! Including that game, the Lions have won five of the last eight games against the Green, including another win in Hanover in 2001.
The 2006 Big Green
Dartmouth has been slammed with a very tough schedule to start the season and the result is a pretty misleading 0-5 record. I'm not sure how many Ivies would have fared better against the likes of Colgate, UNH, Penn, Yale, and Holy Cross. Head Coach Buddy Teevens is doing a good job with a crew that was 2-8 last year and lost six out of seven Ivy games by an average of 18 points a game. This year in two games against two of the best Ivy teams, the Big Green have only been beaten by an average of 9.5 points. It's hard to tell whether the team attitude has changed much considering the winless first half of the season, but Dartmouth does seem to be playing with more fire.
Some of that fire got out of control after last week's overtime loss to Holy Cross when players and coaches from both teams got into a post game brawl that brought the local cops onto the field. But the incomparable Bruce Wood of Big Green Alert reports that it's likely no Dartmouth players will be suspended and no one was seriously hurt, so the effects of fight will be purely emotional.
The Big Green are averaging just 13.2 points a game, but there is marked improvement in some areas. The running game is still weak, but the team is averaging just under 100 yards a game on the ground and that's a big improvement from last year's 40 yards per game clip. The top rusher is QB Mike Fritz, who gets his yards mostly from scrambles, (something Columbia's had a lot of trouble defending this year and every year for that matter). Fritz has 196 yards rushing on 36 carries, which includes a 30-yard touchdown run last week against Holy Cross. The regular tailback seems to be Hudson Smythe who has 136 yards and two touchdowns on 39 carries. Not far behind him in carries is Milan Williams who has 37 carries, but just 70 yards.
As a passer, Fritz is doing a decent job filling in for sophomore Josh Cohen who was suspended for the year for academic reasons. Fritz's completion percentage is an impressive 61.9% as Teevens seems to be calling a lot of high-percentage passes to give his young quarterback some confidence. He has thrown six interceptions versus five touchdown passes, but that is not a glaring weakness. Pass protection has also improved as Dartmouth has allowed nine sacks so far after giving up a shocking 54 all of last season.
The receivers are led by Ryan Fuselier, who has 31 catches for 339 yards and two TD's. The deep threat is Brian Evans who has just 10 catches and no TD's, but his average per catch is 21.6 yards.
Overall this is not an offense that should scare anyone in the Ivy League, but as it showed in its close 17-10 loss to Penn, it can be opportunistic at times. Fritz is the biggest weapon, especially as a scrambler. Teams that don't pay attention to him are likely to get burned.
Thanks to games against offensive juggernauts like UNH and Yale, Dartmouth's defensive statistics this season don't really tell the true story of a unit that has definitely improved from 2005. The fact that the Big Green gave up just 17 points to Penn at Franklin Field and held Yale under 30 points is what people should pay attention to.
The rush defense has been a little inconsistent, but there's obviously some strengths to build on here. The Big Green gave up just 66 yards on the ground to Penn's Joe Sandberg to offset big games against them from Yale's Mike McLeod and Colgate's Jordan Scott. It appears that only the top rushers have burned Dartmouth, with the exception of Sandberg. My vote for the top player here is defensive tackle Brian Osimiri. Dan Cook is another force, despite his lack of size.
The pass defense is a different story. The Big Green have grabbed just two interceptions this season and just about every opposing QB has had a pretty good game against them. Dartmouth also only has six sacks this season. This is where you can beat the Big Green.
This is not a porous defense by any means, but it can be beaten, especially through the air.
Placekicker Andrew Kempler is just not a field goal kicker. He's one-for-four on field goal attempts, with his only successful kick coming from the PAT distance of 20 yards. Kempler is nine-for-nine on PAT's. Punter Brian Scullin is solid and sometimes even brilliant. Dartmouth's return game is not strong. Phil Galligan is averaging a respectable 19.5 yards per kickoff return and a very weak 2.4 yards per punt return. But the Big Green's return coverage has been a bright spot as Dartmouth is allowing just 16.1 yards per opposing kickoff return and 5.7 yards per opposing punt return.