Monday, August 20, 2007

Big Green Question Mark

Ivy League defenders look to welcome Green QB Josh Cohen back to the game

Sixth in a team-by-team look at the Ivies, (Yale is my pick for first, Penn second, Princeton third, Columbia fourth, Harvard fifth, and Cornell sixth.)

7. Dartmouth

As Head Coach Buddy Teevens prepares to begin his third season in his second stint up in Hanover, a quick look at the stats paints a bleak picture. The Big Green averaged fewer than 15 points per game in 2006, while giving up more than 25 per contest. The defense allowed 172 rushing yards per game, and almost 370 yards in total offense every week. Throw in a negative-seven turnover ratio and the fact that the number one rusher and starting QB, (they were one in the same in Mike Fritz), are gone and you can see why Dartmouth was picked last in the media poll.

I have decided to be outrageously fearless and pick the Big Green for seventh instead of eighth for a few good reasons.

First off, the stats are a little misleading. Remember that Dartmouth is pretty much locked in to the toughest schedule in the Ivies these days and a lot of those eye-popping numbers came in understandable losses to D-IA-level powerhouse UNH, (56-14), Patriot League tough guy Colgate, (28-7), and Patriot League up-and-comer Holy Cross, (24-21 in OT).

Strip away those three non-league games and you get a much different story. In the seven Ivy games, Dartmouth allowed a hair fewer than 21 points per contest. Still not great, but a lot better than almost 26. And the stats don't show the fact that the Big Green kept most of those Ivy games very close, or closer than one might have expected before the opening kickoff.

Another factor is that Dartmouth will not have to start a fresh QB this season. Junior Josh Cohen returns to school after having to sit out 2006 with academic issues, but he was impressive at times as a freshman in 2005. I expect him to the be the #1 signal caller, but senior Tom Bennewitz was far from terrible in limited duty last year.

And I also believe in Teevens. It was the latter stage of his third season during his first tour of duty as a coach, (1989), that the Big Green started to gel for the first time in many years. His fourth year brought a championship. I don't think this Dartmouth team will go 5-5 like the '89 squad, but they have a good enough defense and few possible offensive surprises to make most of their games very interesting again this season.


Dartmouth's pass defense was sharp in 2006, and the veteran leaders in the secondary are back for 2007. Seniors John Pircon and Ian Wilson are solid safeties and I like the 5th-year senior Chris Blanco at one of the corner spots.

Some of those great numbers against the pass were the result of the fact that the Green did so poorly against the run, but not all. The pass-heavy teams like Columbia and Harvard will struggle against these guys.

The crucial linebacking corps is led by senior Justin Cottrell, who could be first team All-Ivy this year. There are some questions on the defensive line, but I don't think the defense overall will give up as many rushing yards this season and I expect this unit to record more than the 15 sacks it made in 2006.

I know there are some questions about junior punter Brian Scullin's technique, but he seems pretty solid statistically.

There isn't a lot to get very excited about on offense, but the tight end tandem of seniors Mike Brogna and Brett Lowe could be the best in the Ivies when all is said and done this year. The offensive line can't be considered a solid strength, but it is very experienced now, and I've mentioned several times that there are basically no "strong" offensive lines in the Ivies these days.


Cohen might become a great QB after his one-year layoff, but I suspect it will take some time for him to develop. Of course, Dartmouth's lack of any real experienced or "star" running back won't help. Teevens is going to try to morph the fullback and tailback positions and give sophomore Tom Brown and senior Julian Collins a shot at starting. Junior Hudson Smythe is the leading returning runner from 2006, but he's still mostly an unknown quantity.

There is some good experience at wide receiver in senior Brian Evans, but with a new QB at the helm, the top receivers this season could be a totally different crew.

Kicker Andrew Kempler was not very impressive last season, and I wouldn't be surprised if he's replaced in 2007. For a team with an iffy offense to begin with, not having a solid field goal threat hurts.


Sept. 15: COLGATE

Dartmouth opens the fully refurbished Memorial Field with a win.

Sept. 22: at New Hampshire

The Big Green should consider this a victory if they hold UNH under 30 points.

Sept. 29: PENN

I expect this to be a very good game, but the Quakers are just too good.

Oct. 6: at Yale

Yale pulls it out.

Oct. 13: at Holy Cross

Dartmouth plays a strong game after last year's ugly Holy Cross demonstration in Hanover, but it's not enough.


The Lions win a close one.

Oct. 27: at Harvard

Possible upset here, especially if the Crimson are still struggling to run without Dawson.


A real toss up game here, may the best team win.

Nov. 10: at Brown

Victory for the Green.


Close game, but the Tigers know the Dartmouth organization too well to get surprised.

Predicted Final Won-Loss Record: 2-8, 1-6 Ivy. 7th place.

BUT ALL BETS ARE OFF IF: A running game gets established and Cohen or someone else shows real talent at QB.


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