Thursday, October 23, 2008

Scouting Dartmouth

The talented Milan Williams hasn't had the blocking this year (CREDIT: Dartmouth Sports/Mark Washburn)

Lots of Ivy watchers are talking about how Columbia's 0-5 record is deceiving, and because every loss has been so close it's hard to get a real handle on the Lions.

But I would say getting a handle on Dartmouth is actually harder to do. Because even though most of the Big Green's losses have been by realtively large margins, the level of competition has been so high it's confusing when you try to pick out what this team's strengths and weaknesses truly are.

One number that jumps out at you is rushing defense, where Dartmouth is yielding a big 203 yards per game. But that's misleading, because the Big Green has faced a number of top-notch rushing attacks, including Yale, (with Mike McLeod having his best game of the season so far), Colgate, (with superstar runner Jordan Scott), and Penn, (with a healthy Mike DiMaggio who was out against Columbia). By contrast, the Lions have faced really only two teams with dangerous runners, Fordham and Princeton, and they had mixed results by giving up too much yardage to the Rams' Xavier Martin while shutting down the Tigers' Jordan Culbreath. Towson's relatively weak running attack was surprisingly potent against Columbia in week 2, while Lafayette's great rusher Maurice White went out with an injury early in the game at Wien Stadium.

Dartmouth is also giving up a hefty 255 yards passing per game, but that number is skewed by the fact that the Big Green have already had to face two excellent passing attacks in UNH and Holy Cross. Strip out those two games and the average passing yards allowed is a much more decent 208 yards per contest.

So I don't think the Dartmouth defense is as weak as the stats would indicate. But because the Big Green did give up a hefty 286 passing yards to Penn and it surrendered the most yards this season on the ground to Mike McLeod, I'm also not convinced it's the kind of unit that will shut down the Lions offense anywhere near as well as Lafayette and Penn have the last two weeks. If Columbia's "O" is able to get the kinks out and play more like it did in the first three weeks of the season, there's a chance for a big day here.

Offensively, the number that jumps out at you is Dartmouth's paltry 57 yards per game rushing. That stat is not as deceiving as the Big Green came into 2008 with a young offensive line and a spate of injuries up front has made things even worse. But mitigating that stat somewhat is the fact that Dartmouth has faced some tough run defenses in Penn, (although Columbia had little trouble running against the Quakers in the first half), and Yale, (which is playing very well on defense overall this season). Strip out those two games and the Big Green is averaging a more decent, but still awful, 81 yards per game on the ground.

But that's a little deceiving too. He isn't getting great blocking, but Milan Williams is still one of the best runners in the Ivies, and he only needs one or two good plays to hurt you. If he's healthy, you can't sleep on the Dartmouth running game.

Speaking of deceiving, Buddy Teevens has his offense spreading out the ball and using lots of trickery in the passing game. Quarterback Alex Jenny is doing a decent job as the starter, but the real good news in Hanover is that last year's starting QB is tearing it up as a wide receiver this year. Tim McManus has 28 receptions for 309 yards and three TD's even though he still takes a few snaps from center now and then. He can also go in motion and suddenly turn up in the backfield ready to take a snap. I don't envy the guys in the Columbia secondary who will have to cover him.

On the negative side, Jenny hasn't been able to get much going with his veteran receivers Phillip Galligan and Eric Paul, who is back after losing 2007 to injury. He has dumped off a number of passes to Williams coming out of the backfield, and that's potentially dangerous, but I'm sure Teevens wishes he had more deep threats.

The gutted offensive line has also allowed more sacks that they'd like to see with 12 opponent sacks so far this season. Columbia's defense seems to be doing a better job of getting to the QB lately, and that could be a key to the game.

Ike says: "Don't gripe about the rain, get in there and fight!"

Meanwhile, the weather forecast for Saturday is getting worse by the hour. Rain and wind could be a factor, and it was in the heavy rain at Towson that Columbia had its worst game against the run, (considering the relative competition), this season. I would say the bad weather might kill whatever advantages the Lions might have, but after getting through the monsoon at Towson I think this team is ready for anything.

Again the real "X" factor is Teevens, from whom I expect the unexpected. The defense and special teams need to be especially prepared for everything including the kitchen sink.

For those of you who are thinking this game is a dud because both teams are 0-5, think again. After being dominated for decades by the Big Green, Columbia finally started a winning streak against Dartmouth in 1998. Lately, things have broken the other way, and the Lions still have oodles of history to make up. I don't care if the Big Green come into Wien Stadium with a team recruited from the local Girl Scout troop, there is a lot of painful history to make up Saturday.

And I also don't care if it's raining. Show up to the game and make sure you wave at the Versus cameras!


At Thu Oct 23, 09:33:00 PM GMT+7, Blogger DOC said...

Its a shame about the weather forecast since this is a "showcase" game for the lions and those cameras may only show empty seats if we dont support this team. Although the weather is the great equalizer when it comes to football I feel that our experience in the
rain at Towson will allow us to plan well and execute well. I see some success in the passing game in the short variety to mr Kourouma, Stephens, and Knowlin if we give Kelly the time and good passing lanes he needs to succeed and our first victory of the season on national TV !!

At Thu Oct 23, 10:01:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are some highly touted freshmen who haven't seen any action this year. Any insights? Also, do we have any early recruiting "commits"?

At Thu Oct 23, 10:09:00 PM GMT+7, Blogger Jake said...

I haven't seen anything about new recruits. I have seen Nico Papas on the sidelines in dress pants during the home games, so I assume he is not available. He was my top pick to contribute as a freshman to the team this year, but who can complain with frosh like Owen Fraser having super years?

At Thu Oct 23, 10:32:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have said before that Owen Fraser is the best looking rookie DL I have seen in years. He was a rock in the second half of the Lafayette game, when I zeroed in on him. He has great leverage for a nose tackle, generally takes up two blockers, has surprising speed, and looks like a young Warren Sapp. If he stays healthy and continues to develop he will be a great player for us. I have also been told that Peter Holst-Grubbe, who is out for the year, has very good speed for a 250 pound runnning back.

At Fri Oct 24, 04:08:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fraser is doin a nice job for us as a first year, let's leave it at that. Enough of the Warren Sapp references.

At Fri Oct 24, 04:35:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shea Selsor, a defensive end from Ohio has broken into the 2-deep for the Dartmouth game. Ross Morand from St. X in Cincinnati already made the 2-deep last week and looked solid at defensive back.

At Fri Oct 24, 04:43:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good speed as a running back? Why not give Pete Stoll a try. I hear that kid can motor.

This weekend, I would like to see the following goals met:

1. 2 pickoffs, preferably as a result of a good rush on the Green QB. Continued smart play by the D backs.

2. 2 D-forced fumbles with at least one recovery by the Lions' defensive line. 3 TFLs. Let Shalbrack blitz a couple more times to mess with the QBs head.

3. Some Green paint on the Lion's helmets, with physics working in the Lions' favor. Time to lay the wood to them defense. New name for Alex Gross. . . "Max Blasto"

4. Offensive Line to blow open a hole for the running backs on a counter play that works so well, they run the exact play the following down.

5. Kelly to use his patience in the pocket to see the whole field and then hit the short passes over the middle to Knowlin or the TEs.

6. For Coach Wilson to continue to get in the grills of kids not having a good day, and do so to boost them up. He laid into the O players last week at Penn, but I believe he was getting their heads back in the game.

7. The O game plan to mix it up a bit more. Use the short pass across the middle as was done in years past with Knowlin. Keep Stephens and other receivers active in the game, even if it risks an incompletion.

Come on guys. Make it fun for the spectators. Make it fun for yourselves. Play hard. Have a good time. Win. Not much to ask.

The Neckman.

At Fri Oct 24, 01:00:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Both teams are 0-5. No comment
on that, except for one good thing--one team will have a victory after it's over.

At Fri Oct 24, 06:36:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The two deep is a mystery. Knowlin has not been on the offensive two deep all year.

At Fri Oct 24, 07:01:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Alexis Glick of FoxBusinessNews was on the Imus show this morning. It turns out that she is a huge football fan but when asked about college ball she said that she went to Columbia, where our record speaks for itself! What a lost opportunity! She could have said that she is really excited about our new coach, who is doing a great job turning or program around, and that she is looking forward to a great finish to the season. Maybe her priorities are wrong; she actually seems to think that the apparent collapse of the market today is more important than pumping up Columbia football.

At Fri Oct 24, 07:15:00 PM GMT+7, Blogger Jake said...

I put Robert Kraft on Alexis' show last year and she asked about the team and Kraft said nice things about Norries Wilson.

At Fri Oct 24, 08:42:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dartmouth is ranked dead last in the league in team offense and team defense. No excuse(weather etc) is acceptable. We are the better team. Get it done and get off the snide. Still have a chance to get a few W's on the board. Go Lions!!!!


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