Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Now… Where Were We?

Dartmouth did not finish strong in 2009

It seems a bit silly to talk about “momentum” from the season finale of 2009 to the opener of 2010 when the Ivies have a 300-day offseason.

But there are usually at leastsome important lessons you can learn about the overall quality of a team from the last game of any given season. After all, each game is a whopping 10% of the year and that's a lot. Things the returning players do in the finales can provide cluesp when you try to predict what that team will look like in the current year.

Here are some of the lessons I learned from the four Ivy football season finales from Nov. 21, 2009:

Harvard 14 Yale 10

If there’s any game in college football where you can throw out all the previous game stats and essentials, it’s the annual version of The Game. Very often, the emotion takes over for both schools and you either get a surprise winner, or at least a surprise path to victory. In so doing, you often learn very little about the team's true qualities.

But while Harvard’s victory was not at all a surprise, the close final score was an eye-opener. And the fact that the Crimson needed a gift-wrapped bone-headed coaching choice by Yale chief Tom Williams was also unexpected.

BUT a great deal of both teams’ general character for 2009 was on display in that contest and here’s what I took away from that game:

1) Harvard’s offense struggled in big game situations much of the year, and this was no exception. Thus, I would not be surprised if Andrew Hatch gets the starting QB job in Cambridge this fall as Coach Tim Murphy looks to jumpstart the “O.”

2) Yale’s defense overachieved last season, much to the coaches’ and players’ credit. A good core of that defense is coming back this year and this should remain at least a relative Eli strength for 2010.

3) You can bet Yale will be a lot more conservative on 4th down situations this season. Being too cautious could end up costing them just as much.

Penn 34 Cornell 0

It was hard to learn much from such a mismatch, but there were a few lessons;

1) Penn liked running the ball by committee and I expect the Quakers to do that a lot again in 2010. With RB’s like Lyle Marsh and Bradford Blackmon coming back, along with running QB Keiffer Garton, why wouldn’t they?

2) Penn will probably run the ball about 50% more often than pass. In a typical game with about 60-65 offensive plays, I expect the Quakers to run about 40 times. So a team with a good rush defense is going to be a problem for Penn… perhaps a BIG problem.

3) Cornell is essentially starting 2010 completely as an empty set. The veteran player talent level for the Big Red is extremely low, but they only can get better!

Princeton 23 Dartmouth 11

It’s easy to get swept up in the hype for the 2010 Big Green that’s been growing every day. But every time I think Dartmouth might make a serious run at a first division finish, I am haunted by the team’s lackluster performance in week 10 against a poor Princeton team on their home field in Hanover.

On a beautiful day at Memorial Field, the Dartmouth offensive line was just awful, generating precious few net rushing yards and allowing four sacks to a team that barely rushed the passer well in he previous nine weeks. Meanwhile, the rush defense was torched by senior Kenny Gunter who ran for 173 yards and two TD’s.

Here’s what I take away from this game:

1) Dartmouth just doesn’t have a championship offensive line right now… or even a very good one. That’s going to put a major crimp in any serious run for a winning season

2) The Big Green needs Nick Schwieger to stay healthy. Without him in this final game of 2009, the running attack was almost non-existent. The Green did get a big win over Cornell earlier in the year without Schwieger, but that was right after his injury and I don’t think Cornell had a chance to prepare for Greg Patton who filled in for him by playing a running QB position. By week 10, Princeton was ready for Patton.

3) Princeton comes into 2010 much like Cornell does; not much returning talent and big questions about how a new head coach will use what is left. Despite showing some nice grit in this game, I think the Tigers will be looking at a very tough fall.

Columbia 28 Brown 14

Of all the season finales, this game was probably the biggest surprise throughout the league. But there were some solid reasons for the surprise outcome, many of which are still in effect for 2010:

1) Columbia’s Sean Brackett is the real deal. After a strong debut against Yale and some limited success versus Cornell, Brackett put in a complete game against the Bears and was almost perfect. Facing one of the best run defenses in the Ivies, the freshman Brackett racked up 171 yards on the ground while still throwing for a TD.

2) Columbia will have to prove it can win without Austin Knowlin and Lou Miller. Both of the now-graduated seniors were keys to the win.

3) Brown is in big trouble if it can’t mix its offensive attack in 2010. Without Zach Tronti, who was injured, the Bears single-faceted running attack of Spiro Theodosi, (who is out for all of this season), was not effective enough. And then there’s the kicking game. Brown was forced to go for TD’s on several occasions in the game because the kicking attack was just not reliable. The Bears need to solve that problem... now.

I realize a lot has changed for all eight Ivy teams and perhaps a good deal of the above conclusions are no longer true thanks to the incoming freshmen, coaching changes, and the fact that Lindsay Lohan is out of jail. But this is where we left off when we shut the gates on the 2009 season about 253 days ago.


At Tue Aug 03, 11:11:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jake, on the last Saturday of hte season -- for that day -- we were the best team in the Ivies. It was the most complete game I've ever seen us play, against outstanding competition. W eshredded a defense with tow linemen who were legitimate pro prospects. we bottled up an offense with two outstanding receivers, one of whom was POY, and a fine QB. Say what you will, but based upon the way we finished we should be favorites to win the league this year.

At Wed Aug 04, 01:38:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

From Harvard fan - Interesting how you feel Hatch will be the QB for Harvard this fall. He only got maybe 10 to 15% of the reps in the spring and isnt even in Boston for summer workouts with the team. Just saying....

At Wed Aug 04, 03:14:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a former college football player I can attest to the importance of the season finale. It is important not in terms of talent, which will change over the off season as some players get stronger, some lose focus, some step into their potential, and others just quit. But it is important in terms of confidence, which is the ever elusive part of the winning edge, and in terms of identity; what a program is and what it can become. It can change the tenor and intensity of off season workouts and can, in the case of the Lions, ground in reality the hope with which every teams opens summer camp. But it is only the first few games which will tell the extent to which hope has been transfigured by play, into reality.

At Wed Aug 04, 09:11:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger DOC said...

Interesting take, Anonymous college football player, on the way a final
game could impact on next season. I
suppose a coaching staff could accentuate the positive during summer
practice workouts. Have to disagree with Anonymous#1. I hardly think a strong showing against Brown in the season finale makes us
favorites to win the league. On any given Saturday anyone can look good winning against a particular opponent. However, may your prediction prove to be true.

At Wed Aug 04, 11:36:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Poster #3 is clearly an English major, maybe a poet, possibly a Philosophy minor...nice work. Good to know there are still literary jocks (or ex-jocks) out there.

At Wed Aug 04, 08:42:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous Poster #3 has been busted; English major teaching college philosophy.

At Wed Aug 04, 10:07:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As anonymous #1, please accept my apologies for all of my typos. In my zest to start this dialogue I failed to proof read my entry. In response to the former player, and coming from somebody who never put on pads after his senior year in high school, there was nothing better than ending a season on a high note and nothing worse than the converse. PS, if anybody knows how to import spell check to these comments, please advise.

At Wed Aug 04, 11:28:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, Poster #3, this is Poster #5 who "busted" you -- I'm better than I thought! :) I'm an English major, MA in Film (also from Columbia), Lion football/basketball maniac.

Talk more? You can reach me at Roarlion1@aol.com


Post a Comment

<< Home