Football opens up under the lights
By Brett Drucker, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, September 14, 2012
After a long summer of practice and training, the Dartmouth football team is finally ready to kick off its 2012 campaign on Saturday night at 7 p.m. against Butler University, making Dartmouth the last Division-I program to start its season. The Big Green faces off against the Bulldogs (1-1) of the Pioneer League for the first time in program history and looks to continue its streak of two consecutive opening-day victories on the bright, floodlit stage of Memorial Field.
Butler, which has become known more for its basketball team’s recent success, has been a member of the Pioneer League since its inception in 1993, and its football program has won the league twice, in 1994 and 2009. This year’s edition of the Bulldogs jumped out to an inconsistent start, losing its first game to Western Illinois University, 23-15. The team regrouped last week by defeating Franklin College, 42-13, while compiling over 550 yards on offense and setting numerous school records in a home nightcap of its own.
Butler is led by dual-threat quarterback Matt Lancaster, who amassed 258 yards in the air and 96 on the ground last week. In addition to Lancaster, the Big Green defense will also have to deal with Bulldogs junior running back Trae Heeter, who has produced 135 yards on 24 carries so far this season, good for an average of 5.6 yards per carry.
The Bulldogs feature a potent defense that held Franklin to only 58 rushing yards last week. Because the teams have never met before, there is an additional level of unfamiliarity that has limited the Big Green’s preparation options.
“It’s kind of a jump into the unknown because we just don’t know a lot about their personnel,” head coach Buddy Teevens said.
The contest will be held under the lights for the second time in Memorial Field history, which adds an extra degree of excitement to the game.
“I always love playing at night; it takes you back to high school,” Pierre said. “It seems like you have more of a competitive edge to you.”
Thanks to the new academic schedule, the entire student body will be on campus for the season opener, which should help create an electric atmosphere at Memorial Field. Patterson said that the team is going to focus on remaining in control.
“We’re going to stick to our fundamentals,” he said. “We want to play hard, aggressive football and set the tone for the game.”
The Big Green squad that takes the field on Saturday will be much changed from the one that finished last season tied for second place in the Ivy League. On offense, Dartmouth will have to replace last year’s starting quarterback Conner Kempe ’12, who amassed 4,500 yards and 26 touchdowns during his Dartmouth career. Alex Park ’14 will start the season under center in Kempe’s place and will look to spark the offense with his athletic versatility.
“In past years, we’ve been kind of stationary and stagnant, but now we have a guy who can move and do different things,” Teevens said. The Big Green also carries a trio of freshman quarterbacks with similar athletic traits, including Dalyn Williams ’16, who has already distinguished himself as a viable signal caller. The Big Green will look to take advantage of the athleticism of its new quarterbacks by adding an additional dimension to the playbook.
“We’re looking to be firing on all cylinders,” wide receiver Kirby Schoenthaler ’15 said. “We have most of our offense in already.”
Dominick Pierre ’14 is slated to inherit the majority of the rushing burden from Dartmouth’s all-time leading rusher Nick Schwieger ’12. Pierre has already proven himself at the college level, amassing 744 yards over his first two seasons with the Big Green, which is more than his predecessor had at this stage in his career.
“I don’t feel any pressure,” Pierre said. “I’m just going out and doing what I would do every day.”
The Big Green defense is anchored by co-captains Bronson Green ’14, a linebacker who led the team with 82 tackles last season, and Garrett Waggoner ’13, a safety who returns from injury after leading the team with 61 tackles in 2010. “There’s a lot of new faces, but with that [comes] a lot of energy and enthusiasm,” Teevens said. “Kids are excited about playing. It’s a fun team to coach. I like the personality and the character across the board.”
In Dartmouth football history, the Big Green has an 85-42-3 record on opening day, including a 49-game opening game winning streak from 1895 to 1943. In the 12 seasons under Teevens, Dartmouth has a 4-8 record.