Football seeks 2-0 start on Saturday
By Noah Reichblum, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, September 21, 2012
The Dartmouth football team will take its four-game win streak on the road this Saturday, as the Big Green (1-0, 0-0 Ivy) will play the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. The Crusaders (0-2, 0-0 Patriot), who beat Dartmouth 25-17 last year, will have to face the young Big Green defense without their starting quarterback, Kevin Watson, who is out with a knee injury.
“This week, time of possession is going to play a big role,” starting linebacker and co-captain Bronson Green ’14 said. “Last year, Holy Cross had over 90 plays against us.”
The Big Green defense allowed 416 yards last week against Butler University but allowed only four third-down conversions.
“We need to get off the field quickly — third down needs to be a big down for us,” Green said.
On offense, Dartmouth will look to match last week’s performance, in which quarterback Alex Park ’14 led the Big Green to 35 points and 358 total yards — though seven of those points came on a kickoff return touchdown by Miles Gay ’13.
“For us, it’s about all 11 guys doing their job successfully,” Park said. “Mental errors — we can’t have those.”
The Big Green is off to a good start in that department. Last week, Dartmouth only committed one penalty.
“Right now, we just have to maintain our balance and not become one-dimensional,” Park said.
Dartmouth racked up 169 rushing yards and 189 passing yards against Butler. The special teams unit will look to build on last week’s success against Holy Cross. Dartmouth blocked seven kicks in 10 games last season, and competition is always fierce for reps on coach Chris Wilkerson’s unit.
“As a team, you take great pride in special teams,” Green said. “We have high expectations to be successful in all facets of the special teams game.”
Dartmouth will play Holy Cross on grass, and though the Big Green has lost 14 of its past 15 games on the surface, players dismissed the notion of the playing surface determining the outcome.
“A lot of guys played on grass in high school, so it shouldn’t be too much of a transition,” Park said.
The team has spent some time practicing on an all-grass surface this week, according to Green. Once on the field, the Big Green defense will try to stop a Crusader offense whose base package includes a spread field and multiple wide-receiver sets.
“They’re an extremely explosive offense,” Green said. “It’s definitely going to be a challenge for us.”
Crusader wide receivers Mike Fess and Gerald Mistretta have racked up a combined 29 receptions for 260 yards in the first two games of the season. Over the past few years, teams both in the Ivy League and across the country have shifted from run-based offenses to pass-heavy schemes, according to Green.
“The spread offense has proven to be pretty explosive,” Green said.
Dartmouth has begun to pass the ball more due to Park’s natural ability and the graduation of Nick Schwieger ’12, Dartmouth’s all-time leading rusher. Last week, the Big Green averaged 11.1 yards per reception.
With Dominick Pierre ’14 in the backfield, the Big Green was still more comfortable running the ball last week, as the team had 42 rushing attempts versus 26 dropbacks (23 pass attempts and three sacks). But if Park continues to be as accurate as he was against the Bulldogs, head coach Buddy Teevens may have to consider increasing the team’s pass attempts.
“It’s about getting a hat on a hat up front, and in the backfield and on the perimeter, knowing what your route, read and blocks are,” Park said of the offense’s success.
Several Big Green players have already received league-wide recognition for their efforts against Butler. Pierre, who collected a career-high 170 rushing yards, was named co-Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week, while Gay was named the Special Teams Player of the Week.
If the Big Green comes away victorious this weekend, it will be Dartmouth’s first five-game winning streak since 1997. This Saturday also coincides with Holy Cross’ homecoming weekend. In order to succeed, the team must forget about the Butler win and remain focused on the task at hand, Park said.
“It’s a new opponent, a new team, a new week,” Park said. “We’re focused on Holy Cross, and we’re excited about this Saturday.”