Football Preview | Green pastures ahead

The football team narrowly defeated a sound Holy Cross squad last weekend in double overtime, but the Bulldogs are now back to games that truly matter.

The Bulldogs (2-1, 0-1 Ivy) will take the field in New Hampshire tomorrow to face Dartmouth (0-3, 0-1) in the 92nd meeting of the two teams. Yale is in search of its first league win of the season after losing 17-14 in the conference opener against Cornell (3-0, 1-0) on Sept. 27. The contest, which will be televised on the New England Sports Network, is slated to start at 12:30 p.m.

In last season’s home game, the Bulldogs obliterated the Big Green, 50-10. The Elis gained 304 yards rushing and saw five different players score rushing touchdowns, including Mike McLeod ’09, who was repsonsible for 155 yards.

Including the end of last season, the Elis have lost two consecutive league games, but a Big Green matchup may be just what the doctor ordered. Coming off a 3-7 record (3-4 within the league) last season, Dartmouth has lost the first three games of its 2008 campaign, including its own Ivy opener against Penn (1-2, 1-0), by a combined 63 points.

Things are not going well for the Big Green on either side of the ball. Dartmouth is in the Ancient Eight basement in scoring offense (12 points per game), total offense (287.7 yards per game) and rushing offense (61 yards per game), and are averaging one more passing yard (226.7 per game) than Columbia and Brown, who are tied for last in passing yards.

The Bulldogs believe that forcing the Dartmouth rushing offense to stay in its slump will be key.

“[We need to stop] their running game first and foremost,” said captain Bobby Abare ’09, last week’s national defensive player of the week. “If we can take that away and force them to be one-dimensional, I think we will have a lot more success.”

On the other side of the ball, things look good for McLeod and company: The Big Green ranks last in the league in total defense (478.7 yards per game) and rushing defense (257 yards per game). In its first two games, the defense allowed 367 yards and four touchdowns against Colgate and 230 yards and five touchdowns against New Hampshire — just on the ground.

Running the ball and wearing down the Dartmouth defense will be the No. 1 priority for the Bulldogs once again. The Elis are coming off their most productive game of the season on the ground against Holy Cross, rushing for a total of 135 yards as a team — with 131 coming from McLeod.

That rushing game opened up a passing attack for quarterback Ryan Fodor ’09, who completed 73.9 percent of his passes, almost entirely via play-action.

“We will look to continue to establish the running game,” tackle Darius Dale ’09 said. “If we want to be a successful football team that is in contention for the Ivy League championship come season’s end, we must get back to the tough, physical style of football we have become accustomed to playing over the last two years.”

Looking at the aforementioned statistics, one would think the Big Green has not been a contender in any of their games. But in its opener against Colgate, and last weekend’s game against Penn, Dartmouth held a lead in the second half; Colgate took the lead with just 7:27 remaining, eventually notching a 34-20 victory.

Knowing that, Yale is aware it can’t allow a letdown after such an emotional win last week — especially after falling in the league opener against Cornell.

“We can’t afford another Ivy League defeat, and neither can Dartmouth,” Abare said.

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