Nobody likes a party crasher, especially when it’s your 300th birthday.
So when Dartmouth tarnished the jubilant Tercentennial weekend last year with a last-minute 32-27 win over the Bulldogs at the Yale Bowl, the Elis vowed revenge.
Yale (3-0, 1-0 Ivy) will get its chance Saturday in Hanover, N.H. to even the score. But make no mistake — the Big Green (0-3, 0-1 Ivy) will be waiting, locked and loaded.
Last year’s meeting looked more like the shootout at the O.K. Corral than a football game.
Dartmouth quarterback Greg Smith completed 38 of 54 passing attempts for 407 yards and five touchdowns, tying the record for most touchdowns passes at the Yale Bowl. Yale’s own signal-caller, Peter Lee ’02, finished the day completing 28 of 50 attempts, throwing for two touchdowns and a career-high 303 yards. Trailing for most of the game, the Big Green pulled out a miracle victory with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns.
“Last year, when they came and beat us, it was the turning point of our season,” tailback Robert Carr ’05 said. “We went into that game 2-0 and after that loss we never really recovered.”
Yale only won one more game after that loss.
Tomorrow Yale will face a team with plenty of ammunition at Memorial Field.
Although Dartmouth dropped its first three games this season, quarterback Brian Mann is enjoying a hot start. In three contests, Mann has completed 80 of 136 passes for 969 yards and four touchdowns. He is currently third in Division I-AA in total average offense with 350 yards per game and second in passing with 26.67 completions per game and 12.11 yards per completion.
It will not be hard for Mann to find a target downfield. Although only a junior, tight end Casey Cramer already holds school records for receptions and receiving yards by a tight end. For his career, he has 81 catches for 1,104 yards and 11 touchdowns. Cramer’s 113 reception yards per game this season puts him third among Division I-AA teams.
“They have one outstanding receiver in that tight end [Cramer],” Yale head coach Jack Siedlecki said. “We’ll definitely work on keeping the ball out of his hands.”
But Yale also has plenty of firepower.
Carr has been tearing through the record books. During last Saturday’s game against Holy Cross, Carr became the first Yale running back to gain over 200 yards in a game twice in a career. The previous week, Carr broke the Yale single-game rushing record with 235 yards. Carr currently leads Division I-AA in all-purpose yardage with 231.3 yards per game and ranks second in rushing yards with 186 yards per game.
“I don’t like to look at statistics,” Carr said. “I don’t like to think of myself as an individual. I don’t think I’d be where I am if it weren’t for the other guys on the team.”
But a battle of the stars may not ultimately decide this game. The Bulldogs’ 3-0 start is Siedlecki’s best showing since he became head coach in 1996, but if he wants to extend the win streak, Siedlecki must control the game’s tempo. Unlike last year, this matchup will feature competing and contrasting styles. While Dartmouth plays a fast-paced passing game, Yale looks to wear down the defensive line and the clock with its ground attack.
“We need to keep their offense off the field,” Siedlecki said. “We need to keep them parked on the bench and make our drives.”
To keep the ball, Siedlecki will need to call on the secondary, which has performed well so far. Currently, the Yale secondary is ninth in Division I-AA pass defense, yielding only 123.3 yards per game. Last week against a Holy Cross team that entered the game averaging 197.8 passing yards, Yale had three interceptions and held the Crusaders to only 132 aerial yards.
“[The secondary] really stepped up,” captain and defensive tackle Jason Lange ’03 said. “The Holy Cross game really impressed me. When [Holy Cross] threw the long ball, we always managed to be there. [The secondary] has settled into their own role.”
On offense, Siedlecki and his Bulldogs are looking for a balanced attack. With starting quarterback Alvin Cowan ’04 sidelined with a fibula injury, the Elis have shifted more to the run in the last two games. But because of Carr’s stellar numbers, the Dartmouth defense will guard the run closely.
To open the field and force Dartmouth to put more players in the box, the Elis need another strong performance from backup quarterback Jeff Mroz ’04. In both the Cornell and Holy Cross games, Mroz proved himself to be a composed and capable passer, completing a combined 19 of 28 attempts for a total of 260 yards.
“I don’t think Jeff’s the type of guy that is going to get rattled,” Carr said. “He’s very good at keeping his composure and staying in control. I don’t think Jeff will have any problems this weekend.”
Ironically, this weekend will be the exact opposite of last year’s game. Last fall, Dartmouth came down to New Haven ranking lower than Yale in the preseason media polls while this year the Elis go up to Memorial Field ranked below the Big Green. The Bulldogs have a lot to prove — Yale has dropped 10 of its last 12 meetings with Dartmouth.
“[Last year’s loss] is on the back of our minds, and there is a score to settle,” free safety Barton Simmons ’04 said. “They beat us in our place, and we’ve got to get up there and beat them.”