Dartmouth’s season has been brutal so far.
The Big Green has taken poundings against some of the top schools in the division, including a 45-24 loss to New Hampshire — which beat Div. I Rutgers earlier this fall — and a 35-0 whitewash at the University of Pennsylvania, last year’s Ivy League Champion.
Saturday afternoon, the Big Green (0-3, 0-1 Ivy) will have to spar with the unpredictable Bulldogs (2-1, 0-1) at Memorial Stadium in Hanover, N.H., and if Dartmouth isn’t too careful, history may repeat itself.
Last year, Yale had a decisive 40-17 victory over the Big Green in large part due to the heroics of Eli quarterback Alvin Cowan ’05, who threw for 318 yards and two touchdowns. Dartmouth also had its hands full with tailback Robert Carr ’05, who ran for two touchdowns, including an 86-yard kick-off return.
Despite having an inconsistent season thus far this fall, Dartmouth’s offense should not be taken lightly. Big Green quarterback Charlie Rittgers, who completed 23 of 34 passes for 258 yards during the two teams’ last match up, will again pose a threat to the Bulldogs. This fall, Rittgers has thrown for 806 yards and four touchdowns and has averaged over 45 pass attempts per game.
Yale’s leading signal-caller Cowan will match up well against Rittgers. Although Cowan’s has only thrown for 533 yards this season, his throws resulted in seven touchdowns.
Dartmouth also has two effective tailbacks in its offensive arsenal — Chris Little and Ray Rochester — that could give Big Green a slight edge over the Eli defensive line.
“[Little and Rochester] complement each other and playing two keeps fresh legs in the game,” Eli head coach Jack Siedlecki said.
Defensively, Dartmouth has been anything but satisfactory after allowing 97 points the past three games and an average of 396 yards per game this season.
Last year, the Big Green defense managed to hold Carr, the league’s leading rusher in 2003, to only 29 yards on the ground. As Carr is one of Yale’s most valuable tailbacks, Dartmouth will have to do all it can to limit his yardage if it wants to keep up with the Bulldogs.
“We’re going to spice up practice a little bit,” Dartmouth head coach John Lyons said. “We’re going to see who wants to play and do things the way we want them done.”
Given that both squads retained most of their players from last season, and that the Big Green is once again off to a rusty start, Saturday’s game at Memorial Field may feel like a repeat of 2003.
But just because the circumstances may seem familiar to both teams does not mean the results will be the same.
Yale has proven to be erratic. Last weekend the Elis pulled off a huge upset over then-No. 11 Colgate, while the Bulldogs lost the previous weekend to Cornell, who entered the game with a ten-game losing streak.
Siedlecki said he isn’t going to take any chances Saturday.
“Keys for us will be to win the turnover battle, play well in the kick game and make some big plays on offense,” Siedlecki said.