If there is one team in the Ivy League that needs a win tomorrow more than the Bulldogs, it’s the team they’re playing.
Dartmouth (0–3, 0–1 Ivy) has lost its past 15 games, and if the team’s history is any indicator — Dartmouth has failed to defeat Yale since 2002 — Yale (1–2, 0–1) will be extending the Big Green’s losing streak to 16.
Achieving this, however, may not be as easy as it has been the past two years, when the Elis dominated by scores of 50–10 and 34–7.
First off, Dartmouth has improved from last year’s dismal 0–10 season. Although the Big Green are still winless, they have performed better offensively and last week came within a touchdown of pulling off a comeback victory against Penn (1–2, 1–0) in a 30–24 loss.
Second of all, the Bulldogs have not looked as strong this year as they have in recent years. Whereas in the past three seasons Yale had a winning record leading up to the Dartmouth game, this year the Bulldogs do not.
The past two games have seen the Eli offense underperform, averaging just 13 points per game. Quarterback Patrick Witt ’12 has struggled, throwing for 240 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions over the stretch since the team’s opening win at Georgetown.
Backup QB Brook Hart ’11, who played most of last week’s fourth quarter, had an impressive statline in his limited time — 154 yards, one touchdown, and zero interceptions — but this all came after last week’s game was already out of reach.
Thanks to his impressive play last week, Hart will be starting for the first time this season, although head coach Tom Williams said Witt will also receive playing time. Hart started the last five games for the Bulldogs last season after having initially lost the battle for the starting gig with Ryan Fodor ’09 in the preseason.
The key to a Bulldog victory, however, may come on the ground and not through the air. In Dartmouth’s three games, they have allowed an average of 283 rushing yards per game, which ranks 118th in the 118-team Division I Football Championship Subdivision. Led by the tandem of Jordan Farrell ’10 and Mordecai Cargill ’13, the Elis will look to exploit the Big Green’s weaknesses up front.
The Yale defense, which had been dominant in its first two games, showed some weaknesses against Lafayette, allowing 396 total yards, including 131 rushing yards by senior Leopard tailback Maurice White.
“I think sometimes you start to press when you feel things start to slip away,” Williams said about the defense’s struggles against the Leopards. “You start trying to do more than you’re capable of doing, and I thought that [our defense] did a little bit of that on Saturday.”
The Bulldogs will be tested on the ground Saturday by sophomore tailback Nick Schwieger, who has run the ball for 197 yards over the past two games.
“They’re young, but they are definitely experienced,” defensive tackle Joe Young ’11 said. “We know that they’re definitely going to give us their best shot.”
The game will be the last chance for Williams to get his first home victory before the team goes on a three-game stint on the road, not returning to the Yale Bowl until Nov. 7.
The first-year coach said he thinks a successful showing at home will put the team on track and the players to regain their confidence.
“We’ve been putting the time in, we’ve put the work in, but as I’ve said to my team, that doesn’t guarantee you success. It just gives you an opportunity at success,” Williams said. “Ultimately, on Saturday we still have to execute and do things that win football games. We’re still learning how to do that. We’re a team in progress, and we want to win right now.”
The game, which is scheduled for a 12:07 p.m. kickoff, can be heard on WELI (AM-960, 960weli.com) and WYBC (AM-1340, wybc.com).