Homecoming Game Against Preseason Ivy Favorite

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By: Rick Bender

DARTMOUTH (3-0, 1-0)
vs. YALE (3-0, 1-0)

Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019 | 1:30 PM | ESPN+
Memorial Field | Hanover, N.H.

The top two teams in the preseason Ivy League poll convene on Memorial Field as Dartmouth celebrates its homecoming with Yale in town. This is the Bulldogs’ fourth straight trip to Hanover as the homecoming opponent with the Big Green winning each of the previous three, the last featuring the largest come-from-behind victory in program history.

While the returning alumni would love to see Dartmouth knock off the Elis, it would be especially sweet for an alumnus on the sideline. Buddy Teevens ‘ 79, the Robert L. Blackman Head Coach, will see his win total hit 100 in 20 seasons guiding the Green, a figure only achieved by Bob Blackman himself (104).

Dartmouth has held the advantage of late in the series, winning six of the last seven meetings between the two. Last year, the Green racked up 347 yards on the ground — 169 courtesy of QB Jared Gerbino — while cruising to a 41-18 victory at the Yale Bowl in a game televised on ESPNU.

Gerbino is once again making his presence felt on the field in his senior year, but now more with his arm than his legs. While he continues to split time with Derek Kyler behind center, he was the one who guided Dartmouth down the field for each of its three offensive touchdowns last week in a 28-15 win at Penn. For the season, Gerbino has completed 29-of-39 passes (74.4 percent) for 351 yards and six touchdowns without an interception, all surpassing his career totals entering the season.

Lest foes forget his running ability, Gerbino also leads the team with 140 rushing yards on 23 carries (6.0 average). Although the Big Green gobble up nearly 200 yards per game on the ground, not a single player provides more than 46 as Teevens shuttles players in and out to keep them fresh. Dakari Falconer leads the running backs with 36.0 per game and 5.7 per carry, while Caylin Parker has two of the team’s five rushing scores.

Dartmouth spreads the love around in the passing game as well with nine players owning at least three catches with WR Drew Estrada leading the charge (12 rec., 173 yds., 3 TD). The 2016 Ivy League Rookie of the Year Hunter Hagdorn missed the first game but has nine grabs the last two weeks for 88 yards, and the tight ends will come into play with 10 catches and 3 touchdowns among four of them.

The defense, which ranked second nationally in fewest points allowed last year, has picked up where it left off, leading the FCS at 8.0 ppg surrendered. The unit ranks among the top 10 in several other categories as well — passing defense (fourth), red zone defense (sixth) and total defense (10th). The LB duo of Nigel Alexander (8.0 tackles per game) and Jack Traynor (7.3) — the reigning Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week — spearhead the Green with DL Jackson Perry (3.0 TFL, 1.5 sacks) a handful up front.

The one thing the defense has not done as it did last year is create turnovers, not until Traynor scooped up a fumble and ran 17 yards for a touchdown at Penn, just the team’s second fumble recovery of the season. Without All-America CB Isiah Swann — last year’s national leader with nine interceptions — over the first three games due to an injury, Dartmouth is still looking for its first pick of 2019.

Scouting the Bulldogs
Like Dartmouth, Yale is off to a 3-0 start and a victory in its Ivy League opener. Two weeks ago, the Bulldogs shook off a sluggish start against Cornell to knock off the Big Red, 27-16. But this week will be Yale’s first outside of New Haven having played all three games on the new FieldTurf at the Yale Bowl.

The Bulldogs, picked to win the conference in the preseason media poll, flexed its offensive muscle last week in a 48-24 defeat of Fordham, nearly matching their scoring output from the first two games combined (50) in the first half alone (45). Quarterback Kurt Rawlings just topped 300 yards throwing the ball with a couple of touchdowns and ran for two more. His top two receivers — J.P. Shohfi and Reed Klubnik — put their arms together to amass 235 receiving yards and a score.

For the season, Rawlings is throwing for 238 yards per game at a 64 completion percentage with four TD and two interceptions. Klubnik is fourth in the Ivy League in receiving yardage (75.0 per game) and Shohfi seventh (61.0).

The running game is headed up by Zane Dudek, the 2017 Ivy League Rookie of the Year, who is averaging close to 80 yards a game on the ground. Rawlings is mobile as well and has three of the Elis’ five touchdown runs (all inside the 5-yard line).

The defense has been quite opportunistic with a league-leading five interceptions (two for touchdowns), plus are tied for sixth nationally in turnover margin. Both Rodney Thomas II and Dathan Hickey have two picks, while Thomas also leads Yale with 18 tackles, four for a loss. Seven different players have one sack as well.

Sam Tuckerman has been nearly perfect kicking the ball, going 11-of-12 on PATs and 5-of-5 on field goals (all five from within 33 yards).

Now in his eighth year as the Joel E. Smilow ’54 Head Coach of Football, Tony Reno enters today’s game with a 41-32 record with the Bulldogs, including a conference title in 2017 while earning coach of the year honors for the conference and all of New England. Reno, a 1997 graduate of Worcester State College, was hired at Yale as an assistant in 2003 after a successful five-year stint at his alma mater, then went to Harvard for three years before returning for the 2012 campaign.

Last Year Against Yale
Although Dartmouth scored the game’s first points on a Jared Gerbino 31-yard touchdown run, the Bulldogs answered with a touchdown of their own, plus added an extra point to take a 7-6 lead. It was one of just three times all year the Big Green would find themselves behind on the scoreboard.

That one-point deficit did not last for long, however, as Dartmouth marched 75 yards down the field for another touchdown. The Green embarked on two more TD drives in the half to take a 27-10 lead at the intermission. The final two scores came in the form of a 66-yard Caylin Parker run and a 54-yard interception return by Isiah Swann as Dartmouth cruised to a 41-18 victory.

Five of Last Six Over Penn
With the 28-15 victory at Penn on Oct. 4, Dartmouth has now defeated the Quakers in each of the last three meetings and five of the last six. The three-game win streak is the longest for the Big Green in the series since taking four straight in 1978-81. Dartmouth still has some catching up to do, however, as Penn owns a 48-37-2 lead in the all-time series thanks to winning 26 of 32 before the Green’s recent success.

Buddying Up to 100 Victories
With the 3-0 start to the 2019 season, Buddy Teevens enters the homecoming game with a shot at becoming just the second football coach in Dartmouth history to win 100 games guiding the Big Green. The 63-year-old Teevens currently sports a 99-92-2 record at Dartmouth, which leaves him just five behind the all-time leader, the legendary Bob Blackman, whose name also graces the endowed coaching position inhabited by Teevens. No other Big Green coach has as many as 60 in Hanover. If Dartmouth can at least repeat its 9-1 record from a year ago, Teevens would surpass Blackman as the school’s winningest football coach.

Putting on the Wins
Since the start of the 2014 season, Dartmouth was won 41 games and lost only 12, the best overall record amongst Ivy League teams in that span, two games ahead of Harvard. The Crimson has a slight edge in conference games (26-10 compared to the Big Green’s 25-11), but Dartmouth has won eight or more contests in four of the last five years; no other Ancient Eight squad has accomplished that more than twice.

Scoring Early and Often
• Dartmouth has scored at least one touchdown in the first quarter in each of its last 11 games, scoring first in 10 of those contests.
• The Big Green have scored points in the opening quarter in each of the last 17 games as well.
• Since the start of the 2018 season, Dartmouth has only trailed for a total of 15 minutes and 58 seconds — barely a full quarter over 13 games.
• The last team to hold the Green without a touchdown was Yale back in 2011, a span of 79 games. The school record for scoring at least one TD is 109 consecutive games from 1961-73.

Outside Looking In
Despite its 28-15 victory at Penn, Dartmouth actually fell back a spot among the teams just outside the STATS FCS Top 25 poll. The Big Green were the first team listed entering the game against the Quakers, but this week find themselves the second team listed. But they did move up in the coaches’ poll and are now the fourth team outside the top 25. Last year, Dartmouth ended the season 18th in the STATS poll and 15th in the coaches’ poll.

Ivy Defensive POTW
For the second time in his career, LB Jack Traynor has been named the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week after his performance in the 28-15 victory over Penn. He also picked up the honor from College Sports Madness and earned honorable mention from STATS for its National Defensive Player of the Week award. The co-captain posted a season-high 10 tackles, but his big play came in the first quarter when he scooped up a fumble and rumbled 17 yards into the end zone, giving Dartmouth a 14-0 lead. It was the first touchdown of his career and extended the Big Green streak of seasons with a fumble return for a TD to five.

Bair Necessities
Zack Bair scored two of Dartmouth’s four touchdowns in the 28-15 win over Penn, one on the ground from 17 yards out and another through the air for a 57-yard score. He is the first Big Green player to run for and catch a touchdown in the same game since Kyle Bramble did it against Cornell back in 2014. His TD reception was also just the second by a Dartmouth running back since Bramble caught the title-clinching score in the final minute of the 2015 season finale against Princeton, a span of 33 games.

Interception Interruption
Last year, Dartmouth led the Ivy League and ranked 16th nationally with 16 interceptions. Yet after three games this season, the Big Green are still searching for their first pick. Dartmouth had not gone more than two games without one since the first five games of the 2012 campaign. One reason the Green are without an interception is that CB Isiah Swann, who led Division I with nine pickoffs last year, has yet to play in 2019.

They Went to Jared
Jared Gerbino led Dartmouth last year with 700 rushing yards, the most by a Big Green QB ever. After two games, he had just 61 yards on the ground, but he gobbled up a team-high 77 in the win at Penn.. He now tops the team with 138 rushing yards, and with 1,266 in his career, he is just 228 behind Dalyn Williams ’16 for the most by a Dartmouth QB and 234 shy of becoming the 15th Big Green player with 1,500 in a career.

Defensive Domination
After three games, Dartmouth leads the FCS in fewest points allowed (8.0 per game), a year after finishing second in the category (12.0). The Big Green also rank in the top 10 in passing yards allowed (154.0, fourth), red zone defense (60.0 percent, sixth), team passing efficiency defense (111.24, ninth) and total defense (298.7, 10th).

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