It's not always possible to tell when a winning football team is getting soft, but it's easy to tell when the fans are. And Dartmouth rooters are getting that way this year.
You can hardly blame them. With its win over Holy Cross last weekend the Green ran its current winning streak to 15 in a row, the longest major college string in the nation. Now, football fans have to have something to complain about; for Indian followers it's getting more difficult every week.
Dartmouth supporters were complaining early this year about the absence of four of last year's starters, including All-Ivy center Don Mckinnon and star quarterback Bill King. (The Dartmouth newspaper even began calling King "All-East" while bemoaning his loss--this deification of a graduated player is a sure sign of nostalgia and present discontent).
Indian fans were soon thwarted in their complaints, however, when they learned that Dana Kelley, the present Green quarterback, may be better than King Kelley has completion 32 of 47 passes for an incredible 70 per cent completion record. King never came close to that mark, and it's hard to remember another quarterback who has, Archie Roberts and Roger Staubach led the nation with 60 per cent passing accuracy last year.
As for the line, the holes left by Mckinnon's graduation and the loss of the starting tackles haven't been too hard to replace. In fact the newly reassembled line has led the nation in rushing defense despite the temporary loss of guard Bill Curran, a returning starter. The Green has given up a paltry 60 yards per game on the ground.
All this stopped Indian fans from complaining about graduation losses. So they began complaining about injuries. Curran was hurt, they said, and so was his running mate at guard, Ed Keible. Then Tom Spangenberg, the Green's top back, was supposed to be only at half speed for the Holy Cross game. As it turned out, he carried the ball 16 times, caught five passes, and scored one touchdown. In fact, Spangenberg leads the Dartmouth team in running, pass receiving punting, and returning kickoffs. He, along with the two guards, will be in perfect shape Saturday.
But it is undeniable that despite Dartmouth's numerous assets, the Indians have been sputtering on the field this year. They squeaked past Bucknell, 20-18, in their opener. After crashing a weak Pennsylvania squad 28-0 the next weekend, they barely beat Brown 14-7 and scored in the last five minutes to defeat Holy Cross 14-3 last Saturday.
Most of the scores, however, can be traced to the Indian's one real weakness--the lack of an adequate pass defense. Opposing quarterbacks have completed 51 of the 90 passes they have launched against the Indians this year. All five touchdowns scored against the Green have come through the air.
Whether vulnerability to air strikes will cost the Indians a great deal, or the game, this weekend is uncertain. Harvard's Mike Bassett passes only when necessary and sometimes not even then. But if the strong Dartmouth defense can stop the strong Crimson running game, Bassett may be forced to take to the air.
As for the offense, Dartmouth is set. Besides Spangenberg and Kelley, they can use big fullback Tom Parkinson, who has a rushing average of better than four yards per carry. Jack McLean, a 160-pound scatback, runs well and is a first-class pass receiver. The line is big and fast, and the ends, Charles Greer and captain Scott Greelman, are the equals of any in the Ivy League. Bob Komives, McKinnon's replacement at center, is the lightest man in the line at 190. Curran and Keible are 220-pounders, as are the more inexperienced tackles, Jan Dephouse and Dale Runge.
The Indians unquestionably have been playing under par up until now. Like Harvard, Dartmouth has been hurt by fumbles, interceptions, penalties, and unnecessarily sloppy play. Saturday's battle with the Crimson is one of the biggest of the season for the Indians, and they can be counted on to be at their best. And their best is awfully good