Craig Morton is a winner on a losing team.
Morton, a Dartmouth wide receiver, is arguably the best pass catcher in the Ivy League. He has 2093 career receiving yards, second most in Dartmouth history. He has blazing speed--he runs the 40-yd. dash in 4.4 seconds.
But his labors have brought no championships. Morton, the 1986 Ivy League Sophomore of the Year and ECAC Rookie of the Year, is a star in a sky dominated by gray clouds. A top-flight receiver in a struggling program.
Last year, the Big Green finished 2-8 overall and second to last in the Ivy League with a 1-6 record. This year, Dartmouth is 1-3 (0-1 Ivy). Morton talks about his team winning the Ivy League championship this year. But no one, from sports writers to league coaches, gives the Green much chance.
Morton, who leads his team in receiving with 379 yards on 22 catches, is shining on a dull squad. Sometimes, he admits, it is hard to keep his engine running when the bus is going nowhere.
"Last year was an ugly year," Morton says. "We had a tendency to get behind and roll over and die."
"It was ugly," he repeats. "The first game of this year [a 33-27 loss to the University of Pennsylvania] was a complete turnaround. We could have been 1-0 in the Ivy League."
This year, the second under Coach Buddy Teevens, is better than last, Morton says. There is more enthusiasm. More confidence. But there are still losses.
As a senior, Morton sees his job as both pass catcher and motivator. A man with moves and a loud mouth.
"I've really got to keep things going," he says. "We have a great tendency to drive inside the 20 [yard line] and lose out on a touchdown or even on a field goal. It's my job to get the team up."
Morton is tied for the team lead in touchdowns with two. And after what he admits was an off year last year--he suffered from a shoulder injury the entire season--he is back is form.
Morton holds six of the 12 slots on Dartmouth's single-game receiving list. In 1986 against Navy, he caught nine passes for 191 yards. His best game this year came against Penn in which he caught seven passes for 180 yards.
In his sophomore year Morton had 1063 receiving yards. Last year his total dipped to 651.
"He had a tough year last year," Teevens says. "His injury didn't prevent him from playing, but it inhibited him."
Teevens likens Morton's injury to "running with one arm strapped to your side."
"He's a type of guy who can be a big play man," Teevens says. "He's back 100 percent."
Well, not quite 100 percent. Morton says he is suffering from tendonitis in his knee.
Morton credits part of his success this year to quarterback Mark Johnson.
"He's much more of a passer than we had last year," Morton says. "Mark Johnson has a much stronger arm than [last year's starter and this year's reserve] Chris Rorke. He's the best pitcher on our baseball team, so he can really fire it."
Morton says a victory over Harvard would give this young Dartmouth squad--which critics have labeled the green Green--a badly needed boost of confidence. A 2-3 record looks much more respectable than a 1-4 mark. And a 1-1 Ivy League record would keep the Green in the race for the league crown. Last year, Dartmouth lost its first four league games.
"I think we have a very good chance," he says. "The betting line is something like 15 points [in Harvard's favor]. That's out of hand."
When he graduates this spring, Morton hopes to try out with a professional team.
"I have a lot of money I owe this place," Morton says. "One year in the pros and I'd pay off my debts."