In the modern era of sports, being a college coach carries with it the burden of constant media attention. Facing dozens of reporters at press conferences, head coaches have gotten savvier—they say what they need to and leave the rest up for speculation. Here at The Back Page, we’re happy to decode some of these media sessions, showing the average fan what we think coaches’ answers “really” mean.
For the first time in his second go-around with the Dartmouth football team, Buddy Teevens has four wins in a season—and the campaign is just over half over. So when perennial powerhouse Harvard came to Hanover, N.H. last weekend, Teevens and his Big Green had a chance to make a statement. With a rowdy Homecoming crowd in the stands and the game aired on NESN, Dartmouth could have cemented its role as a team to watch. But instead, the Crimson came away with a dominant win, and Teevens is now faced with the task of making sure his team—currently 1-3 in Ivy play—doesn’t let up in the season’s final three games. Here’s what he had to say after the game.
What Teevens said: We were on the field an awful lot in the first quarter and the first half. They had 60 plays to our 24, so it was tough to get anything going. Harvard's a good football team, very physical up front. We've been getting some movement up front, didn't get quite what we would've liked, and we're facing second and eight, third and eight, and usually we've been third and three, third and four. Our third down conversion [rate] was 1-of-9, so really did put ourselves in a bad situation.
What Teevens meant: Teevens got right to the heart of the game here—Harvard’s defensive line was able to pressure quarterback Connor Kempe and tailback Nick Schwieger in a way no other opponent (and that includes Penn) could. The stat that most people will point to is that the Crimson was able to sack Kempe, who had been sacked once in Dartmouth’s first six games, four times on Saturday. Kempe was also forced into throwing a season-high three interceptions, and many of those came on poorly-placed throws that were rushed because he was being hurried by the defense. But Harvard also held Schwieger to a season-low 69 yards rushing (although the tailback sat out the fourth quarter with a minor injury). The Crimson’s defense came to play, and it stopped the Big Green dead in its tracks.
What Teevens said: We're closer. It wasn't what it's been in the past [against Harvard]. I thought we competed hard. Obviously we have tremendous respect there—they've won so many titles of late. Coach Murphy and his team, they come and they're always ready to play, and I thought it was a different approach this year than what I've seen in the past from my guys. And they had the confidence that they could go out and execute, and they feel worse now, because we let some things get away.
What Teevens meant: Dartmouth came into the game having lost 12 of its last 13 against Harvard, including dropping the last six contests. But the Big Green came in with a bit of swagger, sitting at 4-2 with a real chance to make some a move into the middle of the Ivy pack. Sure, Dartmouth did play better than it had against the Crimson in the past, and had things gone a little differently—if Foley Schmidt hadn’t missed a 40-yard field goal, or if Michael Reilly hadn’t dropped a catch in the endzone—it could have been a real game. But the game never felt that close. Even though Dartmouth has made some big steps in the right direction, it’s still a long way away from a powerhouse like Harvard, and the Big Green’s losses to 4-0 Penn and 3-1 Yale prove it further.