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Yale and Dartmouth Hold Slight Edge

By Laurence S. Grafstein

So far, every team in the Ivy League is undefeated. It's that time of year again--coaches' hopes burgeon, each tempering outright enthusiasm with a sober assessment of the competition. As always, the 1980 Ivy football season assures nothing more than the unexpected, especially this year with six teams conceivably in the race for the championship. No one dares to place the Ivies in the realm of big-time football, but then again, at least all eight teams will compete, unlike the Pac (10-5).

While the traditional rhetoric about how balanced the Ivies are and how many schools have a shot at the crown sounds familiar, this fall promises to furnish an exciting derby down to the last Saturday. The consensus among the league's coaches seems to be that only Penn and Columbia are removed from the thick of things, but that those two squads will both be improved. At this point, no team stands above the rest of the crowd the way Yale did last year--and we all know what happened to Yale last year.

The prognostication:

1. YALE: The Bulldogs always field an imposing assemblage, but this season coach Carm Cozza will have to replace 14 starters from last year's almost undefeated squad. Because the Elis saw their season in the sun abruptly Crimsoned by the score of 22-7, the initial press releases from New Haven recall 1979 as merely a "very fine" season--mild language for pre-season publicity dispatches, particularly those of an 8-1 defending champion. Presumably, if the perennially powerful Bulldogs crunch the Crimson this year, they will have enjoyed a "great" season.

The schedule seems to favor the Elis. After what should prove a revealing opener against Brown, Yale gets its three non-league games out of the way, then faces the relatively weak Columbia and Penn squads. By the time the meat of the competition pops up, Cozza should have his collection finely tuned, and the season finale at Soldiers Field should be a dandy.

In 1979, the Elis led all NCAA Division I-A teams in total defense (175.4 yards per game) and rushing defense (75 Yards per game). Returnees include middle guard kevin Czinger, who blocked two punts in the 13-12 squeaker over Brown, end Fred Leone and standout monster back Dave Novosel, who has a tendency to turn up wherever the ball may be.

On offense, Yale boasts depth at the crucial quarterback position, with John Rogan and Phil Manley. Senior spilt end Danny Stratton caught 33 passes a year ago for a 19.1 average. Tailback Rick Diana returns after an injury kept him on the sidelines most of last season. Cozza plans to build his offense around captain and fullback John Nitti.

That Cozza must replace 13 starters may be deceiving, although it appears certain his team will not approach the caliber of last year's group. The only glaring weakness is the kicking game, where the Elis will have an untested punter and placekicker.

But knowing the depth Yale teams usually have, the Elis appear the surest of a batch of unsure bets.

2. DARTMOUTH: This is the 100th year of Dartmouth football--will wonders never cease--and the Big Green intends to pursue the Ivy title with a vengeance. The first thing many students and alumni want to do to celebrate the centennial is bring back the Indian as the school symbol, proving that those educated in the backwoods can often be backward-minded.

But coach Joe Yukica's squad will try to rise above the prejudicial fray and bring the undisputed Ivy title back to Hanover, the king of beer-consuming milieus, as many Big Green partisans feel obliged to tell you.

With Jeff Kemp at quarterback (the son of Rep. Jack Kemp, Reactionary of New York) rumor has it that Dartmouth will run a balanced budget offense. Actually, Kemp promises to send opposing defenses reeling into the red. He has as targets spilt end Dave Shula, son of Miami Dolphins' coach Don Shula and Dartmouth's all-time leading receiver, and flanker Sean Teevens, brother of 1978 Ivy most valuable player Buddy Teevens, who led the Big Green to the Ivy championship that year.

On defense, inside linebackers Joe Fernandez and Gary Pearson will marshall the forces, though the Big Green may be vulnerable at defensive tackle and in the secondary. The overall personnel is strong enough to challenge for the title, and a good measuring stick of Dartmouth's strength will be the October 18 clash with the Crimson in New Hampshire.

3. HARVARD: A tad optimistic? Perhaps, but the Crimson's results over the last few years have been misleading. Two years ago, the 4-4-1 squad could well have gone 8-1 with a few strategically distributed points, and the massive rash of injuries last year does not allow an incisive examination.

As coach Joe Restic says, "If we can stay healthy, we'll be three." A superlative defensive line and a wealth of talented signal-callers should prove the greatest Crimson strengths, and while the squad has some holes to plug, Restic's charges always manage to be competitive.

4. CORNELL: "It's trite but true--there are six contenders for the Ivy League title this year, and it should be very exciting," Cornell head coach Bob Blackman says, and adds, "I'm optimistic enough to count Cornell among those contenders." Blackman, the most successful coach in Ivy history, won seven titles in 16 years with Dartmouth but has yet to bring the crown to Ithaca. The Big Red might be a good darkhorse bet for the title, although uncertainty on the offensive line and in the secondary may spoil Cornell's bid to cop its first championship since 1971.

If Blackman can work some magic with his secondary and offensive line--and he has always had a reputation for pulling off the unexpected--Cornell could threaten for all the marbles. Right now, however, the Big Red look a little thin to maintain consistency over the grueling ten-game slate, which includes formidable Rutgers as an adversary. The Crimson will have the good fortune of catching Cornell the week after the Big Red's showdown with the Scarlet Knights.

5. PRINCETON: The Tigers have improved considerably in the two years that Frank Navarro has been at the helm. Most prominent is their running game, which will probably be the best in the Ivies. All-Ivy first team fullback Larry Van Pelt, a 5-ft. 7-in. bundle of energy, plugged for 550 yards last year and opened innumerable holes for second team All-Ivy halfback Cris Crissy, who piled up 604 yards. In sum, the duo produced nearly 2100 all-purpose yards.

But the loss of quarterback Steve Reynolds to graduation may hinder the running backs. Bob Holly and Mark Lockenmeyer will vie for the starting role this year, and thought the offensive line has potential, it suffers from the loss of outstanding center Ted Sotir to graduation. The receiver corps was also depleted by commencement, so while Navarro has a few potent weapons, it remains to be seen whether the offense will jell as a unit.

As in the case of Cornell, which Princeton should battle for fourth, the Tigers' secondary was ravaged by graduation. The linebackers also run somewhat shallow, but the defensive line--anchored by consistent end Paul Van Pelt and tackle Steve Hart--should be aggressive. But all told, Princeton's defense prevents them from entering the upper echelons of the Ivies--though they might pull off an upset or two. No, Navarro is not switching from spikes to topsiders.

6. BROWN: Many pre-season forecasts have put Brown on top of the Ivy heap. True, the Bruins boast perhaps the best individuals offensive player in the league--quarterback Larry Carbone--and the top defensive player--linebacker John Woodring--but the bears will need more than that to weave their way to the head of the pack.

Coach John Anderson, like his namesake who has designs on the presidency, still hasn't plugged a number of holes for the 1980 campaign. He is in search of seven starters on defense and six starters on offense, and sounded disheartened about his team's prospects last week. "We have too many question marks to have an idea how we'll do," he said.

Although he has a gem of a tailback in Rick Villella, out for much of last season with a rib injury, he has little depth in the backfield, Carbone threw for 895 yards and had a 53.5-per-cent completion ratio last year, but lost topflight receiver Mark Farnham to graduation. But the Bruins will be strong up front, led by hulking senior Jon McCabe.

Anderson calls Woodring the best linebacker he's coached at Brown, and he will be kept extra busy compensating for the weakness of a defensive line that needs a thorough revamping. The secondary is one of the best in the league, however, with Woody Pugh, Chris Weir and Tony Mancini all returning.

Anderson's squad could find itself the butt of even more insults than usual, but the talent dispersed through the lineup gives the Bruins at least on outside chance in the race.

7. COLUMBIA and PENN (tie): Hapless though they may seem, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon for both the Lions and the Quakers. Rookie head coach Bob Naso, an assistant for 20 years at Rutgers, comes to New York and will install a new offense.

Naso hopes his system will catch some his early-season opponents by surprise, and since the Lions meet the Crimson in the first game, he is obviously eyeing what would be a morale booster. The Lions upset the crimson two years ago in Cambridge, but that team was far better than last year's 1-8 version.

Still, Columbia is bound to upset someone, and Naso has solid credentials. Quarterback Bob Conroy and running backs Joe Cabrera and Ralph Brunori should lead the offense, with linebackers Sean D'Arcy and wild Chip Quadri heading the defense.

At Penn, the Quakers will be looking to win. At least one game. Coach Harry Gamble, however, has built a young squad that should arrive as a contender in 1981. Gamble somehow managed to infuse the Quakers with a sense of enthusiasm as they stumbled to an 0-9 record.

Gamble runs a wishbone offense, but since Penn threw the ball 159 times from the primaily run-oriented formation, it is heralded as the "Multi-Bone." Quarterback Doug Marzonie will direct the Multi-Bone. He passed for 944 yards (59-136) last year and rushed for 165 yards after embarking on his Penn career as a defensive back.

The defense figures to be, well, weak. But Penn has no place to go but up.

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