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If the Richmeister were ever to leave Saturday Night Live to cover Ivy League athletics, he'd have a field day with Dartmouth's junior star, quarterback Jay Fiedler.
Jay "Big Train" Fiedler. The Fiedler Express. "Jetstream" Fiedler. Jackpot Jay. Fiedler of Dreams.
Odd thing is, it's not the Richmeister calling him these names. It's the Dartmouth athletic department. Local and national newspapers. And coaches around the Ivy League.
Everyone watching Ivy football is enamored of this Oceanside, N.Y. native, last year's Ivy Sophomore of the Year and a leading candidate for Player of the Year this time around.
He is the best quarterback in the Ancient Eight, no question.
Ranked second in passing efficiency and third in total offense nationally, Fiedler will own every passing and total offense record at Dartmouth before he is through with his thesis (it's in engineering, by the way, and he holds a 3.15 GPA).
Oh, and Fiedler competes in the decathalon for the Dartmouth track team. He placed third in the pentathlon at the indoor heptagonal games as a sophomore.
Dan, Dave...and Jay. Get Reebok on the phone--it's not too farfetched.
But Fiedler might have trouble doing the commercials. He does not fit the swaggering, "God I'm good" stereotype of typical college phenoms (eg. Princeton tailback Keith Elias). When he says, "I don't really have an ego. I just want the team to win," you sense that he really believes it.
That said, Fiedler is under no illusions about his signal-calling prowess. It's tough to delude oneself when putting up numbers like he does.
"I think that the key to my success is that I can read defenses very well," Fiedler says. "I have a lot of freedom to audible at the line if we're not picking up blocks or there's a mismatch. I think the biggest thing, though, is that I can find the open receiver quick."
He pauses, then adds with emphasis: "I can get the ball to him as quickly as possible."
"He's a big, strong kid [Fiedler is 6'2", 215 pounds] who runs well and has a strong arm," Dartmouth Coach John Lyon said. "He's bright. He understands how we're trying to attack the defense and does a good jub to put in the right plays at the right time."
Dartmouth wide receiver senior Matt Brzica--who was Ivy Sophomore of the Year himself as a quarterback before losing his job to Jackpot Jay--is more succinct in assessing his teammate's ability:
"[Jay's] a great quarterback, a great quarterback," Brzica said. "He has a great arm, he knows the game well, he knows how to read defenses well and he can put the ball right in any receiver's hands. Virtually every time."
Brzica should know. He is currently the Big Green's leading receiver, hauling in an average of eight of Fiedler's tosses per game.
Before last season, Brzica had never played wide receiver. Now, he's headed for first-team All-Ivy honors.
That says something about the quarterback. "He's done very well. He can get it to me anytime," Brzica says.
Fiedler is a classic dropback passer with mobility. He can also throw on the run and occasionally do bootlegs. Running, however, is not his strong point: on 40 carries this season, he has 67 yards.
But he's not asked to run. He's asked to pass. Coming into this weekend, Fiedler has completed 97 of 154 passes for 1424 yards, 15 touchdowns and three interceptions in five games. (Those three INTs were in the first two weeks. He's given up nothing since then.)
Already, Fiedler has made his way into the Dartmouth record books: fourth in career passing yards (2,818), first in career touchdown passes (28), fourth in completions (218), fourth in total offense (3,121). He holds the record for most offense in a game (398 yards against Yale this year) and most passing yards in a game (419, also against Yale).
The Harvard team can't generate those kind of numbers.
With Fiedler on the fast track into the Dartmouth Hall of Fame, it's worth remembering that he started his sophomore year on the bench. After all, Brzica had just finished tearing up the Ancient Eight the year before.
But Fiedler was confident. He practiced hard. He knew he was better than Brzica. It would just be a matter of time.
"I knew that, coming off that year, it would be tough to come in right away," Fiedler said. "It was a tough decision for the coach. He had to start Matt. During practice, I realized that I had some talents that Matt...that I was a bit better than Matt, specifically at passing the ball."
The chance came early. Brzica took a pounding in the first game of the season (at Pennsylvania). He didn't practice during the next week, and he was ineffective in the Big Green's next game against Bucknell.
At halftime, then-Coach Buddy Teevens took out Brzica, put in Fiedler...and, well, let Brzica tell it: "Even though I tried, I was injured. [Fiedler] went in, did very well, and I just knew I had to find another position," Brzica said. "No hard feelings. I think if there were, he wouldn't be throwing to me."
No hard feelings. Just hard numbers that keep piling up.
The Fiedler Express. Watch it roll.
Fiedler's Statistics 1992 Comp. Att. Pct. Yds TD s Int Penn 15 26 .577 203 5 2 at UNH 21 36 .583 276 2 1 Bucknell 18 27 .667 219 2 0 at H. Cross 23 34 .676 307 2 0 Yale 20 31 .645 419 4 0 Cornell 15 24 .625 231 1 3
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