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Around the Ivy League

Week Eight

By Michael R. James, Crimson Staff Writer

With the opening weekend of Ivy football behind us, it’s helpful to take a moment to summarize what we’ve learned about each team as league play begins in week two.

Ivy champion Penn may have put up 61 points in its opener against San Diego, but 313 of the Quakers’ 481 total yards and six of its eight touchdowns came on the ground. This performance, while staggering, left the questions surrounding junior quarterback Pat McDermott unanswered, as the first-time starter attempted just 27 passes, completing 13 and two for touchdowns.

Harvard’s defense had something to prove and came through in a big manner, holding a punchless Holy Cross team to just 131 total yards in sloppy, disgusting conditions that can only be described as New England-like. Boasting about holding the Crusaders offense in check is like a father bragging to his co-workers that he block his eight-year-old son’s jump shot in a game of one-on-one.

Dartmouth nearly pulled off the shocker of the weekend, driving 77 yards for a touchdown as time expired to pull within 17-15 of No. 10 Colgate. The Big Green’s subsequent two-point conversion failed—an attempt that wouldn’t have been necessary had Dartmouth not botched a PAT earlier in the fourth quarter. The Big Green defense, however, won its battle, limiting last year’s Payton Award winner, running back Jamaal Branch, to just 115 yards (which, for Branch, is an off-day) and the Raider offense as a whole to just 240.

Another possible “shocker of the week” nearly took place in Dayton, Ohio, as Yale found itself deadlocked with the mid-major Flyers at 17 a piece heading into the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs were bailed out not by Payton Award candidate and quarterback Alvin Cowan but rather by running back Robert Carr, who had a monster day with 172 yards rushing and scored the game winning touchdown early in the fourth. And that’s great news for Yale, which needed Carr to step up this season in order to create a quarterback-running back duo that could rival that of Harvard’s Ryan Fitzpatrick and Clifton Dawson.

And now to the games on the docket for this weekend:

No. 22 Penn (1-0) vs. No. 11 Villanova (2-1)

This is the season for Penn.

Win, and the Quakers will jump into the top-15 and re-enter the national scene which had cast them aside after quarterback and Ivy Player-of-the-Year Mike Mitchell graduated.

Lose, and the focus shifts back to surviving a visit from Harvard and a trip to New Haven in order to stake a claim to the Ivy title for the third straight season.

The bad news is that Villanova is an even stronger team than their No. 11 ranking would indicate. The Wildcats lost 17-0 to James Madison last weekend, but that contest was waged in torrential downpours that limited both squads to a combined 213 yards of total offense and caused the two clubs to combine for 13 fumbles, nine of which were lost.

Villanova boasts a ridiculously talented defense that should give Quaker quarterback Pat McDermott fits. Add to that a rare primetime start, a buzzing stadium, and CN8 television cameras, and there’s no telling the amount of pressure that will be riding on McDermott’s shoulders. He won’t have to be great, as standout running back Sam Mathews will be ready and willing to shoulder the load, but he’ll need to improve a bit over his 13-for-27 performance against San Diego.

I’ll take Villanova in a squeaker, if only because the Quakers haven’t beaten the Wildcats since the Taft administration.

Yale (1-0) vs. Cornell (0-1)

Take a quick look at this one on paper. Yale has the better quarterback. Yale has the better running back. Yale has better wide receivers. And after Bucknell ran all over Cornell last week, I’m not so sure that Yale doesn’t have the better defense.

Of course, the Big Red played the Bison tough and very easily could have beaten Bucknell to open up the season. But Cornell did the same thing last year, actually beating the Bison in its opener before losing its last nine games. The Bulldogs aren’t necessarily riding high themselves, after edging a Dayton team which it should have soundly defeated.

Even if there is a bit of a residual effect from Yale’s near miss last weekend, the talent gap here is too large to ignore. Yale wins going away—something residents of lonely Ithaca, NY could surely appreciate.

Dartmouth (0-1) vs. No. 14 New Hampshire (2-1)

For the second straight week, Dartmouth faces a top 15 opponent that is coming off of a difficult loss.

This week’s opponent, New Hampshire, has been all over the board, opening up its season by knocking off defending national champion and then-No. 1 ranked Delaware. The Wildcats proceeded to stun I-A Rutgers, coming back from down 10 at half to beat the Scarlet Knights 35-24. Then, New Hampshire fell asleep for three quarters en route to a 9-7 defeat at the hands of lowly William and Mary.

The Wildcats lost their starting quarterback Mike Granieri in the first game of the year, and while backup Ricky Santos has looked stellar at times, he can be shaken.

The Big Green defense is good enough to keep the team in the ballgame, but without a legitimate rushing attack, Dartmouth will once again fall short and will run its Granite Bowl record to 0-5.

Princeton (1-0) vs. San Diego (1-2)

If the Tigers’ schedule were placed on a golf course, it would have been three feet inside the Quakers ball on the green waiting for that perfect read.

Though Penn sunk its Toreros putt with authority, the read that Princeton got was perfect.

Run. Run. Run some more. Kick a few PATs. Take a brief halftime respite. Run. Run. Run some more.

Princeton ran for 183 yards against Lafayette and travels to San Diego to take on a team that just gave up 313 in a contest. If I were the grounds crew, I’d string a trip wire from endzone pylon to endzone pylon in order to ensure Tiger backs don’t just run right out of the stadium.

I don’t think Princeton has the firepower to break 60, but this game should get ugly fast. But, then again, Toreros coach Jim Harbaugh was on the 2001 Carolina Panthers which went 1-15, so his definition of ugly might be slightly more nuaced than mine.

Columbia (0-1) vs. Bucknell (1-1)

Both of these teams need to get offensive, and fast. In three games, Bucknell and Columbia’s offenses have combined to generate all of TWO scoring drives. Last week, Columbia scored all 14 of its points while the offense remained plastered to benches which remained a safe distance from the field.

This one’s going to come down to which team’s crappy offense shines relative to the other team’s crappy offense. Or it’s going to come down to something strange, like a blocked field goal that’s returned for a touchdown or an interception on a two-point conversion which is returned for two points the other way. In this vein, my final score prediction is 13.2-11.5. Sure, you won’t see it, but you probably shouldn’t see this game either.

—MICHAEL R. JAMES

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