High Hopes for Football Against Yale

By Elizabeth Reynolds

The Dartmouth Indians will face off against the Yale Bulldogs on Memorial Field this Saturday, October 9th. Despite their lost last Saturday at Penn, there are still high hopes for this year’s Dartmouth football team because they won the first two games of the season – something that Dartmouth has not been able to celebrate since 2003.

In the first game of the season, the Dartmouth football team had a 43-20 victory over Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. Not only had the team not won a season-opener since 2005, but it was also their first road win since 2006. Quarterback Connor Kempe ’12, who contributed three passing touchdowns, remarked, “It was really important to start off with a victory. It does wonders for our confidence going into the next game.”

After defeating Bucknell, the Indians went on to triumph over Sacred Heart University in front of 6,427 Dartmouth fans at home. Thanks to two long fourth-down conversions and Sacred Heart’s field goal blunder in the last minute, Dartmouth pulled through with a 21-19 win. Linebacker Luke Hussey ’11 believed the energetic crowd helped influence the game’s outcome. “The energy we had running out before kickoff, the feeling that I had, I have never come close to that since I’ve been here. [It was] such a rush to hear all the fans cheering and have all the music going.” 

Next, the Dartmouth players traveled to Philadelphia to challenge the defending Ivy League champions, University of Pennsylvania. After recovering from a 14-point deficit and tying the game at 28, the Indians lost in overtime 35-28. Dartmouth quarterback Conner Kempe ’12 fought hard for the Indians, matching his career high with three touchdown passes and completing 17-of-32 attempts for 239 yards. The Quakers slowed Dartmouth’s running game to just 79 yards after the Indians averaged over 200 yards in the first two games of the season. Meanwhile, Penn showed a strong running game, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. The Indians have returned to Hanover with a record of 2-1 and started their preparation for Yale. 

According to Dartmouth linebacker Luke Hussey ‘11, a strong attendance at the much anticipated game against Yale could help Dartmouth continue their winning streak. However, it will take much more than an animated audience to take down the Bulldogs. For Yale has had a successful season thus far, also winning their first two games.

Yale began their 138th season of football with a victory over Georgetown University. In this close game, junior Patrick Witt surged over the goal line just before time expired, giving the Bulldogs a 40-35 win over the Hoyas. Witt threw for 407 yards in the game, including two touchdowns.   

The Bulldogs next traveled to Ithaca, New York where they defeated Cornell 21-7 in their first Ivy League game. After being tied 7-7 at halftime, Yale was quick to step up their game in the third quarter. On the first play of the second half, senior Adam Money’s interception and 20-yard return led to a touchdown by junior tailback Alex Thomas. With Patrick Witt’s one-yard touchdown later in the quarter, Yale secured the win. 

In a preseason media poll, Yale was ranked fourth in the Ivy league while Dartmouth trailed behind at seventh, just above Cornell. However, the spirits of the Dartmouth football team are high, and they are ready to prove these numbers wrong. 

Clearly there is something different about this year’s Dartmouth football team. It is hard to believe the Indians are coming off a disappointing 2-8 season last year.  

Running back Nick Schwieger ‘12 believes there are multiple factors that led to the football team’s early success. “Our team is more mature than previously. We returned the majority of our starters on both sides of the ball, which is really important. We also have done a lot of work in the off-season which is paying dividends on the field in terms of strength and conditioning.” 

Schwieger also sees improvements in the team thanks to the additions of offensive coordinator Jim Pry and defensive coordinator Don Dobes. According to Schwieger, these coaches “added a new energy to our team and their coaching styles put our players in the best position to win.”

Although he has not seen any tapes of Yale playing, Schwieger has heard that Yale is both a good team and is well coached. This is head coach Tom Williams’ second season instructing the Bulldogs. Last year, he led Yale to four major wins using his experience as the defensive assistant for the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars. 

Despite Yale’s strong record, Schwieger and the Dartmouth football team remain optimistic about their chances at victory. “I think that if we come out and execute our game plan mistake free we will have an opportunity to win any game on our schedule. Week in and week out every team we play will play us very tough but I’m confident in our team’s ability to overcome adversity within a game.”

Only time will tell if Dartmouth can retain their winning record and dominate the Ivy League. Regardless, the team is off to a historic start and should draw a large and enthusiastic crowd when they challenge the Yale Bulldogs next weekend. Saturday’s kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at Memorial Field in Hanover.