What Princeton Must Do to Defeat Dartmouth
BY JAY GREENBERG
1) Defend the run. Ryder Stone is a strong between-the-tackles type; in Bob Surace’s mind comparable to Charlie Volker in ability to turns three yards into five and five into seven. The Big Green has not utilized Stone much to the outside, which perhaps may simplify things for a callow Tiger defense that has had some trouble holding the edge. Then again, quarterback Jack Heneghan can run and Dartmouth saw Penn’s success in the speed option against Princeton, so we may see some see some of that.
Other than the one 47-yard touchdown–on which Zane Dudek actually fumbled the ball out of the end zone after being run down by Ben Ellis at the one–the Tigers made Yale’s dynamic back carry 34 other times for 133 yards. So Princeton was not gashed nearly as badly by the Bulldogs as by Penn which, set up by huge success on the speed option, found plenty of running room up the middle too. Is progress being made? We’ll see. Dartmouth has a huge and veteran offensive line and a pounder in Stone.
2) Watch Hunter Hagdorn. “If your eyes are on Stone, (quarterback Jack) Heneghan will go over the top and hit a home run to Hagdorn,” said Surace. “A lot of their receivers have a lot of catches but Hagdorn has hit the big plays consistently week in and week out.” Again, the Tigers will shuffle in every defensive lineman still standing–plus whatever linebackers can still run–to try to muster a semblance of a critically needed pass rush against a cool, confident, accurate and mobile Heneghan. Blitzes will be dialed up selectively, as always.
3) Throw. You were expecting maybe a cloud of dust? Princeton always looks for a good pass-run balance. But with school offensive passing records about to fall, there is no reason to suddenly get conservative.
No one has truly stopped Jesper Horsted and Stephen Carlson on those slants, crosses and posts to this point and Tiger Bech is emergent as a dynamic wild card. But this is a veteran and aggressive Dartmouth secondary keyed by Danny McManus. Defensive coordinator Don Dobes, once a Princeton assistant, has a track record for befuddling some of the Ivy League all-time greats, like Cornell’s Jeff Matthews.
4) Kick better. Earlier forecasts for a miserable weather day of rain and wind have been moderated to 40 per cent chance of precipitation and 40 degree temperatures. So it is more a case of Dartmouth’s defensive prowess–98.6 yards per game running and 216.8 in the air that may make this a lower scoring game than what we are used to seeing. Field position and punt teams will matter and the return of Steven Mejia last week could prove a big help.
5) No passengers. As Princeton will close every season with Penn starting in 2018, the longest trip the Tigers make will no longer be the last every other year. With so many defenders who didn’t figure to travel this season now playing big reps, nobody is along just for the ride.
The Tigers may be undermanned, but not undermotivated. They are more annoyed that 5-1 has become 5-4 by a total of eight points than they are crestfallen. Practices remain spirited; there is no sign of this being a team that can’t wait for a broken season to be over. The Tigers, not overmatched by anybody even in their depleted state, have full intentions of savoring a satisfying ride home.