What Princeton Must Do to Defeat Dartmouth
BY JAY GREENBERG
1) Be exacting. Precision won a titanic inch-by-inch struggle a year ago, 14-9. The biggest play in the painstaking 23 that it took for the Tigers to go from their own 4 to the Dartmouth 5 and flip field position was a 12 yard pass by John Lovett ’19 to Jesper Horsted ’19. Princeton perimeter blocking, as much as anything one player did with the ball, won the game. Two false starts by Dartmouth – one at their own goal line after stopping the above drive, the other when they appeared about to extend the lead to 16-7 just before the half – probably lost it.
Neither team is mistake prone, how both got to 7-0, but as irresistible forces meet immovable objects, it is almost guaranteed that one or two at the right/wrong time will decide the sequel. It would be surprising to see the winner score into the thirties and it might not even make the twenties again. Eyes have to be right and hands can’t go wrong.
2) Run the ball. The Dartmouth Jackson Perry-David Chalmers stonewall notwithstanding, good Harvard backs and its beefy offensive line did push out 134 yards rushing, not exactly a gashing, but still helpful in controlling the time of possession by a significant seven minutes. Hence Dartmouth had just three points before its unlikely last-minute comeback.
For all the 36.6 points per game they have scored, the Big Green has had the ball three minutes fewer than opponents this season, indicative of its big play capability, which of course becomes diminished the less they have the ball. The Tigers have been too successfully run/pass balanced for too long in the Surace era to be intimidated by a formidable front. They will keep pounding, unless of course they get substantially behind, which is unlikely.
3) Contain Jared Gerbino. He destroyed a depleted Princeton defense for 202 rushing yards in the last game the Tigers lost and was held to 36 a year ago, when they won. Lane discipline is huge, and despite some big slip ups early at Bucknell, opposition is averaging only 96 yards rushing per game. Princeton linebacking, inexperienced at three positions when the season began, has improved by the week. Jeremiah Tyler can run with anybody and changes opposition game planning.
4) Contain Drew Estrada. Dartmouth hasn’t needed a bell cow at running back to run up 37 points a game because Estrada can do it all from any position, including run back punts to a 21-yard average. Special teams can win and lose this game, too. The best punter might win, duties including placing the ball way from Estrada. The Tiger secondary has been not only ball-hawking but extremely sure-handed, especially in keeping quick outs from being run into 1st downs and more. One or two plays might mean everything, however, and Estrada can make them.
5) Protect the quarterback and the ball. Dartmouth blitzes selectively, a luxury that comes with having a Bushnell Cup cornerback in Isiah Swann; another candidate, linebacker Jack Traynor, who can pass drop as well as run sideline to sideline in making tackles, plus a four-man rush that brings more than ample heat. Harvard dropped Kevin Davidson four times, but practically all were coverage sacks. Princeton pass protection has been very good and so has been its ball security – just one fumble lost. But again, against these guys, margin for error is slim.