September 17, 2004

A New Face at the Top

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Over the past five years, the Ivy League has essentially been a two-horse race. Penn and Harvard. Harvard and Penn. Occasionally another team will make things interesting, only to see the boys from Philadelphia or Boston snatch away the league title like the class bully taking over the sandbox. Will things play out differently in this most Ancient of sandboxes in 2004? Of course, they play the games for a reason, but the smart money says to go with a resounding ‘no.’

Harvard Crimson
2003 Record: 7-3, 4-3 Ivy League Returning Letterwinners: 31

The Good: Senior quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick could very well be the best signal caller in all of Division 1-AA, if not among the best in the entire nation. Last season, he missed three games due to a broken hand he suffered in the Crimson”s 27-0 thumping of Cornell at Schoellkopf Field. In the games he did play in 2003, Harvard went 5-2. Of the two games he did lose, the first was against Dartmouth, which came after he missed two weeks following his hand injury. The second was against Penn, which went undefeated. Along the way, Fitzpatrick set a school record for total offense in a game, averaging 314.3 all-purpose yards on the season, and moved into second place in Crimson history in completion percentage (61.9) and third in touchdown passes (26).

The Bad: Special teams proved to be a bit of a struggle for the Crimson, which in 2003 converted on only four of 11 field goal attempts, and went 31-for-38 on PATs. Harvard returns junior Jim Morocco as its primary placekicker. Morocco was mediocre in limited playing time last year, going 2-for-4 on field goals and 12-for-16 on points after.

The Ugly: The Crimson graduated three starters from its 2003 defensive line, one of the few units on the team that completely avoided the injury bug. Matt McBurey is the lone returning starter. The 6-1, 260-pound senior had 18 tackles and two fumble recoveries.

Pennsylvania Quakers
2003 Record: 10-0, 7-0 Ivy League Returning Letterwinners: 38

The Good: Although the Quakers lost quarterback Mike Mitchell, the 2003 Ivy League Player of the Year, to graduation, they still boast one of the deepest and most dangerous offenses in the league. All-Ivy running back Sam Mathews and wide receiver Dan Castles both return. Castles led the Ivy League in receiving yardage a year ago, filling the starting spot vacated by Penn”s all-time leading wide receiver, Rob Milanese. He caught over 1,000 yards — only the second Quaker to ever do that — and tied a school record with 13 touchdown receptions in his first-time starting. Mathews, meanwhile, was one of the more prolific rushers in the conference, compiling 1,266 yards on 276 carries. Also returning to the Penn offense will be Kyle Ambrogi, who rushed for 74 yards and four touchdowns in the season finale against Cornell.

The Bad: Penn will have some major holes to fill on the offensive line. After that key position group went relatively unchanged for three years, the Quakers now find themselves with many more questions than answers. Of the teams 13 returning offensive lineman, only one is a letterwinner. Only three others have any game experience to speak of. The team”s entire O-line earned All-Ivy accolades a season ago, so if the Quakers are to repeat their back-to-back undefeated seasons, the rapid development of this very young corps will be crucial.

The Ugly: Or, we should say, ‘The-Not-So-Ugly. Venerable Franklin Field, which is one of the oldest stadiums in the country, received an extensive facelift over the summer. The playing surface was replaced with a new synthetic turf called Sprinturf, and a new scoreboard was installed. Unfortunately for Cornell, Penn will be visiting Ithaca this season, so the Red will have to wait a year to enjoy the improvements.

Yale Bulldogs
2003 Record: 6-4, 4-3 Ivy League Returning Letterwinners: 36

The Good: Yale has by far the most depth behind center in the league. If it wasn”t enough that the Bulldogs will return fifth-year senior Alvin Cowan, who was a finalist for the Walter Payton Award last year, Yale also boasts a more than capable backup in Jeff Mroz. Mroz converted on a 26-yard touchdown pass in his only attempt last season. The season before, however, he had a stellar year, passing for 1,731 yards and 14 touchdowns playing in place of the injured Cowan. In a league in which strong quarterbacking can carry a team a long way, Yale has a couple of the best.

The Bulldogs also feature running back Robert Carr, who is the fifth-most prolific rusher in school history. Over the past two seasons, he has averaged 941 yards and 10 touchdowns per season.

The Bad: If Yale has one glaring hole, its on special teams. Ryan Allen had only one punt in 2003, though he did average 33.6 yards per punt in 2002. Second-team All-Ivy placekicker John Troost will be away from the team due to personal reasons this season, leaving the competition for the starting job open to the trio of Andrew Sullivan, Brian Christiansen, and freshman Alan Kimball.

The Ugly: Carr had a pretty serious health scare over the summer, as he was nearly the victim of a boating accident. He was underwater for about three minutes before a fellow swimmer pulled him to the surface. He spent a couple of days in the hospital, but has since made a full recovery.

Brown Bears
2003 Record: 5-5, 4-3 Ivy League Returning Letterwinners: 40

The Good: Momentum is on the Bears” side. They began last season with a 1-4 record, having won only three of their previous 15 games. Over the second half of the season, they turned it on, going 4-1, losing only to Penn. All-America running back Nick Hartigan led the resurgence, as he finished the season as the nation”s top rusher (149.8 yards per game). Hartigan broke the Ivy Leauge sophomore rushing record of 1,409, held by Ed Marinaro “72, and was voted unanimously to the All-Ivy first team.

The Bad: Despite the momentum Brown carries into 2004, the team will be hard pressed to fill the void created by the departure of several starters both on offense and defense. Four players will vie to fill the quarterback position, vacated by Kyle Slager, while the linebacking and defensive secondary corps will be hurt by the graduation of five starters.

The Ugly: Hartigan has worn the same undershirt in every game he”s played in since high school. Head coach Phil Estes is not sure this shirt has ever been washed. That”s just plain nasty.

Dartmouth Big Green
2003 Season: 5-5, 4-3 Ivy League Returning Letterwinners: 45

The Good: Dartmouth made the 2003 Ivy League race interesting with a valiant late-season surge. Much of this was keyed by the performance of quarterback Charlie Rittgers, who passed for 2,138 yards and 15 touchdowns after claiming the reins of the starting role in the season”s third game.

The Bad: Also crucial to the Green”s run last season was wide receiver Jay Barnard and tight end Casey Cramer. Both were bona fide All-Ivy performers, and Cramer even earned enough respect to be selected by the Tampa Bay Bucs in the NFL Draft. Losing this pair will be a serious blow to the Green offense.

The Ugly: It snows a lot there and it”s cold. Not like some other places we know… Cornell Big Red
2003 Record: 1-9, 0-7 Ivy Returning Letterwinners: 40

The Good: After going 1-9 last season, the Red gets a fresh start this year under first-year head coach Jim Knowles “87.

The Bad: The Red lost every conference game last year for the first time since 1975.

The Ugly: See above.

Columbia Lions
2003 Record: 4-6, 3-4 Ivy Returning Letterwinners: 35

The Good: Columbia had a very nice turn-around last season after a 0-10 2002 campaign. A couple of studs helped lead the way in this resurgence. Quarterback Jeff Otis and tight end Wade Fletcher will headline the offense, after posting strong 2003 seasons. Otis is third on the Lion”s single-season completions list with 217, while Fletcher led the nation in touchdowns by a tight end.

The Bad: The Lions are still a very young, unproven team. The saying goes that it takes a new c
oach at least two or three years to really settle in and make the program his own. This process is clearly still on-going for Bob Shoop.

The Ugly: Columbia does not have a winning record against any Ivy opponent, and is not even close to tying the series with any.

Princeton Tigers
2003 Record: 2-8, 2-5 Ivy League Returning Letterwinners: 28

The Good: The Tigers enter the season with a solid, established offensive line. Three of the five projected starters played in every game last season. Despite the fact that All-Ivy guard Paul Lyons will be taking the season off, Princeton appears to have enough depth to overcome his absense.

The Bad: Despite a lot of talent going into last season, the Tigers were simply unable to put it together. They don”t seem to have filled their most glaring holes effectively enough to make up for this shortcoming.

The Ugly: Princeton lost to Columbia at home last season for the first time since 1945.

Archived article by Owen Bochner
Sun Sports Editor