September 13, 2007

Yale Looks to Repeat as Ivy Champion

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Last season, Yale and Princeton shared the Ancient Eight title with identical 6-1 league records. After returning many top players, Yale is the clear favorite to repeat, as the Bulldogs received 14-of-16 first-place votes in the preseason media poll. Princeton will once again be in the mix for the title, along with Penn, Harvard and local favorite Cornell. Columbia, Brown and Dartmouth will attempt to play spoiler and prove the prognosticators wrong.
Brown Bears
2006: 3-7, 2-5 Ivy
Coming off of an Ivy League championship in 2005, Brown had a disappointing year last season. The Bears started their Ivy campaign 2-2, and were ready to make a run at the Ancient Eight championship. However, three straight close Ivy losses to end the year dashed any hopes of a repeat.
This year, Brown will rely on a largely untested offense after the graduation of two-time All-Ivy quarterback Joe DiGiacomo. Juniors Matt Dougherty and Matt Nuzzo, along with sophomore Phil Samenuck, will compete for the job. The Bears will return halfback Dereck Knight, who led the team last year with 213 yards.
Brown will be led by its defense, which returns eight starters, including three all-Ivy players. Senior linebacker Eric Brewer has been a rock on defense, recording 82 tackles, eighth in the Ivy League. On special teams, the Bears have Steve Morgan, whose 39 career field goals rank third in Ivy League history.
Columbia Lions
2006: 5-5, 2-5 Ivy
Columbia hasn’t won an Ivy League title since the 1961 campaign, and didn’t come close last year, ending up at 2-5 in the league. However, there is hope in New York City, as the Lions’ 5-5 overall record was the team’s best finish in 10 years, and Columbia will look to improve again in 2007.
Behind center, senior Craig Hormann has been a starter for two years and was named second-team All-Ivy last season. Hormann has several weapons on offense, most notably receiver Austin Knowlin, the reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Year.
The defensive line will look to be one of Columbia’s strengths this season. End Phil Mitchell will pair with either sophomore Matt Bashaw or junior Connor Joyce to give opposing quarterbacks fits.
Cornell Big Red
2006: 5-5, 3-4 Ivy
Speed is the name of the game for Cornell as it returns 10 starters to its quick defensive unit. The Red is solid up the middle, led by senior linebackers Ryan Blessing and Doug Lempa. Blessing was named honorable-mention All-Ivy after leading the team with 70 tackles last year. The defensive secondary is also one of the squad’s strongest units. Four secondary starters return, including honorable mention All-Ivy junior Tim Bax, a hard-hitting safety who recorded 57 tackles last year.
Cornell will also look to an experience backfield to lead it to victory in 2007. Senior Luke Siwula, a two-time All-Ivy selection, has almost 2,000 yards in his career and currently stands sixth on Cornell’s all-time rushing list.
At quarterback, the team will turn to junior Nathan Ford, a two-sport star in his second year as starter. Ford passed for 1417 yards last year and recorded 14 total touchdowns in 2006.
Dartmouth Big Green
2006: 2-8. 2-5 Ivy
Dartmouth hasn’t had a winning season since 1997, and they didn’t come any closer last season, posting its second straight 2-8 year. In order to do so, the Green will have to rely on an inexperienced quarterback after the graduation of Mike Fritz, who was second in the league last year in quarterback efficiency. Four players will compete for the starting job.
In the backfield, Dartmouth lost leading rusher Jason Bush to graduation, and will look to either sophomore Tom Brown or senior Julian Collins to fill the team’s hybrid halfback-fullback position in 2007.
Senior Justin Cottrell anchors the Dartmouth defense. Cottrell led the squad with 95 tackles and was named honorable mention All-Ivy. He joins junior Andrew Dete, a two-year starter, in the linebacking corps, one of the team’s strongest units.
Harvard Crimson
2006: 7-3, 4-3 Ivy
Last season started off with a bang and ended with a wimper for Harvard. The Crimson win its first five games and seven of its first eight, but ended the year with two straight losses to finish third in the league. The most important task for Harvard may be replacing Clifton Dawson, who amassed more rushing yards and points than any other player in Ivy League history.
Harvard’s starting quarterback is a bit of a mystery this year, as there is a three-way battle between seniors Liam O’Hagan, Chris Pizzoti and junior Jeff Witt. All three have made at least one start during their careers, but O’Hagan led the Ancient Eight in total offense in 2005. The unenviable task of replacing Dawson falls to sophomore Cheng Ho, who averaged 4.7 yards per carry last year.
Harvard’s defense looks to be a nightmare for opposing offenses in 2007, as the team returns seven starters to a unit that was first in the nation in sacks and second in the nation against the run. The defense also boasts an excellent secondary, led by junior Andrew Berry, a first-team All-Ivy performer last year who was named a preseason All-American in 2007.

Penn Quakers
2006: 5-5, 3-4 Ivy
Penn had a tough year in 2006, losing its five games by a combined 15 points. This year, the Quakers have a new and improved offense that emphasizes the no-huddle and the shotgun formation.
At quarterback, junior Robert Irvin returns after posting 2128 passing yards last season, his first as the starter. Senior Joe Sandberg anchors the running game after scoring 13 rushing touchdowns in 2006. Wide receiver is one of the Quakers’ strongest positions, boasting senior Braden Lepisto, an honorable-mention All-Ivy last season. On the line, Penn will have to replace three All-Ivy performers who all graduated.
The defense is anchored by Joe Anastasio, who had an outstanding year in 2006, recording 102 tackles and earning first-team All-Ivy honors. At nose tackle, senior Naheem Harris also was first-team All-Ivy after recording 24 tackles and seven tackles for loss.
Princeton Tigers
2006: 9-1, 6-1 Ivy
Princeton tied with Yale for the Ivy League title last year, and the Tigers will look to repeat in 2007. On offense, wide receiver Brendan Circle had an incredible 2006, hauling in 56 passes and recording 835 receiving yards. One question mark will be who will throw the ball to Circle. Senior Bill Foran is currently the No. 1 quarterback, but he might be pushed by classmate Greg Mroz.
On defense, Princeton is led by end Pete Buchignani, who recorded 27 tackles last year, five for a loss. Senior linebacker Tim Boardman is also a strength, as he led the squad with 52 tackles.
In the defensive backfield, the Tigers will look to replace several quality players lost to graduation. Senior Kevin Kelleher will lead the otherwise untested backfield after leading the team with four interceptions last year.
Yale Bulldogs
2006: 8-2, 6-1 Ivy
As the reigning Ivy League co-champions in 2006, Yale is expected to repeat, finishing first in the preseason media poll. In order to do so, the Bulldogs will have to fill several critical positions, including tackle, where they lost All-American Ed McCarthy.
Yale has many quality offensive players, most notably senior halfback Mike McLeod, a first-team All-Ivy selection last year. At the quarterback position, the Bulldogs return senior Matt Polhemus, who is a threat to both run and pass the ball.
The defense returns many impact starters as well. Senior lineman Brandt Hollander finished last year with four sacks and earned first-team All-Ivy honors for his performance. Junior linebacker Bobby Abare led the Bulldogs in tackles and interceptions and was named first-team All-Ivy.