The football team will look to stretch its winning streak to seven games against Dartmouth tomorrow at Brown Stadium on Senior Day. With only two games remaining on the schedule, the Bears (7-1, 4-1 Ivy) sit just one game behind Harvard (7-1, 5-0) in the Ivy League standings and remain in the hunt for the program's first championship since 2008.
"We try not to make the final two games bigger than they are," said outside linebacker Dan Smithwick '12. "We try not to harp on that in our preparation. We're treating it like any other Ivy League game, and we're going to have to be on top of our game."
The Big Green (3-5, 2-3) have been on the upswing the past few seasons. After snapping a 17-game losing streak in 2009 that stretched over two seasons, Dartmouth went 6-4 last season and finished fifth in the standings. The Big Green led Brown 28-20 going into the fourth quarter of last season's matchup in Hanover, but a late rally propelled the Bears to a 35-28 win.
Dartmouth's attack is led by senior running back Nick Schwieger, the school's all-time leading rusher. In the Big Green's win over Cornell (3-5, 1-4) last week, Schwieger ran for 257 yards, breaking his own school single-game rushing record and eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark for the second straight season. Currently, he leads the Ivy League in rushing, averaging 127 yards per game.
The Big Green also poses a rushing threat with running backs Dominick Pierre and Greg Patton, a converted quarterback who is brought in for wildcat formations. Much like the offense the Bears saw against Stony Brook (6-3) in the first game of the season, Dartmouth is a run-first team — quarterback Conner Kempe has thrown for half as many yards as Brown quarterback Kyle Newhall-Caballero '11.5. Still, Smithwick cautioned against overlooking the Dartmouth offense outside of Schwieger.
"This season, we've seen all different types of offenses and offensive weapons," Smithwick said. "We know they'll want to pound the ball, but they also have weapons all around the field. So we're definitely going to be ready, and we realize it's going to be another tall order for us in a league game."
But the Bears defense has proven it is up to the task of stopping anyone this season. The unit ranks first in the Ivy League in scoring defense, surrendering only 16.2 points per game. In a 34-28 win over Yale (4-4, 3-2) last week, the Bears held the Bulldogs to a mere seven net rushing yards.
On the other side of the ball, Newhall-Caballero and the Bears will be matched up against a defense that has been inconsistent all season. Dartmouth shut out Columbia (0-8, 0-5) three weeks ago, only to surrender 41 points to Harvard the following Saturday. Led by tri-captain cornerback Shawn Abuhoff — also a dangerous returner — and safety Joey Casey, the Big Green will look to slow down a Brown attack that is averaging 24 points per game.
"They're pretty big up front, and they have some athletes out on the edge," Newhall-Caballero said. "They move around pretty well and try to just keep things in front of them and make plays when they can."
Brown's offense comes into the game fresh off one of its strongest individual performances of the year. In the win over Yale, running back Mark Kachmer '13 ran for 192 yards — 95 of which came on the longest run in school history — and scored three touchdowns. While Kachmer rides the hot hand into the matchup, the passing game has been strong all year. Newhall-Caballero ranks second in the Ivy League in yards per game and has thrown 14 touchdowns and only three interceptions this season. A trio of Bears' wide receivers — Tellef Lundevall '13, Alex Tounkara-Kone '11.5 and Jimmy Saros '12 — all rank in the top 10 in the league in receptions per game.
The matchup will be the final home game of the season and Senior Day for 28 Bears. The class of 2012 has a 26-12 overall record, has been a part of four Ivy teams with winning records and was part of the 2008 Ivy League championship team.
"It's hard to believe it's going to be our last home game for our senior class," Smithwick said. "We're trying not to get absorbed in everything else that's going on. We just want to take care of business."
Though Harvard is in the driver's seat for the Ivy crown and controls its own destiny, its final two games against two-time defending champion Penn (5-3, 4-1) and at Yale will not be cakewalks. If Harvard wins its final two games, Brown could conceivably finish at 6-1 in league play and still come in second. But both Smithwick and Newhall-Caballero said the team is not concerned with any of that.
"We have Dartmouth this week, and that's what we're going to focus on," Newhall-Caballero said. "We're going to go out and do everything we can to win this game and worry about what we can control. We can't control what goes on in the Harvard game. We're just going to play out the rest of our season and see what happens."