Hanover — The Dartmouth College football team’s experience on Tuesday showed exactly why Big Green athletic players, coaches and administrators have hoped so desperately for a planned $20 million indoor practice field during the past several years.
Because of pouring rain, Dartmouth’s gridiron gang headed into Leverone Field House for the first hour of practice. That switch meant the football players needed a break to change into cleats and sweat shirts before heading out onto Memorial Field for their second hour of drills. It also meant the softball team’s indoor practice needed to wait.
Such shuffling shouldn’t be much of an issue in another year or two, however. That’s because of a New Hampshire Supreme Court ruling on Tuesday that allows a 56,000-square-foot indoor practice facility to be built behind the Boss Tennis Center. Proposed three years ago, the facility’s construction was held up by neighbors unhappy with its size and location.
“We didn’t know if it was going to happen or not,” said Dartmouth football coach Buddy Teevens, whose team visits Cornell on Saturday in its penultimate game of the season. “We’ve been sitting on the edge of our chairs for two or three years now.”
The 2006 installation of Memorial Field’s artificial turf was a big step toward a better football practice environment. The addition of an indoor facility, however, brings the Big Green up to the level of Ivy League opponents such as Princeton, Harvard, Pennsylvania and Columbia, who annually inflate practice bubbles over their football fields.
“We could have used it this afternoon,” Teevens said of the indoor facility, which will also be used by myriad other Dartmouth teams. “I’m happy for our future recruits and the current sophomores and freshmen, who will have a chance to be in it.”
Teevens’ team also will be able to use the new building for conditioning workouts and passing practice during the winter months. The biggest beneficiaries, however, might be the men’s and women’s lacrosse teams, which routinely practice outside in frigid temperatures.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Teevens, giving specific praise to deputy athletics director Bob Ceplikas, who spearheaded the effort. “It’s a shame it was held up as long as it was, but we are glad the college stayed with it.”
Kicking Quandary: Why hasn’t Dartmouth used someone besides freshman Connor Davis to kick field goals and extra points? The plain answer is it doesn’t have any other realistic options.
Davis, who arrived several months ago as a touted freshman, is 6-of-14 on field-goal attempts and 32-of-34 on extra points. Junior punter Davis Brief has place-kicked before, but it’s clear that doing so takes away from his performance at his primary job.
Skier Kalle Wagner, a sophomore who walked onto the football team as a kicker last season, has been good on kickoffs in practice and some JV games, but he has never kicked extra points or field goals against a varsity opponent’s rush. A Fresno, Calif., product who didn’t play high school football, Wagner said he’ll focus on adding placekicking to his repertoire during the spring and summer.
Senior holder and backup punter Jack Katzman can kick, but would be the third resort. That means Teevens will soon be in search of kickers and punters on the recruiting trail. Even better would be one player who can do both, because that means one less travel-team slot needed for booters.
“They’re hard to find,” the coach said. “Connor’s a talented guy, but he’s a young guy and we need to continue to work with him. Our (place-kicking) group hasn’t been perfect across the board. He’s missed some kicks but we’ve had some trouble with our snapping-holding combo as well. We need to fix it.”
Walk-On Wonders: Linebacker Jack Traynor leads Dartmouth with 56 tackles, and is followed by nickel back Kyran McKinney-Crudden (51) and linebacker David Emanuels (36). All three are seniors, but the latter two walked onto the team, meaning they didn’t receive admissions preference based on their athletic endeavors.
While McKinney-Crudden has been a starter the last two seasons, Emanuels didn’t even make his varsity debut until last season. The 6-foot-1, 225-pound Mercer Island, Wash., native is a biomechanics engineering major who plans to attend medical school and whose smarts and effort played a large role in getting him on the field.
“Never underestimate the value of wanting to be good,” Teevens said of McKinney-Crudden and Emanuels, who turned down a walk-on offer from the University of Washington. “Physically, they may not have been overly impressive, but they wanted to be great football players.”
Emanuels, whose older brother, Alex, was an offensive lineman at Cornell, said he doubted at times that he would break into the lineup. He focused on learning the Big Green’s schemes early in his career, allowing him to play at a fast pace.
“He never misses a call or signal,” Teevens said. “He’s brilliant as a student and he’s brilliant as a football player, too.”
Notes: No. 10 Colgate, which is on Dartmouth’s 2019 schedule, is 8-0, has won the Patriot League and boasts a defense that’s scored three touchdowns and surrendered only two this season. … The Big Green is No. 23 in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision’s coaches poll and No. 25 in the stats.com poll. … Saturday’s game will be broadcast on ESPNU. … The Big Red is 3-5, with its setbacks coming against foes with a combined 34-7 record. Cornell has fallen to three nationally ranked opponents in Princeton, Colgate and Delaware. … Sixth-year Cornell coach David Archer is 15-43 overall and 11-29 in Ivy League games at his alma mater. … Former Dartmouth running backs coach Chad Nice is in his second year in the same job with the Big Red. … Cornell is one of four NCAA teams at all levels that has yet to lose a fumble this season. … Big Green cornerback Isiah Swann continues to lead the FCS with seven interceptions. … Dartmouth has defeated Cornell nine consecutive times, including a 10-0 victory last season.
Tris Wykes can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3227.