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Back in the fall of 1997, Greg Smith came to Franklin Field to watch the Penn football team take on Dartmouth. He thought that he was watching his future team in action.

Smith thought right, just about the wrong team.

Coming from Mt. Laurel, N.J., Smith played high school football with Penn coach Al Bagnoli's son, Jeff. Smith knew Bagnoli well, and thought for sure that he would soon suit up with the Red and Blue.

"At that time, I was Penn all the way," Smith said. "It was almost a perfect situation."

If Smith had a second choice at the time, it was Lehigh. The Engineers' offensive coordinator, Andy Coen, who now runs the Penn attack, was heavily involved in recruiting Smith to come north and play in Bethlehem, Pa.

But Smith went a little further north, all the way to New Hampshire, where he is now the starting quarterback for the Big Green.

"Coach Bagnoli was pretty upset about it, but it's worked out well for both schools," Smith said. "It was tough early on here, but I've won the job and get to start now."

This Saturday, Bagnoli will coach against his former recruit, and the Penn coach knows that Smith will be more of a challenge to his defense than Dartmouth's old starter, Brian Mann.

"Last year, in three or four games, [Smith] had to throw for 300 yards," Bagnoli said. "Against Princeton, he went crazy, and he's taken advantage of his opportunities. He was a track guy and has good speed and athleticism."

In addition to his speed, Smith has an excellent arm. In a thrilling near-comeback last week against New Hampshire, the senior signal caller threw for 416 yards, just one short of Jay Fiedler's Dartmouth record.

Currently the Miami Dolphins' starting quarterback, Fiedler was the Big Green's star during the glory years of the mid-1990s. Smith is hoping to lead a revival in New England this year, just one season removed from Dartmouth's abysmal 2-8 record.

"Nobody outside of the locker room was going to give us a snowball's chance in hell of winning the game," Smith said of last Saturday's 42-38 defeat. "We weren't surprised by it, but we might have surprised some people.... Our confidence has been building, and I think the Ivy League games this year will come down to turnovers and confidence, and we'll be OK in this league."

One of the reasons that Smith has confidence is that Dartmouth has joined the Ivy League's offensive revolution. After years of smashmouth football, most teams in the Ancient Eight now favor spread formations and a heavy reliance on the passing game.

"This is a quarterback league," Bagnoli said. "That is what the league has really transpired to,... a pass-happy scheme. The triggerman is the key."

Smith, the bombardier in the Dartmouth attack, is clearly ready to challenge the defending league champion Quakers with his offense.

"[Penn] committed to it a little sooner than we did," Smith said. "Coach [John] Lyons kind of stuck with his power football game because it worked for so many years, and [offensive coordinator Andy] Perry opened it up a little bit."

In opening it up, Smith has put up some impressive numbers. Beginning last season as a backup, and then emerging as the starter, he threw for 1,423 yards. Last week, Smith attempted a Dartmouth record 64 passes. He completed 37, which was good for another school record.

"He threw more passes against New Hampshire than in half a year of high school," Bagnoli said. "He would have been very good in our offense."

But four years after watching Bagnoli's offense take on Dartmouth, Smith will play this weekend for the Big Green, hoping to dent the title hopes of the school he once thought he would play for.

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