Upset Central: Football Stock Report 10/16

Now that we are officially over the halfway point of the season, we are finally seeing more surprising performances with the first upset of the season in the books and the race for the championship is heating up. With a loss for Middlebury (4-1), their title hopes are diminished although still alive, Trinity (5-0) now controls its own fate, and Williams (4-1) looks to stay hot on the Bantams’ tail. Hamilton (1-4) finally found the win column, and even Bates (0-5) had some fireworks against Wesleyan (4-1). Five weeks down, four to go, lots of excitement is in the air as the weather starts to turn chilly. Here are where the stocks stand:

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Trinity’s Secondary

John Medina
John Medina ’18 has led a strong secondary for Trinity all season.

While Trinity (5-0) has been the best defensive team in the conference all year, they showed how scary they are with their win over Tufts (3-2) on Saturday by a score of 23-16. They may have allowed a season high 16 points–which is ridiculous in its own right–but also picked off Ryan McDonald three times. McDonald is no schmuck and knows what he is doing. It is good news for the Bantams that all three of their stud starters in John Medina, Sameir Madden, and Dominique Seagers intercepted him, including a decisive 100 yard pick-6 by Seagers. The Bantams now average 7.6 PPG allowed, leading the NESCAC in INTs with seven. Watch out, Griff Stalcup.

Bobby Maimaron’s Clutch Gene

Williams obviously had to get a shout out here, and who better to get one on their team than Maimaron who led his team to victory with a two minute drill TD drive, ending the game at a final score of 27-26 over Midd. The drive was 80 yards in 2:19, and Maimaron was 8/10 passing, throwing for 70 yards, and rushing for 17. He accounted for 87 yards on the drive (all of them), with a five yard penalty and loss of two on a fumble by Rashad Morrison adding to the length of the drive. The young Williams signal-caller channeled his inner Drew Brees (https://www.si.com/2014/09/18/nfl-quarterbacks-two-minute-drill-analytics) in this game winning march, propelling the Ephs to the win over the previously high and mighty Panthers. Not only was this last drive remarkable, but so was keeping the team together for the entire game, throwing for two TDs and zero INTs against a top Panthers secondary who abused Amherst in week four, and rushing for 93 yards and another TD. I can now say that there has been an upset in the ‘CAC this year, thanks in large part to Maimaron.

Hope for the Bottom Four 

Yes, last week I was a bit harsh on Bates (0-5), Colby (0-5), Bowdoin (0-5), and Hamilton (1-4). I’m not saying I was wrong about them—they are still exceptionally weaker than the other six teams in the NESCAC, and in the conference, all teams are either good or bad, with nobody in between. With that being said, although this season is a lost cause for those four squads, they have hope for the future. They can find this hope in the 2017 Williams football season. Williams went from 0-8 in 2016 to 4-1 in 2017 thus far, knocking off one of the favorites in Middlebury with a last second TD pass from a first year QB to a first year receiver. This sudden turnaround is eerily similar to Tufts’ from 2013-2015, although it took the Jumbos two seasons to really contend. They went from 0-8 in 2013 to 4-4 in 2015 to 6-2 in 2015, and both programs prove to the less hopeful squads that in fact, within one season, they could make a jump into the thick of NESCAC competition. This is the general nature of college football, with rapid turnover in player personnel, but further evidence of this is certainly encouraging to these bottom teams.

Stock Down

Wesleyan Defensive Line

While Bates QB Brendan Costa’ 21 only threw for 97 yards, the Wesleyan defense only managed to sack him one time, for one yard, and only had four tackles for a loss on the day. Four tackles behind the line of scrimmage isn’t too bad, but considering the amount that Bates ran the ball, especially the number of attempts by Costa, they should’ve stopped the ground game more than they did. They allowed 287 rushing yards on 47 carries, good for 6.1 yards per carry. This high number of yards on the ground is due in large part to how Bates improved but also shows weakness in this Cardinals defense which looked vulnerable against the unthreatening Bobcats. Wesleyan almost surely has to win out to have a shot at the title, and allowing such an offensive outburst from a team that had only scored 48 points going into week five is not a good sign. The final score of the game was 41-23 and Trinity for reference allowed zero points against Bates. In order to win the conference, Wesleyan not only has to beat the Bantams but will have to stop Max Chipouras similarly to how Williams did. If they continue to allow over 200 yards on the ground, they won’t have a shot.

Bates ran all over the Wesleyan defensive line last weekend.

Tufts’ Title Chances

Tufts is just about eliminated from title contention with their second loss of the season against Trinity. In the loss, their defense didn’t play badly and they certainly had a chance to win, as the game was tied with just over seven minutes to play. Chipouras ran in the deciding TD and Tufts ended up punting on the next possession, unable to shut down Trinity in time to get the ball back. They may not have played poorly in this one, but they needed the win, and Trinity isn’t likely to lose two games the rest of the way. There are also four other teams ahead of the Jumbos in the standings now. Ryan McDonald struggled, neither passing nor running well for the first time this season, only finding 15 yards on the ground, and finding Trinity DBs three times as mentioned earlier. He also lost a fumble, and those four turnovers made it tough for Tufts to have any chance against a reliable Trinity offense. With wins against only Bates, Bowdoin, and Hamilton, they haven’t beaten a quality team yet, and nearly lost to the Continentals, showing that they are the closest to an average team that the NESCAC has.

Maine Football

With an overwhelming amount of NESCAC schools located in Maine, they have an disproportionate number of wins for their representation. Bates, Colby, and Bowdoin are now a combined 0-15, with the closest to a win for any of them being a 14 point loss (Bowdoin’s 14 vs. Williams’s 24, Week 1). That is not good. Luckily they will all play each other by the season’s end, and then we will know who the worst of the worst is. Bates had some bright spots against Wesleyan, looking like the favorite to win the CBB Consortium, but their wins against each other will likely be the only wins they find all year.

Title Hopes Gone: Stock Report 10/10

Finally a solid game in week 4 between Amherst and Middlebury. As I predicted, Midd came out on top, but not for the reasons that I had thought. In the rest of the league, things went as expected, and Williams continued their rise into the top tier of the NESCAC, seeing their young players continue to make plays leaps and bounds ahead of the Ephs timetable for rebuilding. The future is now, and they are the real deal. The rest of the league performed pretty ordinarily, but some individual performances, both good and bad, are noteworthy.

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Middlebury’s Well-Roundedness

Kevin Hopsicker
With defensive weapons like Kevin Hopsicker ’18, Middlebury looks to be in same tier as Trinity

Middlebury needed to get a shout out here after beating their second top NESCAC team of the season, improving to 4-0. With wins against Wesleyan and Amherst, they now only have Tufts and Trinity (Williams is still TBD) as daunting opponents. While their receiving depth has been my favorite part of the team this season, offering Jared Lebowitz ’18 all the targets he could ask for, the running game is showing development, and the secondary is turning it on. With Diego Meritus ’19 still out (I keep hearing week in and week out he is coming back the next game—I no longer trust my sources) they still managed to make an impact on the ground with several different backs these last few weeks. Their secondary picked off Reece Foy twice and turned them into pick-sixes, putting the Panthers over the edge. Wesley Becton and Kevin Hopsicker joined the long list of Midd players that are now big time playmakers and with such depth, Trinity should watch out.

Williams Rushing Attack

While Bobby Maimaron ’21 and his fellow young Eph receivers have been the subject of high praise early on this year, for good reason, the run game showed against Bates last weekend that it deserves press recognition too. Rashad Morrison made the most out of his five carries on Saturday as he rushed for 85 yards (17 per carry!), while fellow teammates Connor Harris, Maimaron, and Steve Bohling accumulated a combined 174 additional yards. Each of Williams’ top four rushers averaged over five yards per carry, and while it was against a weak Bobcat defense, these numbers are still significant as they will need a balanced offensive attack to compete against Midd and Tufts in their upcoming games. 

Stock Down

1. Amherst’s Title Hopes

And another undefeated team has fallen. This turned out to be a 35-31 one possession result, but in reality it wasn’t as close as the box score indicates. This game, played on the Mammoths’ home turf, was 35-17 with just over 11 minutes to go in the fourth quarter and if it wasn’t for two unanswered Amherst TDs then it would’ve looked like an easy win for Midd. This was Ollie Eberth’s first test against a solid opponent and he did fine–not great, not bad. He has limited running capabilities but really throws well to James O’Reagan. And with solid games from both Jack Hickey and Hasani Figueroa, their ground game was awesome. Here is the problem: They won’t be able to outscore Trinity, and Lebowitz was still able to have a solid day under center despite only 14 offensive points scored. Their defense is good, but not Trinity-esque, and with one loss already on their record, they need to go through the Bantams to have a shot at the title. What they needed was vintage Reece Foy. Up until last weekend, I believed that after working back in to live action slowly, they could again see the former POY candidate as his old self. However, after a brief two INT performance lacking any spark (-2.2 yards per rush), he doesn’t look to be the guy to take them to the top. Amherst is still a solid team in this conference, but won’t win any rings this year and now lack the potential to knock off the top teams that glimmered whenever Foy’s name was mentioned. They showed some hope in their rush defense against Midd, and they will need to bring that again and then some to stop Dario Highsmith this weekend.

Amherst simply doesn’t have a consistent enough passing game to compete with Trinity and Middlebury this year.

2a. Underdogs

This is similar to the stock down report on the unsurprising results from a week ago, but it really is something that disappoints me as a fan of the underdog. There has not been a single real upset in NESCAC football this year. Sure, Williams is now a contender and wasn’t last year (far from it as they were winless) but it didn’t shock anybody when they beat fellow second tier teams from a year ago in Bates, Colby, and Bowdoin. Their good performance against Trinity and Hamilton’s near win against Tufts were almost upsets, but they didn’t happen. So I’m sticking to my guns and saying that not a single upset has happened in 2017. Not one bottom tier team has beaten a top tier team. Even Amherst, a team caught in the middle of the NESCAC last year, couldn’t beat Middlebury. Maybe the NESCAC should adopt a first and second division soccer style where the lower teams of Colby, Bowdoin, Bates, Hamilton, and Williams are in the second division, and at the end of the year the top team gets to move up to the first division. Then the loser of the first division between Trinity, Midd, Amherst, Wesleyan, and Tufts would drop down for the following year. Williams would be on pace to win the lower division. Obviously it is a ridiculous proposal that wouldn’t and shouldn’t happen, but it would be nice to see some unexpected results and not all of these assured wins for the top teams. It allows them to play with a blindfold on and not worry about whether they will win for weeks at a time. Again, this problem could be solved with playoffs. A fan can hope.

2b. Validity of Statistics

Because this weekend went nearly exactly how I expected it to, there’s not a whole lot to say about stocks that went down because for so many teams, it can’t really get much worse. Bates, Bowdoin, Colby, and Hamilton all had hard schedules to start the season, resulting in each of their 0-4 records, so I guess their morale is pretty low. But for the teams who they have played, especially this last weekend, the scores were run up so high, it’s almost as if the entire games were played in garbage time. Wesleyan, Tufts, Trinity, and Williams all scored north of 30 points, each winning by a margin of over three possessions. Four TDs for Mark Piccirillo, four total TDs for Bobby Maimaron, three TDs for Sonny Puzzo, two TDs for Max Chipouras, two total TDs for Ryan McDonald. These stats get so inflated at the consequence of bad defense just as much as offensive prowess. It’s hard to distinguish who the best players are sometimes because aggregate season stats aren’t particular on which team they were collected against. The value of each touchdown should be measured against its importance in a game as some of these are accumulated without significant challenge.

The King(s) Stay the King(s): Week Four Stock Report

Image result for nescac football photos 2016
Hamilton QB Kenny Grey ’20 was a revelation this weekend, leading the Continentals to an exciting win.

Week Four saw another undefeated team fall, as Trinity placed themselves squarely at the top of the league with a 36-28 win over Tufts. The game wasn’t as close as the score indicates, however, as Trinity dominated the first half and then sat back in the second half.  The top tier of NESCAC is even clearer than it was at the beginning of the week, with Trinity relegating Tufts to “best of the rest” status.

In the rest of the league, Middlebury got a scare from the suddenly energized Ephs, only leading 28-23 at the end of the third before dominating the fourth to win 49-23. Amherst took out their frustration on Colby 41-0, Hamilton topped Bowdoin in a good one 26-25, and Wesleyan topped Bates 28-7. At first glance this was not a thrilling week here in the CAC, but there were some interesting performances and developments to look at here in the Stock Report.

Stock Up:

Running Back Diego Meritus ‘19

 The Panther back had already been having a nice season as a change of pace option for the rapid fire Middlebury passing attack. But in Williamstown Meritus played like a feature back, adding a previously unseen dimension to the Middlebury offense. He overcame an early fumble to finish with 122 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown. The Panthers were able to ride Meritus as Jared Lebowitz ’18 struggled early, an option that will be crucial in Middlebury’s looming matchups with Trinity and Tufts.

Williams

 The Ephs must have been reading their own press last week when we put them on the “Stock Down” list, because they came out against Middlebury as ready to play as they’ve been all year. They got good pressure on Jared Lebowitz in the first half, forcing him into a red zone interception. For the game he completed barely over 50% of his passes, his most uneven performance of the season. They also showed flashes of a dynamic offense, thanks in large part to the return of sophomore tight end Tyler Patterson, who tore Middlebury apart. He ended up with 176 yards on 7 catches, including a 79-yard touchdown on the first offensive play of the game. The Panthers outscored Williams 21-0 in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach, but Williams showed that 2016 might not be a lost season after all.

Quarterback Kenny Gray

 To borrow from Season Four of Friday Night Lights, Hamilton versus Bowdoin was shaping up to be something of a “Toilet Bowl.” However, it was actually a very exciting game, thanks in large part to an electrifying performance from Hamilton QB Kenny Gray ‘20. Gray didn’t start the game, but in the final three quarters he threw for 300 yards and a touchdown, and

Image result for eric taylor east dillon
All either of these teams need is one Coach Taylor hair tousle and they’d be all set.

added a dramatic, game winning rushing touchdown with 34 seconds left. Hamilton hasn’t had a ton to cheer about in the last few years, but Kenny Gray might have shown a glimpse of a bright future for the Continentals.

 

Stock Down

Tufts’ Elite Status

With Rory taking a deserved break from Stock Reports this week, we can finally get a less biased perspective on Tufts. Their matchup with Trinity offered the Jumbos a stellar chance to prove themselves as a contender for the NESCAC crown. However, Trinity quickly shut down the Jumbo’s momentum, scoring 27 points in the second quarter en route to a 36-13 lead. Tufts scored twice in the fourth to make it dignified, but there was never a doubt about who was in control. The main culprit for Tufts was quarterback play. Quarterbacks Alex Snyder ’17 and Ryan McDonald ’19 combined to go 9-22 and throw two interceptions, while Trinity QB and Sopranos mobster Sonny Puzzo was 20-30 with two touchdowns. NESCAC is becoming a quarterback’s league, and the Jumbos simply cannot keep up right now.

The NESCAC Playoff System (Or Lack Thereof)

 I think we should grandfather this one into every “Stock Down” section from here until ESPN purchases Nothing But NESCAC in 2024.  But the lack of a playoff is particularly frustrating in the face of the continued lack of parity in the league. Middlebury, Amherst and Trinity are again clearly the best teams. And that’s okay! In most sports leagues there are teams you can rely on being at the top year in and year out. But in NESCAC, those three teams can be penciled in as the best, and there is no playoff system for them to battle it out in. Maybe I just want to see more NESCAC football because it gives me something to write about that isn’t Marxist Literary Theory, but it seems to me that the league would benefit from having the top teams play more instead of all beating up on the lower teams and ending up tied at the top with the same record.

Amherst’s Losing Streak

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The Globo Gym PURPLE Cobras? WHITE Goodman? I’m onto something here.

 We were all hoping for Amherst to fall apart after their first loss a la White Goodman at the end of Dodgeball. But the Artists Formerly Known as the Lord Jeffs came back strong against Colby, owning the Mules like a tribe of desert nomads in a 41-0 romp. Third string QB Nick Morales ’18 looked like he’s trying to keep the job, with over 300 yards passing and three touchdowns, and Amherst was able to rest many starters to gear up for a looming matchup with Trinity on November 5th. The Purple and White aren’t going anywhere, folks.