Two weeks of football are left to be played, and much is still to be decided. Like any good college football schedule, the NESCAC is backloaded with the best games at the end of the season. The Little Three and CBB both play the second of their three game series in what are sure to be highly contested games.
Yet the focus of the league is squarely on Hartford, Connecticut. It was not just that Trinity lost their first home game since 2001 last week, but also how they did so. The game was not close, and nobody could argue that Trinity was the better team. Trinity is hoping it was simply a one game blip that they can rebound from.
Three to Watch
Wide Receiver Chris Ragone ’15 (Trinity): The battle between the front seven of Amherst and offensive line of Trinity is obviously going to be tantamount (more on it later), but don’t overlook the ability of Trinity to throw the ball. Henry Foye ’15 has shown himself to be a serviceable QB, but he requires time to set his feet and hit open receivers. Ian Dugger ’16 will draw Jaymie Spears ’16 on the majority of plays, and Foye will want to avoid Spears whenever possible. That makes Ragone so important if Trinity wants to keep Amherst off balance. The senior had limited production early on with most of it coming off of big plays, but in the last two weeks he has averaged five catches and 53 yards per game. Because he only stands 5’10”, Ragone relies on exquisite route running to create space for throws. Fooling the Amherst secondary is not easy, but keep an eye out for Trinity to take a shot or two deep with a double move from Ragone early.
Wide Receiver Dan Barone ’16 (Bowdoin): Lets continue the receiver theme with the number one target for Mac Caputi ’15. The junior has 30 receptions, three times the amount of any other Bowdoin player. He works mostly out of the slot where he is mismatch for linebackers. Since a 95 yard performance at Hamilton, two great secondaries in Trinity and Wesleyan slowed his production to only 33 yards per game. The Bates secondary is no slouch either, and Barone will have to work hard to find space in the middle of the field. Look for Caputi to target Barone especially on 3rd down plays. Establishing an early rhythm in the passing game is a must for a Bowdoin offense that could not move the ball against Wesleyan. Just like Trinity must do against Amherst, the Polar Bears will not be able to run the ball every time on first and second down.
Linebacker Chris Tamasi ’15 (Amherst): Tamasi was an absolute force on the field last Saturday. He had three sacks and two forced fumbles to go along with his nine total tackles. In the second quarter he had consecutive sacks to help put Tufts into 3rd and 38 from their own eight yard line. He now leads the NESCAC in tackles for loss with 11.5. Tamasi acts as an outside linebacker/defensive end most of the time. He makes up for his lack of height(5’11”) by out-leveraging larger offensive tackles. The Trinity offensive line is the biggest in the NESCAC, but that will not scare Tamasi. In fact, he is likely relishing the challenge in front of him and the rest of the Jeffs. Also, if you didn’t know, the senior is a member of the Allstate AFCA Good Works team for his community service efforts at Amherst.
Game of the Week: Amherst (6-0) at Trinity (5-1)
In some ways Amherst is a better match-up for Trinity than Middlebury was last week. The Jeffs rely on a downhill running attack led by Nick Kelly ’17 and Max Lippe ’15 to make the throws when he needs to. Even more so than usual, this will be a game decided at the line of scrimmage. Both teams have similar mentalities as physical teams that do not try to fool you.
The best hope for Trinity is to keep the game very low scoring and have Kyle Pulek ’16 control field position. The Bantams are not built for overcoming leads in the second half and they can’t let the game get away from them like it did last week. They are going to try their hardest to control the clock by running ball with Chudi Iregbulem ’15. Even if he is 100%, running on Amherst is not an easy task. The Jeffs allow a NESCAC low 2.4 yards per carry.
Early in the year it appeared that Trinity had assembled a run game that nobody in the NESCAC would be able to slow down. They showed cracks first against Hamilton and then more visibly on the road at Bowdoin. Then Middlebury shut it down completely. Teams have felt comfortable loading the box and allowing their defensive lineman more freedom to try to get into gaps and make plays.
Earlier in the week we pointed out how the Trinity has seen their pass rush disintegrate in recent weeks.
Trinity has allowed 8 sacks in past 2 games after allowing 0 in first 4 games. Is that cause or effect of struggling offense?
— Nothing But NESCAC (@CACSportsBlog) October 28, 2014
The question of cause or effect might have confused some of you who thought, well yes of course it is a cause because sacks are bad for an offense! While that is obviously true, a sack also happens because circumstances help the defense to key on a pass. The stagnation of the running game influences everything Trinity tries to do. When they can’t move the ball, suddenly teams can send blitzes and cause confusion along the line.
And the Jeffs are a team that loves to wreck havoc behind the line scrimmage. Last week they had 12 tackles for loss in total with Tamasi and Max Lehrman ’15 combining for nine of them. The Amherst defense is not the most impressive physically, but they almost never miss an assignment.
On the other side of the ball, don’t expect any fireworks from Amherst. Max Lippe ’15 has done a lot of good things to stabilize the offense, but defenses don’t have to worry about a multitude of skill players running wild on them. Some of the Amherst sluggishness last week could be attributed to recovering from a body blow game. Amherst rose to the occasion on offense against Wesleyan, and they are likely to have a similar game this week.
The health of Iregbulem has obviously been a factor for the Bantams in recent weeks, but their problems go deeper than that. Though it seems shocking to think the Bantams could lose at home for two weeks in a row, The Jeffs have shown themselves to be the best team in the NESCAC.
Prediction: Amherst 20 over Trinity 10
Bates (2-4) at Bowdoin (2-4): Game Prediction and writeup by Joe MacDonald. After their overtime victory last week, the Bobcats have a chance to clinch the CBB if they can figure out the Polar Bears. The Bates offense looked as balanced as it has all year as they grinded their way to 163 yards on the ground. How the two senior quarterbacks play will likely be the difference between two teams that have looked good in spurts but struggled overall. Mac Caputi ’15 struggled mightily against Wesleyan and was benched in favor of Tim Drakeley ’17 for a good portion of the game. Yet as he has before, the younger Caputi should return to the starting lineup again Saturday. Meanwhile, Matt Cannone ’15 has fought through injuries and should be healthy enough Saturday to make plays through the air and on the ground. That will be the difference in a close Bates victory.
Prediction: Bates 28 over Bowdoin 21
Wesleyan (5-1) at Williams (2-4): Before the season we were high on the possibility of Williams affirming their comeback season by beating Wesleyan at home and ending Wesleyan’s perfect season. We ranked it sixth in our ten biggest games of the year. The Ephs did take Middlebury to overtime just three weeks ago so the potential is there for a close game. Still, Jesse Warren ’15 and company will do enough on offense while the Wesleyan defense stifles the Williams offense. Both teams went into the season expecting to be run first teams, but at this point in the season have become stronger passing teams.
Prediction: Wesleyan 28 over Williams 17
Colby (1-5) at Tufts (3-3): How real is the magic in Medford? The Jumbos have a chance to get to 4-0 at home with Colby visiting. As we have said many a time, the Mules are better than that record indicates. They felt like they gave the game away against Bates in the final minutes. Gabe Harrington has to hit receivers when they are open instead of simply going for the deep ball. He went 13-38 (34%) against Bates. The Tufts offense is just happy they don’t have to face Amherst after the Jeffs dismantled them. Jack Doll ’15 had to leave the Amherst game in the first quarter and his status is unclear for this week. The Jumbos need him in order to get to .500. No team has given us more trouble picking than Tufts, but we are going to go with our gut and say they do what appeared impossible. Tufts will go undefeated at home.
Prediction: Tufts 35 over Colby 28
Middlebury (4-2) at Hamilton (0-6): It is tempting to think this is a trap game for the Panthers coming off of their big win and having to travel to New York. We just don’t see Middlebury allowing themselves to get into a dogfight with a Hamilton team that has shown some friskiness but no results. The array of weapons at Matt Milano’s ’15 disposal is too much for Hamilton to slow down. Chase Rosenberg ’17 has averaged only 129 yards since his first game of the season. It will be a challenge for him to get even that amount against a Middlebury secondary that has come into its own as a unit. We said it was best to catch the Panthers early, and unfortunately for Hamilton, that is not the case.
Prediction: Middlebury 34 over Hamilton 13
Last Week: 3-2
Season Record: 24-6