Making the Turn Home: The Weekend Preview 11/1

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.

The Picks

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.

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

Power Rankings: 10/30

A new number one highlights the Power Rankings this week as Amherst deservedly moves into the top spot. For the first time this year, the two top teams in our Power Rankings will go head-to-head as Trinity looks to start a new home winning streak against Amherst.

1. Amherst (6-0) – The Lord Jeffs dominated the Jumbos at home to remain undefeated. The game was virtually put out of reach by halftime when they were up 24-3. Although the Lord Jeffs actually had less total offense than Tufts, they had 3 drives result in TDs that were less than 43 yards as well as one interception returned for a TD. The Jeffs’ secondary was dominant recording 4 interceptions to boost their overall NESCAC leading total to 13 on the year. The NESCAC title may be on the line in Hartford this weekend for the Jeffs.

2. Trinity (5-1) – Finally some team broke the “No poop in the Coop” mantra and snapped the 53 home game win streak for the Bantams. The Bantams were outplayed on both sides of the ball which came as a real shocker to most people who follow the league. This team has the talent to win the league but in order for that to happen they must beat Amherst at home this weekend.

3. Wesleyan (5-1) – The Cardinals had an excellent day on both sides of the ball this weekend. They executed on 10 of 17  3rd down conversions and held the Polar Bears to only 170 yards of total offense which was crucial to their domination. Right now the Cardinals are on the outside looking in on the NESCAC title chase, but they have a Little Three game against Williams this weekend that could be a trap game before the finale vs. Trinity.

4. Middlebury (4-2) – Impressive win for the Panthers who needed a signature victory. They completely shut down the Bantams league leading rushing attack to a mere 85 yards with Chudi Iregbulem ’15 active. Matt Milano ’16 now has back-to-back weeks with 4 TD passes. His success was critical for the Panthers to pull the upset. Should be a relatively easy week for the Panthers as they take on Hamilton.

5. Tufts (3-3) – The Jumbos play on the road was yet again not great, dropping them to 0-3 away from Medford. The big problem for Tufts was their lack of 3rd down conversions (3-19) and throwing 4 INTs which set up Amherst with great field position. Luckily for them, they return to Zimman field for this weeks matchup versus Colby.

Williams notched their second win of the season last week.
Williams notched their second win of the season last week. (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

6. Williams (2-4) – Finally the Ephs were able to snap their four game losing streak with a win at Hamilton. After going the first four games without a TD grab, Steven Kiesel ’15 now has 3 TDs in two games. Even though they won, a bit of concern for the Ephs is the lack of a rushing attack, which has gained less than 50 yards in 3 of 4 games. Regardless, they have a Little Three rivalry game this weekend so the Ephs should be ready to go in the final game at the new Weston field for the season.

7. Bates (2-4) – In a back and forth affair, the Bobcats pulled out a victory in OT vs. rival Colby. Bates’ offense exploded for over double their season average in points (16.5) this weekend. This was due in part to the play of Matt Cannone ’15 who had a big day in the air throwing for 203 yards on 18-32 passes and connecting for 4 TDs. The Bobcats look to win the CBB this weekend at Bowdoin.

8. Bowdoin (2-4) – The Polar Bears were completely dominated by the Cardinals this weekend. Nothing went well for them on both sides of the ball, which was disappointing after playing so well against Trinity the week before and almost pulling off the upset. After picking up 52 yards on the ground, Tyler Grant ’17 is now the leading rusher in the NESCAC, which is the one bright spot for Bowdoin after this week. They begin their quest for the CBB title this weekend with a home game vs. Bates.

9. Colby (1-5) – Disappointing OT loss for the Mules who looked like they were going to win the game until Bates tied up the game with 33 seconds left. Even though they lost, we’ve seen very good development from the offense, which was averaging 7.8 PPG two weeks ago and now is averaging 17.7 PPG. The problem for the Mules doesn’t appear to be offense anymore; rather it is the defense which is allowing 28.3 PPG, the second worst in the NESCAC.

10. Hamilton (0-6) – The Continentals surprisingly made a game out of it last week against the Ephs in the 4th quarter after being down 21-0. Although they couldn’t complete the comeback, the defense played well allowing a season low of 45 yards on the ground and holding the Ephs to 1-10 on 3rd down conversions. Unfortunately for them, they are playing the red-hot Panthers Saturday.

10 Statistics That Might Surprise You

The Crowd storms the field after Tufts' first win of the season (courtesy of Tufts University)
The Crowd storms the field after Tufts’ first win of the season (courtesy of Tufts University)

Editors Note: This article was co-written by Joe MacDonald and Adam Lamont

Between our statistics page and the wealth of information over at the NESCAC site, a football aficionado can spend hours pouring over statistics if he/she were to feel so inclined. However, most of us don’t have that kind of time to do that type of thing. Fortunately for you, we make it our job to do just that. So here are 10 statistics that don’t jump out but nevertheless tell us a lot about how the conference has been shaking out, and frankly are just plain interesting.

1. Wesleyan Defensive 3rd Down Percentage: 23 percent

This is the lowest mark in the NESCAC by a good deal and is an insanely low percentage in general. The lowest NFL percentage is the Indianapolis Colts at 31.1 percent, and Wesleyan is sixth nationwide in Divison-III for defensive third down percentage. Even in Amherst’s victory over the Cardinals, the Jeffs only converted 3-14 third downs. Primarily responsible for this is the Cardinals all-star secondary which is the best in the NESCAC. Windows simply don’t exist downfield on clear passing downs. Another statistic for how good the Wesleyan secondary is: they are allowing 4.6 yards per passing attempt, the only team allowing fewer than five yards.

2. Williams Tackles For Loss Per Game: 4.33

Coming into the season the expectation was that the William defensive line was its strongest unit, capable of keeping the Ephs in games. After all it was a unit that had 19 sacks in 2013 and returned their three top sack performers this year. But the line has not repeated its production from last year. James Howe ’16 has enjoyed steady play but has not had a single sack after his breakout campaign last year. That has not necessarily been because of offenses focusing on him since nobody else has seen an uptick in production this year. A big reason for Williams’ disappointing season is their inability to make big plays on the defensive front.

3. Hamilton First Downs Allowed Per Game: 15.16

Given the Continentals record of 0-6, it would seem likely that the defense allows a lot of first downs per game, but their defense actually ranks second behind Trinity (13.83) in the category. Maybe they just let up a lot of big plays? That has something to do with it but not a lot as Hamilton is still only fifth in opponents’ yard per game. The reason for it is that the Hamilton defense doesn’t see many plays. Opponents only run 63 plays against them a game, the lowest mark in the NESCAC.

4. Number of Consecutive Years that Middlebury Has Had the NESCAC’s Leading Passer: 6

And Matt Milano ’16 appears ready to make it seven years in a row. Mac Foote ’14 led the league for three years in row after Donnie McKillop ’11 started the streak in 2008. Jesse Warren ’15 is only 64 yards behind Milano and Austin Lommen ’16 is also only 92 yards back. Still those two have to face very tough defenses in their remaining games while Milano has to face Hamilton and Tufts, two defenses that he should be able to exploit. The most likely possibility that keeps Milano from winning the passing crown is if the Panthers get up big early in both games and they run the ball the entire second half.

5. NESCAC Rank of Middlebury’s Top Receiver: Ninth

Last year Middlebury boasted three of the top four receivers in terms of yards, but this year has not seen any one player dominate. Grant Luna ’17 was the number one target the first couple of weeks, but injuries have kept him out the last two games. In his absence Matt Minno ’16, the team’s leading wideout last year, has risen to the occasion with Luna out and supplied five touchdowns in two weeks. Brendan Rankowitz ’15 has been a consistent threat having multiple catches in every game. Those three rank ninth through eleventh in receiving yards. Following them, running back Drew Jacobs ’18 is the safety valve tied for the lead in receptions for Middlebury, and Ryan Rizzo ’17 has come on strong in the past two weeks with 14 catches in place of Luna. Oh, by the way, with the exception of Rankowitz, all of these guys are back next year.

6. Solo Tackles for Mike Stearns ’17 (Tufts): 56

The next closest total in the NESCAC is 41 by Dan Pierce ’16 (Middlebury). What makes it so amazing it is that Stearns plays corner. The Tufts coaches trust his instincts and give Stearns free reign to come up quickly on run plays in order to seal off the edge. Stearns’ ability to avoid blockers and make a sure-handed tackle also helps the Jumbos to send extra pressure up the middle because they know they won’t be burned on the edges. Two things to keep in mind however: firstly, Tufts faces the most plays per team and secondly, Stearns’ solo tackles are likely inflated a little by scorekeepers because they are able to clearly distinguish his plays.

7. Carries for Bowdoin’s Tyler Grant ’17: 162

That’s 134 more carries than the next man on the depth chart, Garrett Thomas ’17, and Grant has accounted for 70 percent of the Polar Bears’ carries in 2014. Grant has 53 more carries than Chudi Iregbulem ’15, who is second in the NESCAC. His six touchdowns are tied for second in the league. And Grant has already surpassed last year’s carry total by 65. Time to give credit where credit is due to this Bowdoin workhorse.

8. Colby’s Field Goal Percentage: 25 percent

Granted, kicker Louw Scheepers ’15 has only attempted four field goals, but he’s still only knocked one through. Funny enough, his make, from 46 yards, was longer than any of his misses (42, 40, 31). Scheepers has been solid on his extra points though, making 11-12. Scheepers miss in OT from 42 last week was the only real significant miss he’s had, but still he could be called on over the final two weeks to make a big kick or two. What’s surprising is that Scheepers was 7-11 on field goals last season, so he’s better than he’s put forward so far.

9. All-Purpose Yards for Tufts’ Zack Trause ’15: 871

Trause leads the league in all-purpose yards, and it’s not particularly close. The utility man averages 145.2 yards per game, while Iregbulem clocks in at second with 122.4. Trause is the league’s leading punt returner and is second in kick return yards (but first in average with 36.4 yards per kick return) in addition to his efforts on the offensive side of the ball.

10. Tufts’ Total Attendance: 10,993

We can’t put too much stock into the recorded attendances for NESCAC football games, because there’s no gates and spectators often come and go. But just have faith in the numbers for a moment. That Tufts has put 3,000 more proverbial butts in the seats than any other team in the NESCAC goes to show how the football culture is shifting in Medford. It also helps if you win.

Panthers Make Rude Guests in Hartford: Stock Report 10/26

Every streak will end at some point, and Trinity’s vaunted home winning streak of 53 games finally came to a stunning finish on Saturday. Like any streak of such length, the Bantams endured many close calls before Saturday, but the Panthers sucked out any potential drama long before the final whistle. Middlebury scored the first 20 points of the game, and a Brendan Rankowitz ’15 touchdown catch with 6:07 left made it 27-7, essentially ending the game.

So just how did Middlebury manage to take down the unbeatable Bantams? Well, considering the margin of victory, the simple answer is that Middlebury just outplayed Trinity. From a more philosophical point of view, this was speed beating size. The Trinity starting offensive line averages 280 pounds while the three down lineman for Middlebury average 247 pounds. That didn’t matter as Middlebury was still able to get to the ball.

Trinity finished the game with 85 yards rushing on 38 attempts, a 2.2 yards per carry average. The last time Trinity was held to under 100 yards rushing was October 2, 2010 when Williams held the Bantams to 87 yards rushing. Not coincidentally that was also a loss for Trinity. The 85 yards was the lowest total in a game since October 11, 2008 when Tufts (yes, Tufts) held the Bantams to 50 yards rushing. (Of course in that game Trinity threw for 470 as well to win a wild overtime game 28-27.)

The fact that the two top tacklers for Middlebury were defensive backs tells us that while the Panthers won the line of scrimmage, they didn’t do it conventionally. Waves of defenders threw themselves at the point of attack on running plays without exposing any lanes for cutbacks. Trinity’s longest run in the game was 19 yards.

Matt Minno '16 hauls down one of his three touchdowns in the Panthers' victory. Courtesy of Greg Sullivan (
Matt Minno ’16 hauls down one of his three touchdowns in the Panthers’ victory. Courtesy of Greg Sullivan (

Not having Sonny Puzzo on the roster for Trinity hurt the Bantams because Foye is not a runner. Puzzo gave the Trinity offense a little more diversity and defenses had more difficulty keying on one player. Spencer Aukamp ’18 has the running capabilities to replicate Puzzo, but Aukamp is not as polished of a passer. Henry Foye ’15 was able to come back from a touchdown deficit last week against Bowdoin, but he is not a quarterback capable of leading a team back from the hole Trinity found themselves in early in the second half.

Meanwhile, Matt Milano ’16 played a nearly perfect game. He went 25-36 for 286 yards. Though he threw one interception, he made up for it with four touchdowns. Matt Minno ’16 reemerged from the shadows last week against Bates, and he confirmed that he is back with his best game of the season: a three touchdown, 90 yard day. Milano actually played better than Mac Foote ’14 did last year when Middlebury beat Trinity in Vermont. Throw out the debacle against Amherst, and Milano has been stellar.

The running game led by Drew Jacobs ’18 was nothing special, but it did enough to keep Trinity honest. The Bantams could not load up on 3rd and long and come after Milano, especially because the Middlebury offense is designed to get the ball out quickly.

Finally, credit should be given to the Middlebury special teams which had two big plays early in the second half. The first was a gutsy on-side kick call coming out of the half. Rather than giving Trinity the ball back with the score 13-0 Middlebury, the Panthers dialed up an onside kick that they recovered. Two plays later, Milano hit hit Minno for his third touchdown of the game. The next drive Trinity tried a fake punt on 4th and 2 from their own 43-yard line, but Middlebury was not fooled at all. Michael Budness ’15 gained only one yard and the Trinity gambled failed.

The last time Trinity lost at home was to Williams in September of 2001. Every Trinity football player starting with the class of 2006 until the class of 2014 was undefeated at home. The thing for Trinity is that their path to a NESCAC championship remains unchanged. If they can rally and beat Amherst and then Wesleyan, they will at least earn a share of the NESCAC title. With only two weeks to still go, both Connecticut schools have now lost when before the season it looked possible that both would go undefeated until they faced each other.

Stock Up

Safety Dan Pierce ’16 (Middlebury): Seems like every week we highlight another Panther defensive player that has emerged as a cog in a defense that has become the strength of Middlebury. Pierce had a great all around game totaling 12 tackles and two interceptions. He had the play of the game midway through the second quarter. With Middlebury up 7-0, the Bantams drove the ball down to the five yard line. Then Pierce picked off Henry Foye ’15 in the end zone and returned it 71 yards to the Trinity 29-yard line. Four plays later, Middlebury punched it in to go up by two touchdowns forcing Trinity out of their comfort zone. Pierce now leads the Panthers in tackles on the season and is fourth overall in the NESCAC. We know it is early, but given that players like Pierce, Tim Patricia ’16,  and Nate Leedy ’17 will all be back on defense along with Milano leading an offense that will return all of its playmakers with the exception of Rankowitz, Middlebury should be the favorite entering next year.

Wide Receiver Steven Kiesel ’15 (Williams): Saturday was just another ho-hum day for the senior receiver as he finished with five catches, 62 yards, and a touchdown that ended up being the difference in Williams’ 21-14 victory. Kiesel’s performance was notable because of how normal it has become. He has had at least five receptions in all but one of Williams’ games and now leads the NESCAC in receptions for the year. With the Ephs backed up on their own one, Austin Lommen ’16 went to his favorite target and hit Kiesel for a 32-yard gain that ended with Kiesel’s touchdown catch. The Williams running game has struggled for long stretches of this season, and Kiesel has been the most reliable source of offense for the Ephs. It might be a longshot given they are only 2-4, but Williams can salvage their season starting Saturday with a big upset over Wesleyan.

Quarterback Matt Cannone ’15 (Bates): The CBB picked up right where it left off last year in terms of excitement. The Bobcats QB returned just in time to get the Bates offense moving. He was still bothered by his ankle so that he was not much of a threat out of the pocket, but Cannone still played admirably. He went 18-32 for 203 yards and four touchdowns. His main target was Mark Riley ’16, but with the game on the line he used Riley as a diversion and went to Frank Williams ’18. On 4th and goal, Cannone found Williams for the game tying touchdown with under a minute left. Then in overtime the same connection worked again for a 25 yard touchdown and the victory. The win gives Bates the early lead in the CBB with the Bobcats visiting Bowdoin this week. Now Cannone will look to seal the CBB.

Running back LaShawn Ware ’17 (Hamilton): Sometimes, you have to admit that you’ve made a mistake. At the beginning of the season, in our Breakout Players of 2014 article, we highlighted Hamilton backs Rico Gonzalez ’16 and converted safety Jeff Hopsicker ’15. Gonzalez hasn’t been much of a factor all year, and had two carries against Williams. Hopsicker started out as the team’s primary back, but has seen his carries total dwindle ever since Week 2. When we spoke with head coach Dave Murray at the beginning of the year, he highlighted the speedy Ware as someone who could make an impact, but we just saw too much competition in the backfield. Well, Ware now leads the team in rushing yards and yards per carry, and racked up a career-high 115 yards against Williams. It looks like Murray has settled into a two-headed attack, with Ware moving the ball down the field and Amman Weaver ’18 getting the chances to punch it in near the goal line. It’s another lost season for the Continentals, but there will be weapons back in 2015.

Stock Down

Tufts Offensive Execution: A few stats from the Tufts-Amherst game: Tufts first downs – 11, Amherst first downs – 12. Tufts total yards – 249, Amherst total yards – 244. Tufts return yards – 78, Amherst return yards – 93. So how was this game 30-3 in favor of the Jeffs? As the Tufts website notes, every single Amherst scoring drive started in Tufts territory. Seventy-nine of those return yards came on interceptions for Amherst, with Chris Gow ’16 returning one Alex Snyder ’17 pass to the house. The Lord Jeff defense is very good and known for their takeaways, but this was another level. A big reason for that was because Jack Doll ’15 did not start and only threw the ball six times. It would have been extremely difficult for the Jumbos to upset Amherst at home with the Jeffs smelling a conference championship, but the offense let down a defense that played much better than the score indicated.

Bowdoin Secondary: One week after allowing Henry Foye to enjoy his best game of the season, Jesse Warren ’15 threw for five touchdowns against the Bowdoin secondary. Early in the game Bowdoin was getting pressure, but Warren converted two third downs of more than 12 yards on the first touchdown drive. For the game Wesleyan was 10-17 on third down. The Polar Bears have had problems slowing down the opposition’s passing attack all year with teams finding ways of making big plays consistently. Though Jay Fabien ’15 was slowed, Josh Hurwitz ’15 stepped up and had three touchdown catches. The Bowdoin secondary will have to rise to the occasion and stop Bates’ Riley on Saturday.

Colby’s Depth: The brutal opening schedule robbed Colby of a good deal of their players, and in an effort to get their best talent on the field, wide receivers Luke Duncklee ’15 and Nick Joseph ’15 have started playing on defense as well. Many NESCAC players went both ways in high school so they are somewhat used to it, but doing it in college is especially hard because it is much harder to take any plays off. The duo played well Saturday totaling 14 tackles between them, but it was not enough for Colby to hold off Bates. Advocates for expanding the current roster to more than 75 players might point to Colby’s issues as evidence. It is possible that the issue comes up again in conversations between coaches and administrators, but schools are unlikely to look at this one instance and consider it enough reason to change a longstanding rule.


Fantasy Report – Week 6

Bates Frank Williams '17 about to make a move Saturday (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)
Bates Frank Williams ’18 about to make a move Saturday (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

The fantasy regular season is in the books, and with only two weeks left in the NESCAC schedule, the drama is mounting both on the field and on the computer screens of our four brave competitors. With three teams at 2-3 after last week, Week 6 proved critical for playoff seeding. Over the next two weeks a single elimination playoff will take place with the top seed playing the bottom and seeds two and three matching up.

The Bantams (Meekins) vs. Team Lindholm

Last time these two teams met up it was an 80-58 shellacking in favor of The Bantams, but Lindholm exacted his revenge this time around, topping Meekins 131-68. QB Jesse Warren ’15 was the only impact factor for Meekins, and Warren’s 38 was matched by QB Matt Milano ’16 on Lindholm’s side.

The Bantams (Meekins) Team Lindholm
Pos. Player Pts. Player Pts.
QB J. Warren 38 M. Lippe 18
QB M. Caputi 1 M. Milano 38
RB N. Kelly 1 J. Semonella 0
RB G. Ackley 1 Z. Trause 4
RB K. Gibson 0 L. Ware 13
WR G. Garay 3 H. Murphy 0
WR I. Dugger 1 J. Hurwitz 25
WR C. Ragone 6 J. Fabien 8
TE D. Von Euw 0 J. Day 8
FLEX J. McGonagle 1 K. Adinkra 0
FLEX D. Sime 4 M. Budness 1
K P. Nwosu 5 Dola 3
D/ST Trinity 9 Williams 13
68 131

Foye Story (MacDonald) vs. Lord of the ‘CAC – The Fellowship (Lamont)

Lamont got the best of me in Week 3 when Foye Story racked up a measly 62 points, 27 points below my next lowest-scoring week, but I turned the tables this time with an 18-point victory. Three injuries to Lamont’s lineup made the difference.

Foye Story (MacDonald) Lord of the ‘CAC – The Fellowship
Pos. Player Pts Player Pts.
QB G. Harrington 33 M. Cannone 30
QB H. Foye 13 J. Doll -2
RB C. Iregbulem 6 L. Drew 0
RB A. Scyocurka 8 T. Grant 7
RB C. Brady 0 C. Lipani 0
WR M. Minno 27 B. Ragone 1
WR B. Berey 0 L. Duncklee 13
WR S. Kiesel 12 M. Riley 16
TE B. Kurtz 0 A. Way 1
FLEX J. Hurdle-Price 3 P. Donadio 3
FLEX D. Jacobs 7 M. Rando 0
K I. Fuchs 5 L. Scheepers 4
D/ST Middlebury 9 Wesleyan 22
113 95

The final regular season standings are below. With Meekins and Lamont splitting their in-season match ups, the advantage tilts in Meekins’ favor thanks to a 218-182 point total in those match ups.

Team Record Points
Foye Story (MacDonald) 5 – 1 639
Team Lindholm 3 – 3 516
The Bantams (Meekins) 2 – 4 441
Lord of the ‘CAC – The Fellowship (Lamont) 2 – 4 509

Is an Upset on the Horizon? The Weekend Preview 10/23

Conventional thinking for this season has been that three teams have a legitimate chance at winning the NESCAC title-Amherst, Wesleyan, and Trinity-and that the title would come down to the results of the games between those teams. This week will be the strongest test of that thinking as all three top teams face varying challenges this weekend. Middlebury traveling to Trinity is the highlight, but Tufts visiting Amherst and Bowdoin at Wesleyan could also offer intrigue. The big advantage for the top three teams is that they all play at home, though on the season home teams are only 12-13.

If one of the top three teams loses, then the final two weeks could become much more complicated. It would not necessarily drop Amherst or Trinity from the conversation because both teams are still undefeated, but Wesleyan knows they must win out to have a chance. Elsewhere the CBB gets underway with Colby and Bates, and Hamilton looks to notch their first win at home against Williams.

Three to Watch

Quarterback Jesse Warren ’15 (Wesleyan): Perhaps lost somewhat in Wesleyan’s loss last Saturday and their inability to run the ball, has been how good Warren has played this season. The knock on him last year was that he didn’t need to throw the ball often and his stats were a product of teams loading the box to stop the run. This year he has proven that wrong in all respects. He is averaging over 45 more yards per game while also being more efficient as his yards per attempt is up 0.9 yards and his completion percentage has edged up from 64.7 percent to 66.9 percent. To top it off he still has only thrown one interception this year while also tossing nine touchdowns. Last week Trinity was forced to turn to Henry Foye ’15 and air the ball out against Bowdoin, and a similar situation could see itself play out again this week. If Warren continues his stellar play, the Cardinals are in good hands.

Linebacker Tom Szymanski ’15 (Trinity): The Bantams defense is a very deep unit that has talent all across the board, but Szymanski has been the leading man so far. His 31 tackles are the most on the team. He has also been a force in the pass rush with two sacks on the season. The senior had his biggest game a few weeks ago against Hamilton totaling 12 tackles. The Bantams are banged up on defense (more on that later), and Szymanski will have to be a steadying force to make Middlebury one-dimensional through the air. Even though the Panthers have not run the ball particularly well (second to last in the NESCAC per carry), they will try to establish something on the ground.

Running Back Nick Kelly ’17 (Amherst): After some early season missteps, the Amherst offense seems to be on track with Kelly as the main horse for the Jeffs. Kenny Adinkra ’16 was the starter entering the season, but injuries have forced him to miss multiple games. Kelly has stepped in and been a force. His first highlight came when he iced Bates with a 42-yard touchdown. After only gaining 28 yards in week two, Kelly has busted out for three straight 100+ yard performances. Kelly is a powerful back who also has breakaway speed once he turns the corner and gets a full head of steam. Amherst will need him to approach the 100 yard mark again this week, but it might not be as easy as you might expect against Tufts. Though they are not usually associated with a strong run defense, the Jumbos stonewalled Williams for 46 yards on 29 carries last Saturday.

Trinity Looks to Make Sure There is NPITC
Trinity Looks to Make Sure There is NPITC (No Poop in the Coop)

The Picks

Game of the Week: Middlebury (3-2) at Trinity (5-0)

Trinity survived on the road last Saturday, and they are more than happy to be back at home protecting their 53-game home winning streak. Meanwhile Middlebury comes in on a two-game winning streak and hoping for a signature win to their season.  Sources told us this morning that Chudi Iregbulem ’15 will give it a go tomorrow after not playing last week.

Middlebury has lost both of its games by one touchdown, and their main issue has been offense in those games. Matt Milano ’16 and company have put up 28.3 points per game in their victories but only 7.0 in their two losses. Granted, they played Amherst in a driving rain storm that was a huge boon for the Jeffs in terms of stopping the Panther passing game. The Bantams stack right up there with Wesleyan and Amherst on defense allowing only 7.6 points per game.

The Trinity defense has been even better than their stats as well. Teams have only scored two touchdowns on drives of more than 40 yards through their first five games. The rest of the touchdowns given up by the Bantams were because of short fields after a turnover. They are strongest against the run allowing only 2.5 yards per carry, and the Panthers should expect few lanes open.

Injuries on the defensive side of the ball are a major issue. Safety Mike Mancini ’15, linebacker Mike Weatherby ’14, and cornerback Brian Dones ’15 are all questionable for the game because of injury. Head Coach Jeff Devanney has said he thinks it is possible all of them play, but as Iregbulem’s injury shows, the Bantams do not reveal a lot of information about injuries. Not revealing injuries is of course part of the game and Trinity is under no obligation to tell anybody who will be playing. However, at this point Trinity appears to be healthy, and all those players will try to play tomorrow.

Dones in particular is important because when healthy he can shut down one side of the field. Grant Luna ’17 did not play last week due to a concussion so his status is up in the air, but Matt Minno ’16 and Brendan Rankowitz ’15 are more than capable of making plays for Milano and Luna’s replacement, Ryan Rizzo ’17, is just as athletic as (and faster than) every receiver on the Panthers’ roster. The major difference between this year’s Middlebury offense and those of past years’ is the lack of a pass catching tight end. William Sadik-Khan ’14 and Billy Chapman ’13 were both big targets in the middle of the field that were match-up nightmares for NESCAC teams. No tight end has more than five catches on the year right now for Middlebury.

On the other side of the ball Middlebury will look to make Trinity rely on the passing game. Bowdoin did a good job of this last week, but Henry Foye ’15 proved he could make throws when it mattered. In the second half Foye had a handful of throws down the field that helped make his receivers open. This entire video of Trinity coach Jeff Devanney going over game film is worth watching, and he does a good job of breaking down some of Foye’s throws starting at 9:15.

The Middlebury secondary should be more up to the task of shutting down Ian Dugger ’16 and Chris Ragone ’15. Nate Leedy ’17 is the top corner for the Panthers, and safeties Matt Benedict ’15 and Dan Pierce ’16 make a lot of big plays as well. On the season the Panthers have allowed the second least amount of passing yards though per attempt teams fare reasonably well against them.

If Iregbulem is still slowed then the Panthers have a good shot at pulling the upset. It will be imperative for Milano not to make any costly mistakes. Since throwing for two interceptions against Wesleyan, he has passed for eight touchdowns and no interceptions. Still, though health is an issue for Trinity, the Bantams will have enough to keep the streak alive for at least one more week.

Prediction: Trinity 27 over Middlebury 21

Tufts (3-2) at Amherst (5-0): No team has a bigger disparity between their home and away performance than the Jumbos, and unfortunately for them Amherst hosts this week, but that doesn’t mean Tufts has no chance. Jack Doll ’15 is right up there with Warren for top QB in the NESCAC so far, but throwing on the Jeffs is always difficult. As mentioned before, Tufts loves to get the ball into the flats quickly, something that Amherst is adept at covering. Gene Garay ’15 emerged as Max Lippe’s ’15 security blanket underneath last week. Tufts needs its defensive stars Mike Stearns ’17 and Matt McCormack ’16 to be presences all day long in order to slow down Amherst. The Tufts have a good chance of getting to .500 on the year, but it won’t happen this week.

Prediction: Amherst 31 over Tufts 21

Bowdoin (2-3) at Wesleyan (4-1): (Editor’s Note: Prediction and game blurb by Joe MacDonald) How the Cardinals respond mentally to their let down last week will go a long way in this game. Given all the seniors on the roster, the likelihood is they come out looking for revenge. Besides their Week 1 debacle, the Polar Bears tend to keep games close and have looked better every week. The Wesleyan defense will work hard to force turnovers to help put the offense into good situations. Jay Fabien ’15 has become the number one target for Warren through the air, and Lou Stevens ’17 enjoyed his biggest game of the year on the ground last week. Meanwhile Dan Barone ’16 has cemented himself as Bowdoin’s number one option and is enjoying a top five receiver caliber season. The Polar Bears don’t have enough talent to hang for 60 minutes, and Wesleyan will pull away.

Prediction: Wesleyan 31 over Bowdoin 17

Our favorite NESCAC football photo of all time (courtesy of Bates Athletics)
Our favorite NESCAC football photo of all time (courtesy of Bates Athletics)

Colby (1-4) at Bates (1-4): The Mules busted out last week, and if they play anything like they did last week, then Bates could be in trouble. Some regression should be expected however, and in the opener of the CBB this should be a close one. Strong play by the Bates defense has only led to one victory so far because of offensive struggles exacerbated by injuries especially to Matt Cannone ’15. It is still uncertain whether Cannone will play Saturday, and if he does how effective he can be because of his ankle injury. Both teams have endured grueling schedules to start the year, and are more than ready for this game to get underway. Whether Bates can find consistent gains on the ground will be the difference. The Bobcats want to hold the ball for the majority of the game and keep Luke Duncklee ’15 and Nick Joseph ’15 from getting loose deep. Consider this one basically a coin flip between these two teams, but we will give Colby the edge based on last week’s results.

Prediction: Colby 21 over Bates 20

Williams (1-4) at Hamilton (0-5): The wheels fell of the bus somewhere along the way from Clinton to Waterville last week for the Continentals, and the same can be said for Williams too. The Hamilton defense has been a hard luck group this year as they place last in the NESCAC in points allowed per game (32.6) but are fifth in yards allowed per game (334.0). Williams will look to get Alex Scyocurka ’14 the ball at least 25 times on the ground in an attempt to wear down the Continentals. Chase Rosenberg ’17 has to do a better job making the easy throw when open. He has not had a single game with a completion percentage above 60 percent. As long as the Ephs show up motivated and ready to play, they should keep Hamilton in the loss column.

Prediction: Williams 24 over Hamilton 14

Last Week: 4-1

Season Record: 21-4

Power Rankings: 10/23

The rankings shuffle around a little this week with Amherst moving up a spot by virtue of their win Saturday, but the Bantams retain the top spot. Meanwhile the biggest movers were Colby and Bowdoin up two spots each.

1. Trinity (5-0) – The Bantams got into a dogfight last week at Bowdoin with Chudi Iregbulem ’15 sidelined due to an injury. They were able to squeak out a victory despite his absence, and the Bantams stayed true to form and pounded the ball on the ground with 54 rushing attempts. This team is still the most talented team in the league but it will be interesting to see if Iregbulem suits up this week versus Middlebury. If he’s out, the streak could be in trouble.

2. Amherst (5-0) – The Lord Jeffs pulled out the most impressive victory of the season so far in a battle of unbeaten teams. Thankfully for them, Phillip Nwosu ’15 stepped up kicking the football, accounting for 15 of their 33 points including hitting the tying field goal in regulation and the winning field goal in overtime. Nick Kelly ’17 had his third straight 100-yd rushing effort in the OT win. Bottom line: impressive win for the Jeffs.

3. Wesleyan (4-1) – Extremely tough loss at home for the Cardinals that puts them virtually out of the NESCAC title race. A strong effort by veteran signal caller Jesse Warren ’15 who went 19-26 for 305 yards and two touchdowns was not enough. Interesting to see the team morale next week versus Bowdoin after last week.

4. Middlebury (3-2) – The defense showed up big time last week limiting the struggling Bates offense to 185 total yards, and 74 of those came on just one play in the first quarter. Matt Milano ’16 threw for a career high four touchdowns with 29-43 pass attempts going for 287 yards. As mentioned above, if Trinity is without Iregbulem again, the Panthers have a real good shot at pulling the monumental upset and shaking up the NESCAC standings.

5. Tufts (3-2) – What’s going on in Medford is very special. Coming into the year, the Jumbos were riding a 31-game losing streak and now have already put together three wins after defeating Williams this past weekend. They are a different team at home where they are 3-0. This team can put up a fight with almost every team in the NESCAC now and shouldn’t be taken lightly by anyone.

Phillip Nwosu '15 helped Amherst move into the number two position in the power rankings.
Phillip Nwosu ’15 helped Amherst move into the number two position in the power rankings.

6. Bowdoin (2-3) – Despite losing last weekend, the Polar Bears jump two spots this week due to everyone else’s results. The Polar Bears did play surprisingly well versus Trinity but Iregbulem was inactive so not sure how indicative that was of their play overall. Nonetheless, they can prove how far they have come as a team with a strong performance against Wesleyan Saturday.

7. Williams (1-4) – Another tough loss for the Ephs for what has been a disappointing season so far after the big opening week blowout versus Bowdoin. One of the few bright spots this week was Austin Lommen ’16 going 24-38 on passing attempts for three TD’s: two of them going to his high school teammate Steven Kiesel ’15. The Ephs look to break the four game losing streak at a winless Hamilton this weekend.

8. Colby (1-4) – The Mules put up an impressive performance versus Hamilton this weekend by putting up 40 points by halftime. Very surprising offensive performance considering they had only been averaging 7.8 ppg coming into the weekend. Look for them to ride the momentum into this weekend’s rivalry game with Bates.

9. Bates (1-4) – The Bobcats’ offense struggled mightily again this weekend putting up only six points and only gaining 185 yards of total offense. By most offensive metrics, this team ranks last in the NESCAC. This has been the big problem for them all year and don’t look for it to change anytime soon.

10. Hamilton (0-5) – In what we thought was going to be a good matchup of 0-4 teams coming into the weekend turned into a lopsided affair in which the Continentals got blown out. The game was shockingly over by halftime when it was 40-0 in favor of the Mules. Hamilton still has two good chances to get their first win of the season.

Fantasy Report – Week 5

The cream has risen to the top. Despite a pair of inactives on my roster, a handful of huge performances added up to the most prolific week of the season for Foye Story which topped Team Lindholm for the second time this year.

In the other matchup, The Bantams put up a monster week of their own, which was crucial because it evened the head-to-head matchup between Meekins and Lamont.

Foye Story (MacDonald) vs. Team Lindholm

Why, hello, Mr. Harrington. The Colby sophomore broke out in a big way last week, racking up four touchdowns in the Mules first win of 2014. What’s more, I think I found an answer to my defensive woes. Middlebury’s D destroyed Bates and tallied 31 fantasy points.

Meanwhile, Lindholm’s squad put up a healthy 117 points, but almost three quarters of that came from Matt Milano ’16, Jay Fabien ’14 and Zack Trause ’14. The rest of Lindholm’s roster was pretty unproductive, and a few roster moves are in order as he’s got some non-factors from a fantasy standpoint (whether for reasons related to injury or otherwise) still in his starting lineup.

Foye Story (MacDonald) Team Lindholm
Position Player Points Player Points
QB G. Harrington 37 M. Lippe 10
QB H. Foye 22 M. Milano 38
RB A. Scyocurka 6 K. Adinkra 0
RB C. Iregbulem 0 R. Hislop 0
RB C. Brady 8 J. Semonella 0
WR G. Luna 0 H. Murphy 0
WR S. Kiesel 18 J. Hurwitz 10
WR M. Minno 21 J. Fabien 24
TE B. Kurtz 1 J. Day 1
FLEX J. Hurdle-Price 5 Z. Trause 25
FLEX D. Jacobs 6 M. Budness 3
K I. Fuchs 6 M. Dola 3
D/ST Middlebury 31 Williams 3
161 117

The Bantams (Meekins) vs. Lord of the ‘CAC – The Fellowship (Lamont)

It was a tough week for Lamont’s squad, in part because his attempted waiver claim that would have replaced the injured LaDarius Drew ’15 in his lineup was blocked by yours truly. Scoreless games from Pat Donadio ’15 and Mark Riley ’16 really hurt as well, and solid production up and down the lineup for Meekins’ squad was too much for the Fellowship.

The Bantams (Meekins) Lord of the ‘CAC – The Fellowship
Position Player Points Player Position
QB J. Warren 25 M. Cannone 6
QB M. Caputi 4 J. Doll 22
RB K. Gibson 14 T. Grant 6
RB G. Ackley 8 C. Lipani 0
RB N. Kelly 26 L. Drew 0
WR G. Garay 9 B. Ragone -1
WR I. Dugger 6 L. Duncklee 24
WR C. Ragone 10 M. Riley 0
TE D. Von Euw 0 A. Way 7
FLEX J. McGonagle 0 P. Donadio 0
FLEX D. Sime 10 M. Rando 2
K P. Nwosu 16 Scheepers 2
D/ST Trinity 7 Wesleyan 5
125 73
Tyler Grant is brought down by Trinity's Spencer Donahue. How representative of The Bantams' (Meekins) domination of The Fellowship is this?  Courtesy of Greg Sullivan (
Tyler Grant is brought down by Trinity’s Spencer Donahue. How representative of The Bantams’ (Meekins) domination of The Fellowship is this?
Courtesy of Greg Sullivan (

With only one week remaining in the regular fantasy season, the standings are as such:

Team Record Points
Foye Story (MacDonald) 4 – 1 526
The Bantams (Meekins) 2 – 3 473
Lord of the ‘CAC – The Fellowship (Lamont) 2 – 3 414
Team Lindholm 2 – 3 385


Now the Fun Has Started: The Stock Report 10/21

For NESCAC watchers, this weekend lived up to its promise and then some. Amherst at Wesleyan featured two of the top-three teams trading punches the entire game until Phillip Nwosu ’15 decided it. Then up in Maine, Trinity was without Chudi Iregbulem ’15 and needed a fourth quarter comeback to knock off a resilient Bowdoin team. Middlebury got to above .500 for the first time this year. Finally, Colby got into the winning column in a huge way. There is a lot to cover, so let’s get to the stock report.

Stock Up

Kicker Phillip Nwosu ’15 (Amherst): Back in the preseason when we made Nwosu our team MVP for the Jeffs, many probably found it unusual to see a kicker get so much love. Then the senior went 1-4 on field goals entering the game Saturday with the three misses all coming from 33 yards or fewer. He was still forcing plenty of touchbacks, but something was off. Well Nwosu could not have picked a better time to get his form right than Saturday. He finished 4-4 on field goals and 3-3 on extra points to account for 15 of Amherst’s 33 points. His most important kick was also his best: a 41-yarder in unsure footing with under a minute left to force the game into overtime. The win for Amherst was of course a complete team effort with big games from Gene Garay ’15 and Chris Tamasi ’15 in particular, but at the end of the game after Nwosu had hit the game winner, it was the kicker who was hoisted onto the soldiers of his teammates in celebration.

Colby Leadership: We have made note several times of the brutal schedule that Colby had to face to begin the year, and Saturday saw the Mules take all their frustration out on the Continentals. The Mules came out on a mission from the first snap of the game. The Continentals were the poor team that had all that aggression taken out on them, and they are a better team than they showed on Saturday. Still, this game was over even before halftime with Colby up 40-0. Hats off to the Colby seniors for keeping the team together and working hard in the lead up to this game. Jason Buco ’15 was the star for the defense with two interceptions, and Luke Duncklee ’15 had his best game of the season recording three total touchdowns. Gabe Harrington ’17 looked comfortable in the pocket spreading out his throws to a wealth of receivers. The Mules go to Bates on Saturday in the opener of the CBB (Colby-Bowdoin-Bates). After Saturday, Colby sees no reason why they can’t close the season on a torrid streak.

Bowdoin Linebackers: The trio of Brendan Lawler ’16, Branden Morin ’16, and Bjorn Halvorsen ’17 combined for 34 tackles with 5.5 tackles for loss. Lawler recovered a fumble while Morin accounted for Bowdoin’s only touchdown with a 45-yard interception return for a touchdown. We mentioned on Friday how Bowdoin had the worst rush defense in terms of yards per rush allowed, but on Saturday Trinity gained only 2.8 yards per rush without Iregbulem. The play of the Bowdoin linebackers and the front seven in general forced the Bantams to turn to the air in order to claw their way back for the 17-10 victory. After a slow start to the season, all three linebackers have started to make plays all over the field for the Bowdoin defense.

Stock Down

Bates’ Triple Option: At this point the Bates offense has essentially come to a grinding halt. The Bobcats are averaging a league worst 13.0 points per game. They are also averaging only 231.2 yards per game, the worst mark by any NESCAC team since Tufts averaged 219.5 yards in 2011. Bates usually tries to run the ball all over teams with the triple option, but the running game has had no consistency. Their 2.2 yards per rush average is by far the worst in the NESCAC, with Middlebury the next worse at 2.6. Quarterback Matt Cannone ’15 is the most talented player on the offensive side and he was the player most capable of breathing life into the offense when the running game struggled. However, injuries have slowed him in recent weeks and he has been far from 100 percent. Without him healthy, a once promising season is near the precipice.

Running Back Kyle Gibson ’15 (Wesleyan): After the injury to LaDarius Drew ’15, this was supposed to be the year when Gibson shined as the lead back in Wesleyan’s run heavy attack, but for whatever reason it just has not materialized. Gibson averaged 6.5 yards per carry last year but only 3.4 yards this year. It is entirely possible that Gibson has been struggling with injuries or something else is up because he averaged only 27.5 yards in his past two games. Wesleyan’s running issues do not end with Gibson though. After leading the NESCAC in yards per rush last year with 4.7, the Cardinals are seventh in the NESCAC at 2.9 yards per rush. The Cardinals are so lost for how to get it moving that Donnie Cimino ’15 and Jake Bussani ’14 each got carries on Saturday in an attempt to inject some life into the offense. Jesse Warren ’15 has raised his play almost enough to offset those issues, but a passing offense is not what Wesleyan wants its identity to be.

Week 1 Results: It has now been a month and a day since the first results of the season came back, and at this point it is very important to remember what has changed. Williams was the team of the week with their 36-0 beatdown of Bowdoin. They were riding high until Trinity came in and returned the favor with a 38-0 win. Williams has now lost four games in a row and it looks like they are in disarray. The Polar Bears turned their season around and came close to pulling the upset of the season on Saturday.

Look, Week 1 did tell us a lot. It told us Wesleyan would not be the juggernaut we thought they could be without Drew running the ball, that the Amherst defense was going to be really good, and that something really cool was going on in Medford. Yet you can’t trust everything that happens in the first week of the season. Teams in the NESCAC are closer talent-wise than they might appear from week to week. One injury or a weird bounce can put an “elite” team into a dogfight like Trinity found themselves in this weekend. Teams mature and change over the course of the season so that at times it seems that what we saw in the first week was a mirage.

The Stakes Rise: The Weekend Preview 10/18

As we move to the stretch run, the biggest games of the season are still in front of us. When Wesleyan and Amherst meet on Saturday, more than just the Little Three will be on the line. The winner will have the best victory of the year and a good shot at going undefeated.

All eyes will be on Middletown, but a lot of other games will offer intrigue as well. Bates visits Middlebury in a game that should stay close if the Bates defense can play like they did for the better part of last week. Trinity makes the trip north to Maine for a game that could be tricky against a Bowdoin team that has now won two in a row. The other two games should be close as well.

Three to Watch

Running Back Devon Carrillo ’17 (Wesleyan): The salve to Wesleyan’s running problems might be the Middletown, Connecticut native. Last week Coach Mike Whalen used Carrillo as a wildcat quarterback in certain situations. The formation gave Bates fits with the highlight being a 66 yard run in the second quarter that saw Carrillo weave his way through the Bobcat defense. He accounted for 92 of Wesleyan’s 143 rushing yards (64.3%). After a freshman year that saw him return kicks and be the second leading tackler on defense, his role has shifted to the offensive side of the ball. On the Wesleyan website he is listed as a linebacker, and he played both ways in the first two weeks of the season, but he did not record a tackle last week. If Wesleyan can’t get traction running the ball with Jesse Warren ’15 under center then they will turn to Carrillo for a spark.

Linebacker Tim Patricia ’16 (Middlebury)- The leading tackler in the NESCAC over the last two years, Patricia has seen his production dip slightly as others on the Panther defense have emerged. Yet the junior could have a big game production wise on Saturday against Bates. Linebackers like Chris Tamasi ’15 and James O’Grady ’16 have enjoyed some of their best games this year against Bates because the run heavy offense gives linebackers a wealth of opportunities to make plays. The loss of Ryan Curit ’14 and Shawn Doherty ’14 has hampered Bates so far, but Middlebury will still have to bring their best game on Saturday. The skill level all around the Panther defense is much higher than it was two years ago. The reputation of a finesse team that they gained in past years does not ring true now. Patricia has been a big part of that change.

Defensive Tackle Tom Wells ’15 (Bowdoin)- A 2013 second team All-NESCAC performer, Wells is one of three seniors on the defensive line for Bowdoin that will try to stop the vaunted Trinity running game. The last time the two teams met in Brunswick the Polar Bears held Trinity to 3.4 yards per rush, and Trinity had only a 13-10 lead at halftime. Wells has three tackles for loss on the year, and along with lineman Jake Prince ’15 and Brian Golger ’15, will take on the vaunted Trinity offensive line. Right now the Polar Bears rank last in the NESCAC in defensive yards per rush at 3.9. Against Trinity the front seven will have to step up for Bowdoin to spring an upset.

The Picks

Game of the Week: Amherst (4-0) at Wesleyan (4-0)

Last year this was the game when Wesleyan broke through and showed that they had truly joined the top echelon of the league. A late Amherst rally fell short of succeeding, and two weeks later the Cardinals were celebrating their first Little Three title in 41 years.

Yet Amherst really outplayed Wesleyan in that game but lost for two big reasons – turnovers and field position. Amherst had four turnovers (three interceptions and one fumble) to Wesleyan’s zero. Then Wesleyan converted two short fields after Amherst punts into touchdowns which proved to be the difference.

Therefore, punter/receiver Jackson McGonagle ’16 and quarterback Max Lippe ’15 are the keys for the Jeffs. McGonagle has a great leg and can boom punts when he hits it right, but he is inconsistent and too often ends up hitting the ball poorly. Lippe reclaimed his position after not playing at all in the first three weeks and changed the look of the Amherst offense. He made good reads and solidified the passing game.

We fully expect Lippe to get the nod to start, but if he struggles Alex Berluti ’17 or Reece Foy ’18 should be ready to go. Lippe went 20-35 for 195 yards and had two touchdowns and two interceptions against the Cardinals in 2013. He spread the ball around last week which is a must against a Wesleyan secondary capable of turning any mistake into six points the other way.

Amherst has likely spent a lot of time in practice getting ready for Carrillo and the wildcat, but stopping it will still not be easy. Whalen likely did not want to run the wildcat so much last week, but the lack of any other running game forced his hand. Losing LaDarius Drew ’15 has cost Wesleyan more than expected with Kyle Gibson ’15 unable to find lanes of space.

Jesse Warren ’15 has proven in the first half that he is not merely a beneficiary of a strong running game and has been the best quarterback in the NESCAC. He set a new personal record in attempts (38) and completions (24 – the first time he has had more than 20) against Bates, making big throws one third down and long.

These are the two best statistical defense in the NESCAC at this point, and both offenses carry heavy question marks. Though it is Wesleyan’s homecoming, students are on fall break so the crowd might be large but not necessarily loud. Amherst hopes that Lippe can continue his play from last week, and we think he makes enough plays to carry them to victory in a low scoring game.

Prediction: Amherst 17 over Wesleyan 13

Bates (1-3) at Middlebury (2-2): The overtime victory for Middlebury last week was thrilling and represented another step in Matt Milano’s ’16 development. Now the Panthers have to turn around and protect their home turf against Bates. No word on whether Matt Cannone ’15 will play, but Patrick Dugan ’16 is capable of making plays as well. Our mid-season Defensive Player of the Year Ryan Newson ’15 will need to play well to keep Milano and company in check. These two teams have played three common opponents and played them similarly.

Prediction: Middlebury 21 over Bates 13

Williams (1-3) at Tufts (2-2): Even though they lost at Trinity 35-14, the Jumbos won respect for how they played the Bantams in Hartford. It took Trinity a while to pull away. Williams looked much better back at home, but the Ephs need to see results soon. Tackling in space is a must for the Williams secondary as Tufts will consistently run screens to their wide receivers. QB Austin Lommen ’16 has to take some of the load off running back Alex Scyocurka ’14. Williams averages the fewest tackles for loss per game on defense and Tufts is allowing the most first downs per game in the NESCAC so the potential is there for some fireworks.

Prediction: Williams 34 over Tufts 28

Trinity (4-0) at Bowdoin (2-2): The Bantams take their roadshow north to face off against a Bowdoin team that has turned around their season after a slow start. The announcement by Head Coach Dave Caputi that he would be stepping down at the end of this year could lead to a fired up Bowdoin squad. Trinity has started slow in a lot of their games, but they wear teams down over the course of their season. The weather will be a factor especially on the grass field. Trinity will load the box to stop Tyler Grant ’17 and see if Mac Caputi ’15 can make throws to his receivers in one on one coverage.

Editors Note: the game prediction is by Joe MacDonald.

Prediction: Trinity 35 over Bowdoin 17

Hamilton (0-4) at Colby (0-4): As meetings between two 0-4 teams go, this is a much better game than you might expect. Colby has finished their murderers row of an opening schedule, but the physical toll was heavy with the Colby staff having to resort to playing some players both ways. The Colby offense should be better after having to face four great defense. Hamilton look like they have a very good player in running back LaShawn Ware ’17 who has now lead the Continentals in rushing two of the last three weeks.

Prediction: Colby 24 over Hamilton 20

Last Week: 4-1

Season Record: 17-3