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:
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.
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.
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.
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.