Aside from Clemson beating BC on Friday, the biggest college football upset of the weekend happened in Vermont, where Middlebury was able to topple Amherst in an absolute thriller on Saturday. Obviously, Middlebury wasn’t considered a weak team, but the fact remained that the Panthers were up against an Amherst team that had won 21 straight games and was allowing 5.0 PPG coming into this tilt. Well, Jared Lebowitz ‘18 and his comrades showed no fear on Saturday, and they fended off the Purple and White for a 27-26 win.
The rest of the league action consisted of a number of blowout wins by Trinity, Tufts and Wesleyan, and a solid win for Bates against Williams. It feels like there really haven’t been a ton of close games this year so far as 2016 is really highlighting the talent gap between the two tiers in the NESCAC. Through 15 game, only 4 have been decided by single digits, and 10 games have ended with score differentials of 20 or more points. I expect these large margins of victory will become fewer and far between as we continue through the season, but you never know. In any event, your Tuesday morning stock report can be found below.
Wide Receiver Devon Carrillo ‘17 (Wesleyan)
Carillo had 3 touchdowns, but surprisingly not one came on a reception. Displaying his athleticism, Carrillo lined up in the wildcat formation and rushed for 26 yards and 2 touchdowns. Then, in a flash of versatility, he threw a 48 yard touchdown pass to Mike Breuler ‘18. Maybe we just found ourselves a NESCAC version of Terrelle Pryor?
Wide Receiver Darrien Myers ‘17 (Trinity)
Myers led the Bantams in receiving on Saturday, hauling in 8 catches for 135 yards and two touchdowns. The senior wideout has time and again proven that he is Sonny Puzzo’s favorite target, especially as Trinity approaches the end zone. Through the first three weeks, Myers leads the league with 7 receiving touchdowns, and he will continue to be a prime option for Puzzo in the red zone against Tufts this weekend.
Quarterback Sandy Plashkes ‘19 (Bates)
Sandy must have been clicking around on the NESCAC website last week and noticed that Bates ranked last in most passing categories because he absolutely torched Williams this weekend. The Bobcats are still last in passing yards, but they have moved into a tie for 3rd in passing touchdowns after Plashkes threw for 4 of them on Saturday including this beautiful throw and catch:
Shout out to Marcus Ross ’19 for coming down with that one as he got his Antonio Brown on. Heck of a weekend for Plashkes and the Bobcats as they grabbed their first win against the Ephs.
Mascot-less Teams in the NESCAC
Losing to Middlebury definitely doesn’t crush Amherst’s stock – the Panthers are definitely a title contender this year. However, this weekend proved that Amherst isn’t indestructible and that is something that will give other teams hope as they face off with the ex-LJs. Even though Amherst was right in it until the final whistle, the interception at the end was a very bad turnover, and in an 8-game season, it is plays like that that can decide the season for NESCAC teams. Amherst is by no means out of the hunt, but they now have to rely on Middlebury faltering against someone else, something that the Panthers just proved you cannot count on.
Quarterback Consistency at Tufts
We’re three weeks in and it’s just impossible to tell who is going to start under center for the Jumbos. Against Wesleyan in Week 1, Alex Snyder ‘17 started, got pulled, and then came back in to help lead the Jumbos to victory. In Week 2, Ryan McDonald ‘19 got more action as the Blue and Brown struggled to move the ball through the air and relied more on McDonald’s feet from the quarterback spot. Now in Week 3, McDonald goes 9-9 for 92 yards and a TD as well as 2 rushing TDs, but Snyder goes 3-6 including a 77-yard touchdown bomb to Mike Miller ‘18. Your guess is as good as mine, but I’d say the Jumbos will just take the hot hand approach moving forward.
You’re not taking advantage of your opportunities guys!! Two of the first three games Williams has played have been against bottom half teams (Colby, Bates), and they have come out 0-3. Now, Williams’ schedule consists of the following 5 opponents in order: Middlebury, Tufts, Hamilton, Wesleyan, and Amherst. Take into account that the Ephs are traveling to Tufts, Hamilton and Amherst and things are not looking great for Coach Raymond’s squad. If the Ephs are going to turn things around, they’re going to need to make improvements across the board, because they do not have a very favorable remaining schedule.
Hear ye, hear ye, Week 3 NESCAC action is in order! What’s almost as good as watching NESCAC football on Saturdays? National polls suggest that NBN’s Weekend Previews come in a close second place. Quite a weekend we’ve got in store: Williams and Bates will battle it out to see who can avoid an 0-3 start, Tufts tries to prove that their close game against the Bobcats was a fluke, Trinity will attempt to put up 38 points for the third week in a row, and Colby will try to upset Wesleyan in a battle between two 1-1 squads. Oh and ho-hum, Amherst and Middlebury will battle for the top spot in the conference. Pete and I tag-teamed this weekend’s preview, so if you are looking to skip through Pete’s overly poetic analysis, I wrote the Trinity-Hamilton and Tufts-Bowdoin previews. Check it out below:
Amherst @ Middlebury, 1:30 PM, Middlebury, VT
For a more expansive preview of this one, check out Colby Morris’ excellent piece that went up yesterday. This game is on the short list for the most important game of the year, with Middlebury and Amherst both coming in undefeated after impressive blowouts in each of their respective games. It’s not too much of a stretch to say that this game may well decide the league championship, although Trinity, Tufts and Wesleyan certainly have something to say in that regard.
The Panthers are led by quarterback Jared Lebowitz ‘18, who has 11 total touchdowns (10 passing, 1 rushing) and just one interception thus far this season. However, Amherst’s staunch defense will pose a very tough test to the first year starter. In contrast to the Panthers, Amherst comes in with quarterback uncertainty, with starter Alex Berluti ‘17 suffering a knee injury last week, forcing third-stringer Nick Morales ‘18 into action. Berluti may very well play, but either way, Amherst’s strong defense and powerful running game led by Jack Hickey ‘19 should mitigate any issues under center. This game may well come down to which offense can break through first, or it could be a shootout that comes down to one crucial stop. In any event, it’s shaping up to be a classic.
PS: Look how unbiased that was, Rory! I did it!
PPS: Go Panthers
Rory Ziomek (5-0): Amherst – 24, Middlebury – 21
Pete Lindholm (5-0): Amherst – 28, Middlebury – 31
Liam O’Neil (5-0):Amherst – 24, Middlebury – 17
Colin Tiernan (5-0): Amherst – 24, Middlebury – 20
Nick DiBenedetto (5-0): Amherst – 30, Middlebury – 31
Williams @ Bates, 1:00 PM, Lewiston, ME
Look, every game can’t be Amherst vs. Middlebury. This is maybe the least sexy match-up of the weekend, with both teams struggling mightily so far. However, the game offers a golden opportunity for either of these teams to pick up a win, so it’s still an intriguing matchup to check the score of while you’re waiting in line for the bathroom at the Middlebury-Amherst game.
Bates put up a very good fight against Tufts last week, losing 12-7 and throwing a shutout for the entire second half. They showed a very strong defense, limiting explosive Jumbos running back Chance Brady ‘17 to 140 yards and no touchdowns. Unfortunately, they had some pretty severe offensive struggles of their own, totaling only 220 total yards of offense. Williams is coming off a shellacking at home against Trinity, in which they gave up 517 total yards of offense and only gained 201. This should be a tight one, with Bates getting the edge because they’re at home and my younger sister goes to college there.
RZ: Williams – 13, Bates – 20
PL: Williams – 10, Bates – 13
LO: Williams – 7, Bates – 16
CT: Williams – 10, Bates – 17
CM: Williams – 7, Bates – 14
SW: Williams – 17, Bates 21
ND: Williams – 14, Bates – 10
Wesleyan @ Colby, 1:00 PM, Waterville, ME
If you ask me, this game has serious upset potential. Colby is a long trip for Wesleyan, and the Mules already have a road win under their belt in Williamstown. Wesleyan, on the other hand, lost a tough early season game to Tufts in which they blew a double digit lead in the second half. Throwing history and reputation aside, both these teams are 1-1 right now, and numbers never lie (except when they do).
At their best, Wesleyan uses an explosive running attack led by electric freshman Dario Highsmith to march down the field. They punctuate those runs with safe, cagey passes from quarterback Mark Piccirillo ‘19. However, as Tufts showed in Week One, the Wesleyan offense can be stalled by the same kind of stout defense that Colby showed at Williams. It would be surprising if Colby pulled this one off, but the possibility is there.
RZ: Wesleyan – 24, Colby – 17
PL: Wesleyan – 20, Colby – 10
LO: Wesleyan – 31, Colby – 7
CT: Wesleyan – 30, Colby – 10
CM: Wesleyan – 24, Colby – 10
SW: Wesleyan – 35, Colby – 14
ND: Wesleyan – 35, Colby – 7
Trinity @ Hamilton, 1:00 PM, Clinton, NY
It took me three clicks on the NESCAC website to find the most glaring disparity between the Bantams and the Continentals: their offensive outputs. While Trinity has absolutely annihilated teams so far, putting up 38 points in each of their games thus far, the Continentals are averaging a mere 3 PPG. I don’t think anybody expected Hamilton to make it through their opening stretch unscathed, but frankly, they have been obliterated by Amherst and Wesleyan in consecutive games. Liam mentioned this in his Top 10 Games of 2016 article a few weeks ago, but the scheduling gods certainly didn’t spare Hamilton this year, and Week 3 looks to be another opportunity for a powerhouse to dismember the Continentals’ defense.
Hamilton is tied with Williams for the second-worst clip of rushing YPG allowed in the league, giving up 221.5 YPG on the ground to their opponents. Meanwhile, Trinity just runs, runs, and runs more, and is averaging 305 YPG on the ground through the first two weeks! Max Chipouras ‘19 was one of my early picks for player of the year for a reason; he has shown flashes of Boobie Miles with his 154.5 rush YPG rate that has placed him atop the conference. I’d be surprised if Trinity doesn’t run away with this one.
RZ: Trinity – 38, Hamilton – 10
PL: Trinity – 45, Hamilton – 6
LO: Trinity – 36, Hamilton – 10
CT: Trinity – 40, Hamilton – 0
CM: Trinity – 34, Hamilton 7
SW: Trinity – 42, Hamilton – 9
ND: Trinity – 40, Hamilton – 6
Tufts @ Bowdoin, 2:00 PM, Brunswick, ME
Speaking of dominant running backs, Smash Williams, aka Chance Brady, is heading up to Bowdoin this weekend to try to dethrone Chipouras as the NESCAC’s leading rusher. Brady trails Chipouras, but just barely, accumulating 145.5 YPG on the ground so far. The issue for the Jumbos at this point is that they can’t decide who they want to throw the ball. Is it going to be JD McCoy or Matt Saracen? Alex Snyder ‘17 and Ryan McDonald ‘19 have both seen plenty of snaps thus far, but neither has excelled, and Coach Civetti has had to lean on Brady to shoulder the load offensively. If Tufts wants to compete for the title this year, it’s crucial that they demonstrate the ability to attack through the air effectively. The Jumbos only rank ahead of Bates in passing yards…the Bobcats run the option…see what I’m getting at?
“So, Rory, when are you going to start talking about the game?” Here’s how my tangent becomes relevant: if Bowdoin can stop the run, they have a pretty good chance to win this game. Because of how reliant Tufts is on their ground game, the Polar Bears may be tempted to stack the box and force the Jumbos to throw. This strategy worked decently well for Bates, right? I mean, there was a minor tsunami in Somerville last Saturday, but still, the Bobcats played a “bend don’t break” style of defense à la Matt Patricia and the New England Patriots, and they found themselves right in it until the end of the game. However, aside from stopping the run, Bowdoin needs to score, which is arguably their biggest challenge of the weekend. Coming off of games against Middlebury and Amherst, it’s not surprising that Bowdoin has struggled offensively to begin the 2016 season, but if their defense can keep them in the game, Bowdoin may only need a couple good drives to find themselves victorious. That being said, I don’t think anything will slow down Brady tomorrow (insert Pete’s comment about me being biased here).
Prior to the season beginning, we picked Middlebury as our NESCAC Champions. That turned out to be just a little bit off. However, the Vegas odds also had the Fantasy trophy coming to Middlebury, and on Saturday Joe clinched the title in commanding fashion.
A year ago, Pete Lindholm won the fantasy championship on the strength of a historical performance from one Matt Milano ’16 (I think we’ve probably mentioned him in every fantasy article this season), and this year Milano once again carried a championship squad. My team finished the season 7-1 on a seven-matchup winning streak; all other teams finished 3-5, and not even Carson’s Bantam-heavy lineup could put up a fight in the Championship. It was bitter-sweet for me to watch Alex Snyder ’17 rack up the TDs on Saturday – it resulted in a loss for Middlebury, but really sealed the deal when it came to fantasy.
In the consolation round, Nick continued his slide, but he had a respectable showing. After weeks of 42 and 52 points, his team was good enough to win most matchups this week, but Adam got contributions from everywhere. Bowdoin QB Tim Drakeley ’17 had far and away his best game of the season, so that was a great pickup for Nick, and Middlebury RB Diego Meritus ’19 had one of his best performances, too. In the end, though, Amherst QB Reece Foy ’18 and Bowdoin WR Nick Vailas ’18 outscored every other twosome, and at least ended Adam’s season on a high note for him.
Well, the best that can be said about this weekend’s match ups is that three of the following four games feature teams within one game of each other in the standings. I know, I’m supposed to be a salesman and get you excited for the rest of the article, but I’ve already got your click, so I really don’t care….
I do care, of course, and even though none of the game’s below will factor into the Championship race (barring the upset of the millenium – and I mean that), there’s still a lot of intrigue around these games, and it definitely means something to all of the senior playing their last game of football on Saturday.
No more clichés need be wrought about the sentimental value of this weekend’s games, so let’s get into the meat of the matter.
Four to Watch: Senior Edition
Bates Defensive Lineman Tucker Oniskey ’16
Oniskey has been possibly the Bobcats’ best lineman three years running. The big man has gone from 23 tackles and nine pass break ups in seven games in 2013 to 26 tackles and five break ups in seven games a year ago to 37 tackles and four break ups in his first seven games this year.
Oniskey’s ability to get in the face of the opposing quarterback will be important against Hamilton, which likes to air the ball out downfield. We saw last week how a good secondary can take advantage of Hamilton QB Cole Freeman ’19, who was picked off four times by Middlebury last Saturday. The Bates secondary has been exploited at times this year, although CB Trevor Lyons ’17 has had a pick-six in two straight games. If Oniskey can get pressure on Freeman, Lyons might just get his third INT TD of the season.
Williams WR Mark Pomella ’16
Pomella had been exclusively a quarterback in his first three years in Williamstown. He had hoped to be the team’s starter last season until BC-transfer Austin Lommen ’16 beat him out for the gig. Head Coach Aaron Kelton hinted in the preseason that Pomella could switch roles because of his athleticism, but it took three games for Pomella to finally make the switch. Between Weeks 3-7, Pomella has 33 catches (6.6/game) for 421 yards (84.2/game) and one TD. Pomella has been the team’s clear top option since Week 3. He’s also served as the team’s punt returner, especially with RB Connor Harris ’18 out. He will need a monster game in Week 8 to help the Ephs upset Amherst.
Colby D-Linemen Ryan Ruiz ’16 and Harry Nicholas ’16
Bowdoin’s top three running backs are out for the year, and the Polar Bears rushed for negative six yards last week. They’ve broken 63 yards rushing just once this year. By default, Bowdoin has to throw the ball. Ruiz and Nicholas have a combined eight sacks this year. Bowdoin QB Tim Drakeley ’17 is back in starting lineup, but he hasn’t really played since Week 3, which will provide Ruiz and Nicholas a chance to capitalize and have one of their best games.
Tufts RT Justin Roberts ’16 and LT Akene Farmer-Michos ’16
I’m not sure about this, but I think Roberts and Farmer-Michos are the only offensive linemen we’ve ever featured as players to watch or X-factors, and now we’ve done it twice. Apologies to all the other great O-linemen out there around the league.
Roberts and Farmer-Michos are big reasons why RB Chance Brady ’17 is running his way towards history, and the Jumbos need to run well on Saturday to beat Middlebury. The Panthers have been very hit or miss against the run defensively, surrendering 301 yards on 59 carries (5.1 ypc) against Wesleyan, 190 yards on 49 (3.8 ypc) against Amherst and 204 yards on 61 carries (3.3 ypc) at Bates, while also allowing just 33 yards on 31 carries (1.1 ypc) against the vaunted Trinity attack. Inside LB Tim Patricia ’16 will have to make a lot of stops this weekend, and per usual he is leading Middlebury in tackles. If he can’t, Roberts and Farmer-Michos will be opening up some wide lanes for Brady to bounce through.
Maybe you’ve never heard of Elo Ratings. I hadn’t until very recently. But recently a little NbN fairy whispered sweet nothings in my ear, and now we have Elo Ratings. If you want the history of what Elo Ratings are, read here. If you want to know about the mainstream sports applications that inspired this fairy to do some great statistical work on NESCAC football, check out FiveThirtyEight.com. If you are averse to clinking on links that may take you to strange places, I’ll give you the rundown here.
Elo Ratings are a system that quantify the gains and losses to each team after each contest. Wins produce gains in ratings, and losses produce reductions in ratings. In our system (again, I can’t take any personal credit for this work), margins of victory compared to expected winning margin also effect the changes in Elo Ratings. At the end of each season, team ratings are regressed towards the mean, which makes sense because in college athletics there is often a lot of turnover between seasons, so teams have to prove it both on the field and in the Elo Ratings.
Our timeline currently stretches back to 2005. In our ratings, all teams begin with an “average” rating of 1500, meaning that at the beginning of our timeline, teams were very closely clustered together. I’ll spare you the math – because I don’t want my brain to start hurting – but trust me when I say that there is a way to convert each team’s Elo Rating into their probability of winning their next game, and by comparing two teams’ win probabilities and putting them into some kind of magical/mathematical cauldron, you can conjure up a spread for every game. It’s also important to note that home teams are allotted a four-point advantage throughout the spreads.
Below is a graph that depicts each team’s Elo Rating from the beginning of the 2005 season through Week 7 of the 2015 season. This should give you some idea of how each team’s stock has risen and fallen over the past decade.
What’s the point of showing you this? Well, if you’re a stat nerd, the value is obvious. This is pretty cool. Secondly, though, this week we are sharing the spreads for each game in our predictions and discuss the spread a little bit. In the information you will see which team is giving points this week.
Bates (2-5) (-10) at Hamilton (1-6), Clinton, NY, 12:00 PM
Despite the ugly records, both of these teams are on the upswing. Bates is coming off of two straight wins and a CBB title, the program’s third in the past four years, making the 2016 class the first since 1900 to claim three outright CBB titles in its tenure. A win will also make the 2016 class 16-16, which would tie last year’s class as the winningest since 1983. Finally, Hamilton is the only program which Bates holds the series advantage over, with the Bobcats currently in the lead 19-18.
Hamilton, meanwhile, has returned to relevance this year. Not only did the Conts get their first win in over three years at Williams, but they’ve been very competitive, losing to Tufts by three in double OT, Wesleyan by five, Bowdoin by 10, Colby by five and Middlebury by five. With a lot of young players making impacts, specifically on defense and at QB Cole Freeman, there is a lot of hope for this program next year.
As for this year, though, the focus for both teams is finishing on a high note and giving its seniors a great last memory. When analyzing a Bates game, the first thing to ask for its opponent is whether they can stop the run. In Hamilton’s case, they’ve done a pretty good job of that this season. Tufts, Wesleyan and Trinity put up big rushing totals, but they also ran the ball around 50 times against Hamilton, and on the season the Continentals are allowing 3.28 yards per rush. Not exactly 1980’s Steelers, but passable, and I actually think that practicing against Hamilton’s new Wildcat read option will actually have prepared the Continentals to stop the Bates attack. If Hamilton can force QB Pat Dugan ’16 to the air, it will be a long day for Bates. No one besides Bats WR Mark Riley ’16 scares you in the passing game.
The Bobcats, meanwhile, need to step up their pass defense. Hamilton, as a team, has the highest yards per completion average. They don’t necessarily complete that many passes, though. Freeman and Chase Rosenberg ’17 have combined for a 43.9 percent completion rate. DB Brandon Williams ’17 will be on alert and trying to add to his league-best five interceptions.
The Continentals won a big game two weeks ago, and are still feeling good about themselves after taking Middlebury to the wire. They’ll be good enough to cover the spread, but the final decision goes to Bates.
Prediction: Bates 24 – Hamilton 21
Amherst (7-0) (-22.5) at Williams (2-5), Williamstown, MA, 12:00 PM
If you take a peek at the Elo Rating chart above, you might notice that Amherst is currently at the highest it’s ever been, and Williams is at the lowest. The spread of (-22.5) is actually lower than last year’s (-24), but it definitely feels like more of a lopsided matchup this year. That’s what I meant when I said it would take the upset of the millennium for the championship hunt to be impacted this weekend. Williams would have to cover a 22.5 point spread and beat Amherst in order to give Trinity a shot at sharing the title.
On paper, this game is clearly a blowout. The Jeffs have played some competitive games, but none have really ended up that close besides the 16-7 win over Trinity a week ago. The next closest margin was a nine-point win over Wesleyan in Week 5 in which Amherst needed a five-plus minute drive late in the fourth to clinch the win. The only question for Amherst is which QB Reece Foy ’18 will show up? The efficient, dual-threat Foy, or the clumsy turnover-prone Foy? He’s had five picks the last three games after having one pick in the first four. All he has to do is get the ball near his awesome receivers, including WR Jackson McGonagle ’16, who is a big play threat when Foy is able to hit him downfield, and rely on the bruising rushing attack lead by Kenny Adinkra ’16. As an entire team, Amherst is averaging 4.7 yards per rush. Enough said.
If Williams has one thing going for them, it’s experience. Five starters on offense and five on defense are all seniors, so they won’t shy away from the daunting task ahead of them. DE James Howe ’16 has had massive expectations heaped on him the past couple of seasons, but teams have been able to neutralize him much of the time by scheming for him, but he’s been productive this season with two sacks, and has opened the door for fellow D-lineman Jack Ryan ’16 to get 3.5 sacks of his own.
Despite Williams’ significant series lead (71-53-5), Amherst is expected to win its fifth straight contest against their rivals and clinch not only the NESCAC title, but also its 32nd Little Three title, which we’ve barely even talked about because it’s seemed like a formality for awhile now. And yes, I think they cover that massive spread.
Prediction: Amherst 35 – Williams 7
Colby (1-6) (-0.5) at Bowdoin (1-6), Brunswick, ME, 12:30 PM
This game is basically a pick ’em, and that’s all I can do, because I don’t know what to think about either team. For the most part, it’s been a lot of meaningless second halfs for these teams this season. Bowdoin has no running game right now, and Colby is afraid to throw the ball and might have a QB battle in camp next season.
The Mules’ rushing attack has been solid after a slow start though, thanks to RB Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17 and the heavy lifting of FB Robert Murray ’16. They just can’t do anything through the air. QB Gabe Harrington ’17 has one touchdown and 11 interceptions, and Christian Sparacio ’18 has gotten time in spurts, but he’s completed less than half of his attempts and is more like a Wildcat QB with the ability to throw right now. Defensively, LB Stephen O’Grady ’16 has been a workhorse, leading the team in tackles.
It’s going to be a challenge for Tim Drakeley to be effective in the passing game for Bowdoin with no rushing threat. He’ll be looking to find WR Dan Barone ’16 early and often, and there will be a lot of pressure on All-NESCAC C Matt Netto ’16 and his squad to keep Drakeley upright. On the defense, it will have to be a big day for LB Branden Morin ’16 and companion LB Phillipe Archambault ’19, who’s stepped right in and tallied 49 tackles in six games.
It’s going to be low-scoring, with neither team able to move the ball quickly. With that being the case, I have to tip the scales in favor of Colby, who will be able to move the ball on the ground and get after the passer on third and longs. It’s going to be a sad Senior Day in Brunswick.
Prediction: Colby 23 – Bowdoin 17
Middlebury (5-2) (-6) at Tufts (5-2), Medford, MA, 12:30 PM
When was the last time this game was relevant? Probably 2008, when the Panthers beat Tufts 38-24 to finish 5-3, ahead of the 4-4 Jumbos. Tufts hasn’t beaten Middlebury since Nov. 10, 2001. That’s 5,116 days. However, for the first time in a long time, Tufts and Middlebury come into the game with the same record, and in all honesty, I’m not sure Middlebury deserves to be favored in this game.
We’ve talked a lot about the injuries to the Panthers, and that is a big reason why they’ve played some close games recently and I’m feeling like Tufts can pull this off. Early in the week, though, Head Coach Bob Ritter was hopeful that some of his offensive linemen would be healthy by Saturday, which was probably directed at C James Wang ’16, though Ritter didn’t say for sure. Wang’s been dealing with a lingering leg injury all season, which is pretty much par for the Panthers’ course.
I still think the Middlebury passing attack will be productive. In the finale of two brilliant careers for QB Matt Milano ’16 and WR Matt Minno ’16, don’t be surprised to see those two connect early and often. Very often. Minno is chasing history, needing two touchdowns to become the all-time TD reception leader in Middlebury history and 40 yards to reach second in receiving yards for a career. Those two milestones are pretty much a lock. Elsewhere, TE-turned-slot receiver Trevor Miletich ’16 should have a big game, too. When he’s been healthy this season he’s been a favorite target for Milano.
I’ve already discussed the need for Tufts to run the football, but will they be able to move the pigskin through the air? If so, they’ll need to attack the corner opposite boundary CB Nate Leedy ’17. PSA to NESCAC teams: Don’t throw at this kid. Leedy picked off two balls a week ago, and if every team challenged him like Hamilton did he’d have two picks per game. He is also probably the hardest hitter on the Panther defense. Sometimes his shoulder-first launches result in missed tackles because he doesn’t wrap up, but it actually happens less than you’d think. When he connects, the ball carrier goes down. Hard. So, if Tufts QB Alex Snyder ’17 is smart, he’ll try the other side of the field, putting pressure on CB Andrew McGrath ’18 if he’s healthy, but more likely CB Matt Daniel ’19. Safety Dan Pierce ’16 will be a huge factor in plugging up the run, as well.
Maybe it’s just too hard to pick against my team in the last game of my classmates’ careers, or maybe I’m jaded because I’ve watched the Panthers trash Tufts for the last three seasons, but in either case, I’m taking Middlebury even though they’re (-6). There are a lot of Midd haters out there right now because they’ve played some close games against teams that they “should” have blown out. But they’ve still won those games. And that kind of resiliency and winning attitude will play the difference in this one-touchdown game.
The Lord Jeffs enjoyed (proverbial) champagne showers following their victory over the Bantams. It will likely be their sixth NESCAC title since 2000, sharing the reigns with Trinity on the modern-era All-Time Championships list. There was no better way for the 2016 class to go out on Senior Day than by earning their third consecutive ring. Besides Amherst, the rest of the NESCAC has an opportunity to move up the ladder as the final week is filled with exciting rivalry games dating back to the 1800s. Should be a beautiful week of football, and it will be thrilling to see where teams end up.
1. Amherst Lord Jeffs (7-0; Last Week: 1)
Amherst essentially walked away with their third consecutive NESCAC title Saturday as they took down Trinity. The Lord Jeffs took advantage of Trinity’s mistakes, and that seemed to be the biggest difference between these two teams Saturday. They controlled the second half, running all over the Bantams, with Reece Foy ’18, Kenny Adinkra ’16, Nick Kelly ’17, Jack Hickey ’19, and Jackson McGonagle ’16 all averaging at least 3.6 yards per carry. Amherst SS Jimmy Fairfield-Sonn ’16 went out with a bang with two interceptions and a crucial blocked field goal to end the first half. Amherst will wrap up their season against the Ephs in Williamstown, Mass for the Biggest Little Game In America — a game that dates back to 1884, and is the most-played Division-III game in the country.
Trinity Bantams (6-1; Last Week: 2)
Despite analyst Joe MacDonald’s bold prediction of a Bantam victory, Trinity was unable to get it done down the stretch. Amherst did a good job depriving kick and punt returner Darrien Myers ’17 in the forms of pooching and squibbing, which put a lot of pressure on the offense to move the ball up the field. The Trinity faithful felt some home cooking involved between a questionable touchdown catch and the Bantams racking up 12 penalties resulting in 98 yards opposed to Amherst’s three penalties.
Despite edging Amherst’s 247 offensive yards with 314 of their own and possessing the ball for 38 minutes of the game, Trinity had too many blunders. A fatal sideline pass intercepted at the Trinity 37 yardline resulted in Amherst taking the lead and never looking back. Trinity’s Max Chipouras ’19, Sonny Puzzo ’18, and Myers averaged 3.8 yards per rush, but the Amherst running game was even more efficient. Trinity still has life to live as they take on long-time rivals Wesleyan in the homecoming game that will be featured on CPTV Sports.
3. Middlebury (5-2; Last Week: 3)
Middlebury took care of business Saturday against Hamilton, but their stock dropped with such a tight game. They were able to keep their spot at No. 3 for Week 7, but that could change as they take on the Jumbos this weekend.
Middlebury trailed late in the first half, when QB Matt Milano ’16 and WR Matt Minno ’16 connected to even the score pending a QB Jared Lebowitz ’18 two-point conversion rush. Milano threw for 273 yards and three touchdowns with one pick, while Diego Meritus ’19 picked up 75 of the Panthers’ 89 rushing yards. Minno leaped out of the water catching a season-high three touchdowns on six catches for 171 yards. Naples native and CB Nate Leedy ’17 picked off Hamilton’s Cole Freeman ’19 twice. S Kevin Hopsticker ’18 also added an interception and 10 tackles in what was probably his best game as a Panther.
4. Tufts (5-2; Last Week: 5)
Tufts outscored Colby 28-10, and QB Alex Snyder ’17 only passed 13 times for one touchdown caught by WR Mike Miller ’18. Chance Brady ’17 averaged 7.9 yards on 27 attempts scoring two touchdowns. His longest run was 49 yards. Brady also was the Jumbos’ leading receiver, with two catches for 49 yards, en route to being named NESCAC Offensive POTW and the second NESCAC player this season to be dubbed the New England Football Writers’ Gold Helmet winner. Colby was able to move the ball on Tufts, nearly gaining more offensive yards than the Jumbos. Tufts return man Mike Rando ’17 ran one kick back 85 yards for a touchdown, and he took a second one back for 37 yards. The Jumbos’ Zach Thomas ’18 racked up 3.5 sacks. It is tough to say how Tufts will fair with Middlebury next week; I could see either team taking that game. A Tufts upset could stir up rival tensions between the two foes.
5. Wesleyan (5-2; Last Week: 4)
Wesleyan will have a chance to move up the ranks next week when they take on Trinity for the rivalry game that dates back to 1885. The Cardinals took on Williams Saturday in a convincing win. QB Mark Piccirillo ’19 stepped up and completed 11-14 passes with one touchdown for 105 yards, and he continues to show off his accurate arm. It was just the freshman’s second game playing a pivotal role, as Gernald Hawkins ’18 threw just 12 times and only completing six. They will likely continue to keep with their dual quarterback threat to keep the Bantams off balance, so it will be interesting to see how Trinity is able to respond. S Justin Sanchez ’17 picked a ball off and forced a fumble with six tackles. K Ike Fuchs’17 missed a short field goal wide right, and also missed an extra-point that was pushed back five yards due to a penalty, and things have just not been right with the formerly reliable Fuchs. If Wesleyan is going to win next week, they will probably need Fuchs at his best.
6. Hamilton (1-6; Last Week: 8)
The Continentals gave Middlebury a run for their money, something they have done to every team besides Trinity this year. They proved they can hang with the big dogs which has pushed them up to the No. 6 spot, a big jump from where they began the season. Yes, QB Cole Freeman threw four interceptions, but none of them resulted in a Panther score, and it seems like Coach Dave Murray is fine with Freeman taking shots down field as part of his learning process. The Continental defense did a good job containing the run game, keeping Middlebury to 2.6 yards per rush, but Matt Milano’s 14 completions were too deadly. RB LaShawn Ware ’18 played well – especially in the first quarter – picking up 77 yards on 21 carries, and WR Charles Ensley ’17 caught a 78-yard touchdown pass. Hamilton did not lay down easy as they posted a safety in the fourth quarter on Sean Tolton’s ’19 blocked punt. The whole league has been impressed with the Continentals this year, and is excited as it raises the competition. Hamilton has a chance to earn their second win of the season as they take on a rolling Bates.
7. Bates (2-5; Last Week: 6)
CBB Champions. Bates shellacked Bowdoin, shutting them out 31-0, waltzing their way to a killer recruiting tool in the CBB —Bates has won three of the last four CBB Titles. The Bobcats are on the cusp of – in the words of the great Lou Brown – a winning streak.
They have a chance to end on a high note at Hamilton and make up for all those closes losses earlier this year. The Bobcats outplayed Bowdoin last week in all facets, tackling the Polar Bears for a loss five times for 29 yards including three sacks. CB Trevor Lyons ’17 had a pick-six that he took 50 yards all the way back. QB Pat Dugan ’16 put on a show, running and throwing for a touchdown as he piled up 252 of Bates’ total 380 offensive yards. Another big win will vault the Bobcats back over the Continentals in the ranks.
8. Williams (2-5; Last Week: 9)
After a scoreless first 23 minutes, the Ephs let up a 21-yard touchdown pass to Wesleyan’s Eric Meyreles ’18. Williams’ lone touchdown came on a last minute, three-yard pass by Austin Lommen ’16, who threw for 150 yards including an interception. RB Noah Sorrento ’19 got his first crack as the starter and ran for 105 yards on 21 carries, including one for 45 yards. This weekend’s rivalry game will not have as much hype as most years due to the fact that Amherst is a heavy, heavy favorite. Williams moves up from last week, like Colby, more by virtue of the lackluster performance that Bowdoin put on last weekend.
9. Colby (1-6; Last Week: 10)
Colby lost to the better team Saturday when they hosted Tufts. Colby’s QB Gabe Harrington ’17 continued to struggle, throwing two interceptions while completing 53 percent of his passes. RB Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17 got his touches and scored a touchdown on 21 attempts, though only averaging 2.1 yards per carry. John Baron ’18 kicked a 37-yard field goal and an extra point. Despite a crooked score, Colby compiled 320 yards compared to Tufts’ 325.
The consolation game of the CBB will happen this week, and it is a chance for each Colby and Bowdoin to rid themselves of the shame of being part of a one-win program.
10. Bowdoin (1-6; Last Week: 7)
Not to take away from Bates, but that game shouldn’t have gotten out of hand like it did. It was a sad sight to see for Polar Bear fans Saturday as they rushed for negative six yards. Negative six. When they did have the ball in their hands, they fumbled three times, only making it into Bobcat territory four times. The Polar Bears were closest to a score when QB Noah Nelson ’19 threw an interception from the Bates 25-yardline. Bowdoin let Bates run right over them, as they let up 12 rushing first downs. Bowdoin will take on Colby for the runner-up of the CBB this weekend.
Saturday’s games were fuming with excitement across the NESCAC, from the Hamilton Continentals earning their first win in over three years to Bates getting their first win of the season in triumphant fashion. With just two games left to play the standings are wide open throughout most of the league. Bates, Bowdoin, Colby, and Hamilton are all tied for last place with one win a piece, then there is Williams with two wins trailing Middlebury, Tufts, and Wesleyan, who share third place with four wins each. It will be a Championship atmosphere (and literally, the de facto championship) this weekend for the Lord Jeffs and the Bantams as Amherst hosts Trinity. That’s where they are in the official standings, but where are they in the all important Power Rankings?
1. Amherst Lord Jeffs (6-0; Last Week: 1)
Coming off a strong win against Tufts, the Amherst team looked good as a whole. The defense compiled eight points with a pick six and a safety; Charlie Wall ’17 connected on his only field goal attempt, making him 7-8 on the year and 21-23 on extra points; and they ran for three touchdowns going on to beat the Jumbos 32-7. The one man who seemed to struggle was Reece Foy ’18, who threw for 170 yards while connecting on 18 of 27 passes including an interception. The past two games he has been inconsistent, and don’t expect the Trinity defense to be any easier a task for him. With that being said the Amherst defense was stellar holding Tufts to 161 offensive yards, and just 19 rushing yards. An Amherst win this weekend would crown them NESCAC Champions and they would tie Trinity for the modern era NESCAC Championships record with six.
2. Trinity Bantams (6-0; Last Week: 2)
Still undefeated, the Bantams have survived two scares against top ranked teams. This Halloween, the Trinity defense was Superman and picked up Sonny Puzzo ’18 and a struggling running game as they took down Middlebury in a late game comeback. Trailing by a point with just over four minutes to go, Trinity’s Paul McCarthy ’16 recovered a fumble forced by Lyle Baker ’16, which led to a Max Chipouras ’19 touchdown with under three minutes to play. Then interceptions in Trinity territory by Spencer Donahue ’17 and a picks-six from Archi Jerome ’17 put the nail in the Panthers’ coffin. Trinity has their biggest test of the season on Saturday, and Puzzo and the running game must be efficient. With the way things looked against Middlebury, the Bantams are in rough shape, but if Trinity can find their mojo, there is no reason they can’t take down the Lord Jeffs.
3. Middlebury Panthers (4-2; Last Week: 3)
Though they earned their second loss of the season, they are not far behind Trinity. They completely outplayed the Bantams, but crumbled at the end of the game when they fumbled the ball and threw two interceptions. The Panthers offense racked up 449 yards, and nearly doubled Trinity in first downs with 27. The Middlebury defense sacked Puzzo five times, with Gil Araujo ’16 getting 2.5 sacks for 20 yards; Araujo also had 3.5 tackles for a loss of 23 yards. Middlebury lost its chance at a NESCAC Championship, but they are still playing for runner-up as they take on Hamilton this Saturday and then Tufts the following week.
4. Wesleyan Cardinals (4-2; Last Week: 5)
Though it was a close win against Bowdoin last Saturday, Wesleyan outplayed the Polar Bears, outweighing their total offense by 429 yards to 223 yards. Lou Stevens ’16 did a good job punching the ball through for two touchdowns on 12 carries. Cornerback Zac Cuzner ’17 had Noah Nelson’s ’19 number all day picking him off three times and breaking up three passes. One thing to keep an eye on is the starting quarterback position. Starter Gernald Hawkins ’18 is less than 100 percent right now, and back-up Mark Piccirillo ’19, who was already too talented to keep off the field completely, was 16-21 when he took over for Hawkins against Wesleyan. The Cardinals look to improve to five wins as they take on Williams this weekend.
5. Tufts Jumbos (4-2; Last Week: 4)
Tufts suffered a disappointing loss to Amherst where they were outscored 32-7. The Jumbos could only compile 161 offensive yards with little success in their rushing game. QB Alex Snyder ’17 was shut down by the LJ’s as he threw a pick and was sacked three times losing a total of 36 yards. The Tufts lone touchdown came on a one-yard run by Chance Brady ’17. We would have hoped this game was much closer, but Amherst was too dominant. Tufts can end the season on a high note though if they are able to take it to Colby and Middlebury. Beating one of them would secure an above .500 season and show improvement from last season.
6. Bates Bobcats (1-5; Last Week: 7)
Though the Bobcats avoid Trinity in their schedule, they have looked good against the rest of the league, losing some close games. Saturday Bates pulled off a 10-9 win against Colby for the first leg of the CBB. Colby had a chance to tie the game with an extra point, but Collin Richardson ’18 stepped up and blocked the kick to preserve the one-point lead. With Patrick Dugan ’16 passing for just 43 yards on four completions, Bates was able to grind out a win. Bates can win the CBB title with a win vs. Bowdoin this weekend.
7. Bowdoin (1-5; Last Week: 8)
While being outmatched by 206 total yards of offense by Wesleyan, Bowdoin was able to keep it close and lose this game by just six points. Nelson had a tough game where he threw three interceptions and one touchdown on 36 pass attempts. The Polar Bears will wash this loss because they have the CBB to play in their final two games. All three teams seem equal, and it would be no surprise to see a three-way tie for the title.
8. Hamilton (1-5; Last Week: 10)
They finally did it. Hamilton beat the Ephs at Williams for the first time in 19 years and the first time in Williamstown in 29 years, and it was Hamilton’s first win in over three years. They competed well and took advantage of Williams’ penalties and mistakes. Hamilton’s Cole Freeman ’19 tossed two touchdowns while compiling 180 yards completing 13 of 27 attempts. Charles Ensley ’17 was on the receiving end bringing in two touchdowns on four catches for 84 yards. Hamilton takes on Middlebury this weekend in Vermont, which will likely send the Continentals back down to earth.
9. Williams (2-4; Last Week: 6)
Losing at home against Hamilton for the first time in 29 years was a low point for Williams this season. They committed 11 penalties that tallied 104 yards, and five of the penalties granted Hamilton a first down. It is hard to win playing like that. Williams will face Wesleyan and Amherst in the final two games of the season. Darrias Sime ’16 was able to add a pair of touchdowns on seven catches. The Eph win column will likely stay at two the remainder of the season.
10. Colby (1-5; Last Week: 9)
Colby will hold down the No. 10 spot for this week. A disappointing loss to Bates leaves them bitter. They can redeem themselves in the final game when they travel to Bowdoin and have a shot at tying up the CBB. The Mules gained just under 100 more yards than Bates, but Gabe Harrington ’17 was less than spectacular throwing an interception and just 82 yards on 11 passes. The bottom of the table has a lot of opportunity for movement with four of the five teams with just one win.
If you missed Part One yesterday, here you go. Otherwise, read on.
Ranked seventh in passing yards per game, Tufts is one of the few teams that isn’t passing the ball more this season. QB Alex Snyder ’17 doesn’t have the completion percentage of his predecessor, Jack Doll ’15 (who completed 70 percent of his passes), but he’s averaging more passing yards per game (191.7 to Doll’s 186.5). Snyder’s advantage in this regard can be explained by the fact that the Jumbos are averaging more than 50 yards per game this season than they did the last. All things considered, their passing game isn’t seeing the volume it has in recent years. Considering Snyder’s 173 pass attempts thus far in 2015, Tufts offensive scheme is very unlike the one that encouraged QB John Dodds ’13 to throw the ball nearly 350 times in 2012. Averaging close to 13 receiving touchdowns over the previous four seasons, the Jumbos offense is on pace to fall short of that average this fall, having found the end zone through the air only six times through week six.
Instead, RB Chance Brady ’17 has become the pinnacle of the offense. Averaging 104.2 ground yards per game, Brady has rushed for nine touchdowns. Despite Tufts dynamic ground game, its receivers are still producing. WR Mike Rando ’17 leads the team in receiving with 28 receptions. Ben Berey ’17, while not reproducing at the same clip that he did last year (38 receptions, one TD), is contributing to Tufts’ pass production with 13 receptions for 166 yards and a touchdown. The Tufts passing game is clearly not the same threat that it has been in recent years, but it remains a large part of its offensive production. The Jumbos feel that the way to success in the NESCAC is predicated by running the ball first and foremost. They will retain the ability to throw the ball a lot, but the rushing game will become more and more important.
Verdict: Enduring. But not likely to increase in the near future.
Wesleyan is like Amherst in that its running game is just as valuable as its passing game. Through Week 6, the Cardinals are averaging basically the same amount of yards through the air and ground. QB Gernald Hawkins ’18 has averaged 157.0 passing yards per game but has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns. Unlike QB Jesse Warren ’15, who threw for 190 yards per game while firing 15 touchdowns, Hawkins’ arm is not what makes him a dangerous offensive weapon. Simply put, Warren wasn’t a threat on the ground; Hawkins is. He led the Cardinals in rushing through five weeks, until he was held out of most of the Bowdoin game because of health concerns.
Wesleyan’s running attack is paced by Jaylen Berry ’18, who has managed 59.5 yards per game and two touchdowns. WR Devon Carillo ’17 leads the team in touchdowns (five) and poses a significant threat as a productive pass-catcher (10 receptions). WR Mike Breuler ’16, who had only two receptions in 2014, has emerged as Hawkins’ top target. He has hauled in 29 receptions, making him the only player other than Carillo to break the double digit plateau. The ability of Hawkins and Mark Piccirillo ’19 to run the ball helps keep the defense honest and opens up the passing game, but the Cardinals are a team that ideally wants to be running the ball the majority of the time.
Verdict: Temporary. The Cardinals want to run the ball first and foremost.
Colby threw the ball nearly 300 times last fall, which accounted for over half of their plays. Through six weeks, the Mules have let the ball fly just 42.4 percent of the time. With an average of 150 passing yards per game, Colby is averaging fewer yards through the air than they have in three of their previous four seasons. QB Gabe Harrington ’17 has struggled to find consistency with his receivers, throwing for only one touchdown with nine interceptions. He is completing nearly 52.7 percent of his passes, but almost a fifth of them are short passes to RB Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17. Last season, WR Ryder Arsenault ’17 emerged as a leader of the WR core with 25 receptions for 263 yards and four touchdowns. As Arsenault has dealt with an injury that he sustained during Week 2 at Middlebury, Mark Snyder ’18 has stepped up in a big way. Snyder has been Harrington’s go-to guy in Colby’s passing attack, recording 25 receptions for 229 yards and a score. Colby has incorporated running backs into their passing game more this season, as Hurdle-Price is already converging on his receptions total from last year.
On the ground, the junior running back is averaging 101.8 yards per game while accounting for half of the Mules’ eight touchdowns. In 2014, 11 of the 17 touchdowns Colby scored were passing, but this year only one of the nine has been. Against Bates and Bowdoin, Colby should have better luck and improve their passing numbers. Even so, the passing offense has taken a step back from where it was, and it is unclear if a quality quarterback is on the roster right now.
Verdict: Temporary. This dip won’t last as they will get back to passing the ball.
I’ve heard it said that a rising tide lifts all ships. This fall, Bates is challenging that claim. After averaging only 116 passing yards per game over the past three seasons, Bates has thrown the ball with more efficiency at 130 yards per game, but the volume has essentially stayed the same. Bates has not topped 170 pass attempts in the last five seasons, and it’s unlikely that QB Patrick Dugan ’16 is going to change that this year. Dugan has attempted 122 passes thus far, which is similar to the pace QB Matt Cannone ’15 set last fall. When Dugan throws the ball in the air, it’s extremely likely that WR Mark Riley ’16 is going to be on the receiving end of the play. Riley has carried the receiving core with 33 receptions and 382 yards, which is nearly half of the team’s receiving yards.
Like Colby, Bates much prefers to run the ball, but the schemes the two teams run are of course very different. RB Ivan Reese ’17 has handled the bulk of the carries, and slot back Frank Williams ’18 has run the ball for an average of 40.7 yards per game and a team high three touchdowns. Seven of the team’s eleven scores have come on the ground, and the Reese/Williams combination has accounted for six of them. Obviously since Bates runs the triple option, they are not going to suddenly start airing it out.
Verdict: Enduring. The Bobcats are not about to start the throwing the ball more.
Teams throwing the ball more: Seven (All but Tufts, Colby, and Bates)
Number of teams throwing the ball more which are expected to continue doing so: Five (Trinity and Wesleyan are temporary in our minds)
Despite the graduation of two successful quarterbacks last season in Jack Doll and Jesse Warren, names like Sonny Puzzo and Reece Foy have filled the void. Multiple receivers have burst onto the scene in 2015 and quarterbacks are taking full advantage of big play opportunities through the air. Whereas only six receivers averaged over 50 yards per game last season, there are 14 topping that mark this fall. Only one NESCAC receiver, Mark Riley, managed over 70 receiving yards in 2014, with 71.5. That number has been topped by six receivers thus far, with Middlebury’s Matt Minno leading the group at 98.0
Teams’ receiving arsenals are becoming the focus on offense, and secondaries are being exploited like never before. Middlebury has long been the only NESCAC team worthy of high praise for its aerial attack, but 2015 has created a different narrative. An outlier in much of recent history, the Panthers passing game is being converged upon. Smash mouth football has receded as the norm in the NESCAC and more exciting offenses have emerged. This isn’t just a short-term uptick either. Yes, there are some younger secondaries that are being exploited, but the vast majority of QBs will be back next year. They will have another year of experience. New NESCAC coaches are more willing to throw the ball than their predecessors. Buckle up because this trend is not going to stop.
Trinity came into the weekend undefeated but there was still an aura of the unknown. After all, the Bantams have started the season 5-0 for five years in a row now and have just one conference title to show for it. Their escape job against Tufts didn’t tell us that much because of how many mistakes they made. Was that just a blip or a sign that they were not prepared for close games?
The win over Middlebury signals that Trinity can win against tougher opponents, and more importantly that they can win by doing the little things (they almost lost to Tufts because they didn’t do the little things). The final score of 26-14 of course makes the game look more lopsided than it was, as it was a 50-yard touchdown return on an interception by cornerback Archi Jerome ’17 that provided the final touchdown for the Bantams. Trinity’s first touchdown of the game came courtesy of a 74-yard punt return for a touchdown by Darrien Myers ’17. Seeing Myers break a big play is nothing new this year, and he was responsible for another 46-yard kickoff return that set up a short field goal for Trinity.
A play that ended up being enormous was in the second quarter when Trinity blocked a 31-yard Middlebury field goal. Defensive end Brandon Blaise ’18 was responsible for the block, and he made sure to let us know.
Then later with the score 14-13 Panthers, Middlebury kicker Charlie Gordon ’19 missed another short field goal which would have given Middlebury another three points. Still later in the third quarter, Middlebury elected to go for it on 4th and goal from the five yard line instead of kicking the field goal. Those points being left on the board would have been huge for the Panthers at the end of the game. In games like this one, the little things only magnify as the game goes along.
The little things can overshadow the fact that Middlebury absolutely shut down Trinity on the ground, keeping Max Chipouras ’19 to 45 yards on 22 carries. It makes the five sacks by the Middlebury defense, including 2.5 from Gil Araujo ’16, not matter. The Panthers were able to move the ball amassing 449 yards on a ridiculous 92 offensive plays, but the Bantams are more than happy with their defense allowing only 14 points. Things only get harder for Trinity, and they will need to play better next week in order to take down Amhest, but for now the Bantams are glad to get past the Panthers.
Trinity Kicker/Punter Kyle Pulek ’16
For the Bantams, the kicking game has been an Achilles heel the last few years, and the solution has been to extend the duties of punter Kyle Pulek ’16 to include place-kicking in response to an injury to kicker Eric Sachse ’19. Pulek isn’t the next Steven Haushka, but he hits the kicks that he has to. He was 2-2 hitting from 25 and 32 yards out this week, and given how poorly Trinity has done in that area, the Bantam coaching staff is thrilled with that. And he was on point punting the ball too. The stats don’t look that great when you glance at them as he had nine punts averaging 38.7 yards per punt. However, six of those landed inside the 15-yard line and a whopping four were inside of the 10. That field position forced Middlebury to go a long way to score points.
Bates Defense and Special Teams
You noticing a theme here? The alternate title for the Stock Report was “This one is going to come down to Special Teams,” my favorite quote by Lee Corso. The Bobcats won the first leg of the CBB 10-9 over Colby despite not scoring an offensive touchdown or really having an offense at all. They managed just 168 total yards of offense, and it was a Trevor Lyons’ ’17 31-yard interception return for a touchdown that provided most of the scoring for Bates. Just as important were the contributions of punter Justin Foley ’19 who won NESCAC Special Teams Player of the Week Honors. Foley’s punts resulted in Colby starting inside of their own five-yard line three different times. Colby had to start their final drive from the three-yard line after a block in the back penalty on a punt return, and they were unable to get beyond their own 40-yard line.
Safety Jimmy Fairfield-Sonn ’16 (Amherst)
Oh right, Amherst vs. Tufts was our Game of the Week, wasn’t it … I haven’t talked about it until now because the game turned out to be a little bit of a snoozer. The key play came right after Amherst scored a touchdown to go up 14-7 in the second quarter. On the next play for Tufts, Fairfield-Sonn intercepted Alex Snyder ’17 and waltzed to a 25-yard touchdown that made it 21-7. Things didn’t get more interesting from there as the Jeffs cruised to the 32-7 win. The Amherst defense took away the Jumbos run offense, and Tufts could not create any big plays in the passing game to make up for it. Fairfield-Sonn led the Jeff defense in tackles to round out his performance. It feels like we are singling out an individual defensive player for Amherst every week. After two weeks of playing average football, Amherst was back to playing their style of football on Saturday.
Wesleyan’s Knockout Punch
That Wesleyan is a more talented team than Bowdoin was apparent from the first drive of the game when the Wesleyan defense pushed Bowdoin back five yards and forced a punt that gave the Cardinals the ball in Bowdoin territory. At times the Wesleyan offensive line moved the line of scrimmage forward two yards because of their size and strength advantage. They gained 204 more yards than Bowdoin, but they still needed two late interceptions from NESCAC Defensive Player of the Week Zac Cuzner ’17, who had three in the game, to seal the 20-14 win. Wesleyan left points on the board all over the place, including three missed field goals. They turned the ball over twice on punt returns, one of which led to the second Bowdoin touchdown. There were questionable play calls like on 3rd and goal from the one trying a bootleg that went for a nine yard loss instead of running the ball right up the gut. Six games into the season, they have clearly shown they play to the levels of their opponent, and they lack the ability to finish teams off.
Middlebury’s 4th Quarter
Middlebury’s two losses have both been a case of them running out of gas in the 4th quarter, getting outscored a combined 27-0 in the 4th against Amherst and Trinity. The reflexive reaction to this is to call Middlebury soft because of the passing-heavy style that they play. While Amherst did wear down the Panthers, it was a different story on Saturday. Middlebury, as mentioned above, left multiple scores on the board with a blocked field goal, missed field, and turnover on downs near the goal line. However, the biggest factor going against Middlebury late in games is its lack of depth. Injuries have killed Middlebury. By the end of the game on Saturday, the Panthers were missing four of their top five receivers (and that’s five out of six if you include last season’s starting slot receiver Grant Luna who had to hang up the cleats because of concussions), their starting tight end, starting running back, starting field corner and starting inside linebacker. Reserve defensive end Henry Castillo ’17 is out for the year, too. QB Matt Milano ’16 and WR Matt Minno ’16 are playing pretty banged up, as well. On the Archi Jerome pick-six, Milano was targeting slot receiver Emilio Ovalles-Misterman ’19, who was a running back this time last week. In the past, Middlebury has played as many as six wide receivers in a game. Other teams often rotate defensive linemen, or can go to Nickel and Dime packages on passing downs and bring in extra defensive backs. Middlebury simply doesn’t have that capability these days.
Williams Head Coach Aaron Kelton
Saturday was a new low in the six-year tenure of Kelton. Williams has been right up there with Trinity and Amherst as one of the best teams in the NESCAC every year for decades. It would have been unimaginable a few years ago that Williams would lose to Hamilton, much less on their home field and with Hamilton not having won in over three years. The loss on Saturday was marked with penalties, many of them coming after the whistle had already been blown. With Wesleyan and Amherst remaining on the schedule, the Ephs are staring down the barrel of a third consecutive 2-6 season. Things could be even worse next year with QB Austin Lommen ’16 and many other important pieces graduating. However, Kelton might not be around to see that happen.
And finally, I feel bad not for writing more about the Hamilton victory, but that is just how crazy a week it was. The Continentals had to wait a long time for this win, and they have been getting closer and closer to it for some time. The coaching staff did a good job of adding the wrinkle of using LaShawn Ware ’18 in the Wildcat. Meanwhile, Charles Ensley ’17 has been one of the best WRs in the league since Cole Freeman ’18 took over at QB. Congratulations again to Hamilton.
I’m eager for the final three weeks of the season where a lot of teams will bounce around the rankings. There was not too much movement this week due to predictable outcomes to Saturday’s games. Just Amherst and Trinity remain undefeated, though any of the top five teams could be crowned or co-crowned NESCAC champions. This week is particularly interesting with the two undefeated big dogs traveling to take on the league’s 2nd tier as Middlebury hosts Trinity and Tufts hosts Amherst. A win from the Panthers and Jumbos would create a four-way tie for 1st place going into the last two games of the season.
1. Amherst Lord Jeffs (5-0; Last Week: 1)
The Lord Jeffs looked shaky against Wesleyan. Reece Foy ’18 was not on his A-game in the first half as he threw three interceptions on the first four drives. He picked it up after that point and lead Amherst to a come-from-behind win. On Foy’s nine completions he passed for 202 yards and three touchdowns. A lapse in the Amherst running game this week should be credited to Wesleyan as they possessed the ball for the greater portion of the game (38:46). Amherst will take on Tufts this weekend in a prelude to the awaited Trinity game. The Jumbos pose a serious threat as they nearly knocked off undefeated Trinity last week in their first loss of the season. Foy will likely pass for a ton of yards Saturday because the Jumbos contain the running game well.
2. Trinity Bantams (5-0; Last Week: 2)
Despite allowing a last second touchdown pass to put Bowdoin on the board, the Bantams looked up to speed this week. The Bowdoin game should be seen as a tune-up, though. Trinity will take their talents to Middlebury, Vermont this Saturday to face the first of three teams eyeing a NESCAC championship ring. Trinity can control this game on the ground especially with RB Max Chipouras ’19 coming off of a three touchdown game Saturday. Trinity needs to limit their penalties this week, and the secondary needs to stay strong because the Panthers will continue to throw the ball.
3. Middlebury Panthers (4-1; Last Week: 3)
Coming off a win against Bates, the Panthers have solidified their spot on the totem pole. Matt Milano ’16 accumulated five touchdowns and 3 picks on 405 passing yards, completing 31 of 53 passes at Bates. However, Diego Meritus ’19 only averaged 2.2 yards on 16 carries. The Panther defense held Bates to 3.3 yards per carry while letting up 204 yards, nine first downs, and one touchdown on Bates’ 61 rushing attempts. Middlebury needs to be ever better in defending the run if they want to stick it to the Bantams for the third straight year.
4. Tufts Jumbos (4-1; Last Week: 5)
The Jumbos looked good shutting down the Williams running game. Chance Brady ’17 played a huge role, running in two touchdowns on 27 carries. Alex Snyder ’17 threw the ball well despite a pick on the third play of the game. Tufts proved they could play with the top-tier teams when they took on Trinity, and now they are looking to show they can beat the elite in Amherst this Saturday. A win puts them in great position to bring a ring back to the city of champions. They finish the season off against Middlebury, which could end up being a championship game – crazy, considering that that game has been a cake walk for the Panthers the past few seasons.
5. Wesleyan Cardinals (3-2; Last Week: 4)
At this point, the Wesleyan Cardinals may find themselves depending too much on the results of other teams for a chance at a NESCAC title. Despite losing to Amherst this week, Wesleyan looked strong ousting Amherst in total offense. Gernald Hawkins ’18 caught a touchdown pass from Devon Carrillo ’16, but he was unable to get enough going behind center to upset the Lord Jeffs. They held Amherst to just 320 offensive yards, but the yards they did get were lethal. Wesleyan should slide by Bowdoin with ease this week.
6. Williams Ephs (2-3; Last Week: 6)
Williams’ running game was weaker than usual only compiling 35 yards against Tufts. Austin Lommen ’16 threw the ball 53 times, passing for 363 yards and two touchdowns on 33 completions. Darrias Sime ’16 and Mark Pomella ’16 served as receiving targets for Lommen all game, as they both picked up a touchdown and 100-plus yards. The Ephs played from behind the whole game and never really had a chance of winning. Williams takes on Hamilton this week and they are hoping to expunge their losing record.
7. Bates Bobcats (0-5; Last Week: 7)
While their Week 3 loss to Williams left them bitter, Bates has put up a fight the past two weeks against Wesleyan and Middlebury. Look for Bates to push themselves through to the top of the bottom half of the NESCAC in the coming weeks. Bates gets the easier part of its schedule down the stretch, and has a chance to win out and take home the CBB crown. The Bobcats competed well with Middlebury, holding them to 68 rushing yards and possessing the ball for 38 minutes. With Shaun Carroll ’16 out with an injury, the Bobcats need to find a new lead back. That could turn out to be Mickoy Nichol ’18, who ran well last week but only tallied three carries, or Sean Peterson ’18, who returned to the backfield this week and took 14 handoffs, but only racked up 14 yards.
8. Bowdoin Polar Pears (1-4; Last Week: 8)
The Polar Bears struggled against Trinity, only scoring in the dying embers of the game which cut the deficit to 28-7. They only had 220 total offensive yards. Bowdoin shouldn’t argue with being left in the eight spot this week considering their display against the Bantams. Their season can be salvaged starting with a win against Wesleyan this week, then taking down Bates and Colby.
9. Colby Mules (1-4; Last week: 9)
Colby left Hamilton to dust with Bates as the two winless teams by defeating the Continentals this week. Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17 had consistent runs the whole game. Colby takes on Bates this week, and plans to keep them winless. Gabe Harrington ’17, who threw his first touchdown pass Saturday, will need to play well in order to keep the Bobcats on their heels. This is going to be a tough game for Colby.
10. Hamilton Continentals (0-5; Last week: 10)
“Losing is a disease … as contagious as polio,” at least that’s what the Doc from The Natural theorized. We all hope the Continentals losing plague ends soon. Cole Freeman ’18 came up short Saturday against the Mules. He passed 42 times, throwing for 256 yards and two touchdowns while completing just 40.5 percent of his passes. That will not do the job against Williams, Middlebury, or Bates in the final three games. It was just his second game as the primary QB, but he needs to sharpen up if the Conts want to snatch a win.
On October 24 in 1648, the Treaty of Westphalia was signed, ending the 30 Years’ War. More importantly, the treaty established the principle known as Westphalian Sovereignty, which means that all countries are equal in international law and all countries have sovereignty over all affairs within their own borders. It is widely regarded as crucial in developing the system of nation-states in Europe for the rest of the millennium.
That has nothing to do with NESCAC football, but I include it in the article to remind you that nothing done on Saturday during a NESCAC football game will be remembered in 377 years like the Treaty of Westphalia. In 377 years people will look at football the same way we look at Renaissance Fairs. Not that the games don’t matter – of course they do. Enjoy them, imbibe in them, and tell all your friends at the game to read Nothing but NESCAC. Enough with the rambling, onto the actual analysis.
Four to Watch
Wide Receiver Charles Ensley ’17 (Hamilton): I was able to see Ensley close up last Saturday against Bowdoin. Obviously, I came away impressed as he had eight catches for 139 yards and a touchdown. Honestly he could have had even more yards than that, but the Hamilton QBs missed him on a couple of throws down the field. Ensley regularly got behind Bowdoin’s defensive secondary. Ensley seems to be a favorite of Cole Freeman ’18, who came on to replace Chase Rosenberg ’17, at the end of the second quarter: all of his catches came after Freeman entered the game.
Cornerback Tim Preston ’19 (Tufts): Despite not playing in the opening game, Preston (whom I incorrectly called a linebacker last week) is tied for the league lead in interceptions with four. Every week his statistics and play-making has become better and better. Last week was his official coming out party with two interceptions which he returned for 55 total yards. An even 6’0″, he is taller than most NESCAC cornerbacks, and this picture shows perfectly how he uses that height to his advantage. Preston will get plenty of action against the pass-happy Ephs.
Linebacker Philippe Archambault ’19 (Bowdoin): Another freshman defensive player making a big impact after a slow start is Archambault. He entered the starting lineup against Tufts in Week 3, and in the two games since he has 19 tackles. More impressive is that he has three sacks in two games. Archambault plays middle linebacker, and both of his sacks against Hamilton came on delayed stunts where he came free. Trinity’s offensive line gives the French-Canadian another new challenge to take on.
Quarterback Patrick Dugan ’16 (Bates): Dugan had a game to forget against Williams two weeks ago going 1-14, but he bounced back against Wesleyan throwing for 204 yards on 14-30 passing. I would still like Bates to be more unpredictable in throwing the ball on early downs, but allowing Dugan to throw the ball 30 times is still encouraging. He is never going to be a high completion percentage type, and the offense is never going to revolve around him throwing the ball. Still, getting the ball downfield in order to gain big chunks is a must.
Colby (0-4) at Hamilton (0-4): 12:00 PM, Clinton, NY
A winless team will get on the board. Assuming Freeman starts at QB, the Continentals will have their third different starting QB this season, and the running game for Hamilton has not gotten going. Against the experienced defensive line led by Ryan Ruiz ’16, that won’t change very much. I was expecting more from the Continentals last week frankly, but they were dominated for three of the four quarters by the Polar Bears.
The statistics for Colby last week against Amherst are truly shocking. The Mules outgained the Jeffs 400-307 and also had the advantage in first downs 23-15. Most unbelievable, Colby held the ball for 36:48. Even though they never seriously threatened Amherst, for the second straight week they showed that they are capable of playing quality football. Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17 has cemented himself as one of the best running backs in the league. The long drive to Hamilton scares me, but I’m going with the Mules
Prediction: Colby over Hamilton 13-10
Bowdoin (1-3) at Trinity (4-0): 1:00 PM, Hartford, CT
The Bantams looked oh so mortal last week, in large part because of their own mistakes. They had five turnovers and a crazy 13 penalties for 144 yards. They also somehow went 2-12 on third down even though they had 523 yards of total offense. Those are all fixable things, and the Bantams didn’t come into the game doing any of those things particularly poorly. Linebacker Liam Kenneally ’18 is quickly taking up the mantle of Bantam linebackers, finishing with 11 tackles last week. Even though the defense gave up 323 yards, they still held Alex Snyder ’17 to 11-30 throwing the ball. Through four games, opposing QBs have a completion percentage of 41.7 percent (53-127) and are averaging 138.5 YPG through the air.
Quarterback Noah Nelson ’19 had as fine a debut as one could have hoped for, but the sequel will have trouble matching that success. Nelson did a great job finding the open receiver and trusting his guys to make plays in one-on-one match-ups. The windows in the defense will be smaller and the jump balls might not be completed, and he won’t have as much time in the pocket as he did last week. Of course, Nelson can play loose as a daisy: nobody is expecting him to beat Trinity in the Coop in his second college start. Tim Drakeley ’17 will be back healthy next week, and the Polar Bears will reevaluate their QB situation then. Nelson could win the job permanently if he plays well, but he won’t necessarily lose it if he has a sub-par performance.
As for the game Saturday, Trinity plays better at home than they do on the road, the Bantams need to get everything working right before they begin their tough three-game final stretch. Still, remember that Bowdoin led Trinity 10-3 entering the 4th quarter last year…
Bates has now lost three games in a row by single digits. That sucks, plain and simple. The defense has been decent at not giving up points, but they still allowed 447 yards last week and are giving up an average of 424.5 per game. Even though some players like Brandon Williams ’17 and Sam Francis ’17 have quickly become important pieces of the puzzle, there is still enough inexperience that the defense has difficulty getting stops.
Matt Milano ’16 is going to put up big numbers this week, I can bet that, but how efficient will he be doing it? He was 20-41 against Williams, but he also was below 50 percent against Williams last year. He then used the Bates game as a springboard to his eye-popping second half. The Panthers can still grab a share of the NESCAC title. As long as their run defense, the second-worst in the league giving up an average of 171.5 YPG, isn’t completely exposed, they will pull this one out.
Prediction: Middlebury over Bates 24-13
Tufts (3-1) at Williams (2-2): 2:00 PM, Williamstown, MA
These two have had three common opponents: both beat Bowdoin handily, squeaked by Bates, and lost to Trinity. Tufts obviously played the Bantams closer (Williams lost 24-0 compared to the 34-27 overtime loss for Tufts). Playing the comparative opponent’s game can be tricky, so I’m going to mostly disregard it. The Ephs defense completely ran out of a gas in the second half against Middlebury, allowing 27 straight points to finish the game after Williams went up 14-9 in the third quarter. Things get a little easier against Tufts. Not that much, though, with Chance Brady ’17, the leading rusher in the NESCAC, transforming the Jumbos into a more ground-heavy attack.
The Jumbos defense’s greatest weakness is against the pass; Williams loves to throw the ball, so advantage Ephs there. Austin Lommen ’16 just has to stop throwing bad interceptions; he has six, the second the most in the league. The Ephs defense doesn’t scare you with any player in particular, as impact players have missed time with injury. They are still a good defense though, so long as you don’t put them on the same scale as a Amherst or Trinity. This is the hardest game to predict this week. One potential difference-maker for Tufts is if they can break a long return since the Ephs have allowed two crucial returns for touchdowns. When in doubt, go with the home team.