Same Old, Same Old; Power Rankings Week 3

Not a whole lot has changed from last week other than the fact that Williams is no longer undefeated. With that said though, they proved that they are significantly ahead of any sort of rebuilding designation and that they are above the bottom half of the league no question. Their strong defensive effort against the Bantams, including a shut down of Max Chipouras really showed the rest of the NESCAC that they are ready to make the leap to the next step. What we saw in the other four games did not surprise anybody, and at this point Hamilton has all but rejoined the bottom tier of the league after their exciting week one game. Not much has changed, but here’s where they stand:

1: Trinity
I thought about moving the Bantams down, but they have still only allowed nine points all season and that is not enough of a negative to knock them off of their pedestal. Max Chipouras’ 2.9 yards per carry are a slight cause of concern heading into what’s basically an assured win against Hamilton. My concern is that now he is no longer the NESCAC God of Running. He had a bad game, but still scored a TD and his team can likely win on Saturday with a blindfold on. Until they face a better team, it will be hard to tell exactly how unbelievable this team is, but for now they are ready to roll to 4-0.

2: Middlebury
Middlebury is coming off their second straight win against a sub-par opponent and looks ready to take on Amherst. While they lack a significant running game at this point, young Charlie Ferguson ’21 is averaging nearly 7 yards per carry in his 15 touches this season. While it is a limited sample size, he has filled in nicely the past two games in low pressure situations while Diego Meritus rehabs on his way back to the field. If Meritus comes back strongly, then Midd will be firing on all cylinders.

Conrad Banky and the Panthers are on a roll

3: Amherst
Amherst is in a virtual tie with Midd for the second spot on these rankings, but due to their schedule weakness up to this point they are slightly below. They will face their first tough competition this weekend against the Panthers but with Jack Hickey, an array of solid receivers and a middle-tier NESCAC QB in Ollie Eberth, they don’t have much to worry about in terms of overall position. Kicker John Rak had an uncharacteristically unsuccessful performance by missing three field goals, and he needs to flip the switch for this Saturday because it will be the first time there is any pressure on him all season. Their game against Midd will likely come down to the wire and he needs to be ready to boot it through the uprights from deep, maybe even over 50 yards like last year. There are no major concerns with this team right now, but unless they show some more prowess this weekend, they might not be quite as elite as Midd and Trinity.

4: Wesleyan
By virtue of their opening week loss, this is where the Cardinals sit in the rankings, although they have had a tough schedule up to this point. They knocked off Tufts in OT which was a great sign for their ability to beat the top teams in the conference, and they have what should be two easy wins coming up. They shouldn’t have any issue with Colby or Bates and will be heading into a week six matchup against Amherst with a 4-1 record barring an impossible upset. While QB Mark Piccirillo has been finding the end zone just fine, there is a concern with his high turnover numbers as he has already tossed five picks in three games. They showed that Hamilton is indeed a weaker opponent with a blowout win and their defense has been strong thus far. Their one concern would be the rush D which allowed over 200 yards on the ground two weeks ago. They should sit pretty in this spot, and maybe move up to #3 depending on the outcome of the Midd/Amherst game.

5: Tufts
Tufts only cruised to their win against Bates after the first half, showing weaknesses in their defense by allowing the poor Bobcat offense to score 17 points. Their holes were in the rush defense, and it was the starters who showed the weakness. Bates scored all of their points in the first half, and this game was never totally out of hand. The Jumbos have allowed more rush yards than any of the teams above them in these rankings. Also with only four turnovers on defense, they lack the stoppage power that Trinity and Amherst have while also seeing their run game disappear from last year. Ryan McDonald looked great last weekend though and the duel threat QB is carrying the Jumbos up to this point. They should have an easy time against Bowdoin this weekend, heading into their daunting week five matchup against Trinity.

6: Williams
They are close to passing Tufts on these rankings with their strong defensive performance against Trinity. Their only fault so far is that they don’t have a win against a top tier team, and while Tufts doesn’t either, they still took Wesleyan to OT. Allowing the aforementioned 2.9 yards per carry to Chipouras and just 163 yards passing to Sonny Puzzo, they look capable of quieting any offense. Bobby Maimaron ’21 showed weakness for the first time this season, but did so against the league’s best defense in the Bantams. As an added bonus they have possibly the best athlete in the NESCAC in Adam Regensburg ’18 who played WR, DB, and was an unreal punter last weekend. Oh yeah, he starts on the baseball team too. Look for them to handily beat Bates.

7: Hamilton
Ok so now it’s been three weeks, and other than one close game, Hamilton has looked pretty bad. So why are they sitting at 7th on the rankings and not lower? Well, first of all, they are the only team at this point that has shown any possibility of beating or competing with one of the top teams, and they also have only faced the upper echelon of the NESCAC. Kenny Gray has looked servicable thus far, but without a strong running game, they lack the tools for offensive sustainability in competition with the top dawgs. Their defensive line also has some work to do as they sacked Piccirillo just one time last weekend, allowing him ample time in the pocket. On the bright side, Bryce Phillips and Justin Leigh both had INTs giving me just enough hope that they can beat the bottom teams in the conference. They won’t beat Trinity, but after this week, they will have ended their streak of a brutal strength of schedule.

8: Bowdoin
Well at this point you can pretty much chalk Bowdoin’s predicted game outcomes to a score of about 30-40 points allowed and 14 points scored. They have only faced winning teams thus far and could have success against Bates, Colby, and Hamilton, but still need to show some hope for preventing huge scores on defense. Griff Stalcup ’21 looks to be the QB of the future for the Polar Bears as he took over the starting job and played decently in his second start of the year, making great strides from the first one. He was able to find the end zone for the first time in his passing career, racking up TDs thrown to Bryan Porter and Nick Vallas, the strongest Bowdoin offensive pieces. Like Hamilton, they lacked much presence on their D-line and gave Ollie Eberth plenty of time in the pocket. With another tough contest coming up against Tufts, they probably won’t find the win column this weekend.

Bates couldn’t quite keep up with Tufts on Saturday despite improvements

9: Bates
The Bobcat offense looked much improved against Tufts, actually staying in the game until well into the fourth quarter. With new QB Brendan Costa under center, effectively benching Sandy Plashkes, the Bobcats had a bit more life. Costa showed similarly to Plashkes in ’16 that he can run it a little bit, finding the end zone and accumulating 97 yards on just 16 carries. Granted, one of those was a 70 yard run, proving his other 15 carries non-impactful, but that big play speed is just what Bates needs. Bates matched Tufts with four tackles for losses, but their secondary appeared continually weak by allowing four TD passes to McDonald. Bates should hope Costa keeps improving as his long TD run is basically their lone bright spot up to this point in the season. Look for them to compete initially but fall true to their lack of scoring against Williams.

10: Colby
Bates and Colby are kind of rotating in and out of this last spot by virtue of which team played a worse game the week before. The Mules looked bad against Middlebury last weekend. With just 112 yards passing and 179 yards of total offense, they never stood a chance. Here was the positive: They actually won the first quarter. From then on it was bad news. They were outscored 33-0 the rest of the game, and couldn’t even make their extra point. Don Vivian added a pick on Lebowitz too putting Colby at third place on total turnovers so far. They should compete against Bowdoin and Bates, and just maybe Hamilton, but that’s about it.

New Field, Same Approach, Different Results? 2017 Bowdoin Football Preview

Editor’s Note: Connor is a new writer joining us from Bowdoin College. He is a rising senior, and just wishes that everyone in the world could just get along and have fun.

2016 Record: 0-8

2017 Projected Record: 2-7

Projected Offensive Starters: *Seven Returning

QB: Noah Nelson (‘19)*

RB: Nate Richam (‘20)*

WR: Nick Vailas (‘18)*

WR: Ejaaz Jiu (’19)*

WR: Chandler Gee (‘20)*

TE: Bryan Porter (‘18)*

OL: Elliot Borden (‘18)

OL: TBA

C: AJ Mansolillo (‘19)*

OL: TBA

OL: TBA

Projected Defensive Starters:  *Eight returning

LB: Tyler MacNeil (‘18)*

LB: Latif Armiyaw (*18)*

LB: Joe Gowetski (‘20)*

DL: Robert Caputo (‘19)*

DL: TBA

DL: TBA

DL: Jay Mobley (‘20)*

DB: Ryan Sanborn (‘18)*

DB: Nye Deskus (‘20)*

DB: Cameron Rondeau (‘19)*

DB: Henry Little (‘18)*

Projected Specialists: *Two returning

K: Andrew Sisti (‘18)*

P: Michael Chen (‘20)*

Noah Nelson
Noah Nelson ’19 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

Offensive MVP: QB Noah Nelson ‘19

If the Polar Bears are going to compete for more than a few wins this season, it will largely depend on the play of Nelson. Entering preseason as the undisputed starting quarterback, Nelson will to prove that he is capable of leading this offense in high-scoring affairs. Bowdoin ranked towards the bottom of the NESCAC last year in passing effectiveness and statistical output, but Nelson showed signs of an ability to create offense and move the chains down the field. Equally as important, the Bowdoin offensive line will need to show significant improvement from last year, to allow Nelson to survey the field on offensive drives. A major staple of the receiving corps graduated last Spring (Ford ‘17), but senior Nick Vailas ‘18 figures to handle a hefty portion of the receiving workload. In addition, Chandler Gee ‘20 had some success in the slot last year. The buzz coming from preseason practice has also indicated that some first-year wideouts will figure to contribute significantly this season. The pieces are in place for Nelson to make a major step forward as the Polar Bears’ play caller.

Defensive MVP: Joe Gowetski ‘20

Joe Gowetski
Joe Gowetski ’20 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

Gowetski came in and made an immediate impact for the Bowdoin defense last season. He was a beast from the linebacker position, racking up 52 tackles, as well as 1 sack. Those numbers led the league last year, and Gowetski has showed no signs of the proverbial ‘sophomore slump’ so far in practice. Gowetski figures to be a major stopper in the run defense, and his quickness and instincts make him effective in coverage as well. He has emerged as a team leader, and has put in the necessary work to be a major difference maker this season. Look for Gowetski’s name atop the NESCAC leaderboards again this season.

Biggest Game: @ Williams, September 16th

For the second year in a row, we’ve picked the first game on Bowdoin’s schedule as the most critical. After going winless last year, it is absolutely necessary that the Polar Bears show up for their first game this year. Although Bowdoin Coach JB Wells has an eye toward the future and has moved on from last year, fans of the program may not be so quick to do so. Wells has focused on improving his team day in and day out, and it must show on September 16th if Bowdoin is to rebound from a winless season. Whether or not you believe in sports momentum, the Polar Bears will certainly breathe a sigh of relief if they top Williams in week one.

Best Tweet:

So cute!

Summary:

This offseason and build-up to the first game has an air of ‘new beginnings’ for the Polar Bears. Bowdoin’s historic Whittier field is undergoing the final stages of a major renovation; it is set to open for their home opener (9/23 vs. Middlebury). Coach Wells and the rest of the football program is hopeful that this renovation will spur the team to hit the ground running this year (with the added security of the artificial turf, of course). More broadly, the team has let bygones be bygones, and has emphasized continual improvement and investment in the team’s goals. An 0-8 record last year definitely stings, but the Polar Bears are maintaining a positive outlook on their chances this year.

Bowdoin will benefit from its youth during this year’s elongated season: with a nine game schedule, durability and longevity will be key. Those are areas in which the Polar Bears are well equipped. A nice balance of experience and youth sets Bowdoin up to capitalize on the additional game, whereas some other teams might have trouble adjusting to the change.

Aside from the departure of Liam Ford ‘17 at wide receiver, the entire Bowdoin offense is returning and appear ready to capitalize on some bright spots from last year. Nate Richam ‘20 and CJ Markisz ‘20 figure to once again form a two-headed running attack, and the Bowdoin playcallers will rely on them to carry the workload. Chandler Gee ‘20 impressed with his speed and catching ability in the slot last year, and with the addition of some highly skilled freshman wideouts, the receiving corps looks ready to make a big impact. These new additions will complement consistent offensive presences WR Nick Vailas ‘18 and TE Bryan Porter ‘18.  As previously mentioned, Noah Nelson ‘19 will need to step up in big fashion if Bowdoin is to outscore opponents on a weekly basis.

On the defensive side of the ball, Bowdoin will be anchored by linebackers Latif Armiyaw ‘18 and Joe Gowetski ‘20, who, between them, have some serious athleticism and high football IQ. Similar to previous seasons, one of Bowdoin’s keys to victory will be stopping the run (Bowdoin allowed a league-worst 200.1 rushing yards per game last year). To make matters worse, Bowdoin also allowed the most passing yards per game last year with 242.9. Clearly, the returning defenders (and the incoming players) will need to show improvements if Bowdoin is to even be competitive this season.

All in all, Bowdoin has a long way to go before they are NESCAC title contenders. There were flashes of potential last year, but none of them persisted long enough for the Polar Bears to grab a win. With a brand new facility and positive outlook on the season, it would seem as though Bowdoin is poised to make some noise in the league this year. The team will need to be far more effective on defense, and capitalize on their offensive capabilities, if they are to turn their fortune around. Despite the positivity and experienced roster, Bowdoin is still in rebuilding mode. While I don’t think they go winless for the second straight year, it may be another season of woes for the Polar Bears.

Put It Over the Fireplace: The Postseason Awards Blog

Darrien Myers and Trinity ran away with the title this weekend in Hartford (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
Darrien Myers and Trinity ran away with the title this weekend in Hartford (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

First of all, congratulations to Trinity on an amazing season. In a league that featured four real threats to win the NESCAC title this year, Trinity was dominant from start to finish. The Bantams had the most consistency of any team, and it was this consistency that brought the championship trophy back to Hartford. This marks Trinity’s 7th 8-0 season in the current format, with Amherst and Williams being the only two other schools to put together perfect seasons. Congrats Trinity on another phenomenal season. We’ll discuss your accomplishments in greater depth tomorrow, but for now, let’s get to the awards.

The actual awards will be coming out presently, so these are less of a blog necessity and more of an excuse for Rory and I to talk about NESCAC football all day on a Sunday instead of doing homework. The main evidence that we used to make our decisions was statistics, as our biggest weakness as bloggers is our inability to watch every game at once. However, we also tried to spread the wealth fairly evenly throughout the league. There is of course a natural bias towards more successful teams (better teams tend to have better players), but we looked to get every school represented. The toughest call was probably QB, as Middlebury’s high volume passing attack led to Jared Lebowitz having by far the highest numbers. But we couldn’t overlook Puzzo’s consistency and performances in big games.  As always, any complaints can be directed to our “Suggestion Box.”

Image result for recycling bin
We recycle our suggestions here at Nothing But NESCAC.

First Team Offense:

QB: Sonny Puzzo (Trinity)

(16 TD, 4 INT, 186.5 YD/G, 60.1)

RB: Chance Brady (Tufts)

(17 TD, 1099 YD, 137.5 YD/G, 5.4 Y/A, 0 fumbles lost)

RB: Max Chipouras (Trinity)

(7 TD, 910 YD, 113 YD/G, 5.8 Y/A)

WR: Conrado Banky (Middlebury)

(925 YDS, 115.6 YDS/G, 12 TD)

WR: Darrien Myers (Trinity)

(485 YD, 69.8 YD, 8 TD)

WR: Bo Berluti (Amherst)

(498 YD, 62.3 YD/G, 8 TD)

WR: Devon Carrillo (Wesleyan)

(349 YD, 49.3 YD/G, 13 TD *twelve rushing*)

TE: Bryan Porter (Bowdoin)

(310 YD, 14.1 Y/C, 2 TD)

OL: Chris Simmons (Trinity)

OL: Joe Wilson (Wesleyan)

OL: Beau Butler (Wesleyan)

OL: Joe Farrah (Trinity)

OL: Gian Calise (Tufts)

First Team Specialists

PK: Eric Sachse (Trinity)

(13-13 FG, 38-38 XP)

P: Justin Foley (Bates)

(81 P, 37.9 Y/P, 20 IN20)

RET: Darrien Myers (Trinity)

(9 KR, 22.7 Y/KR, 1 TD, 17 PR, 14.6 Y/PR)

First Team Defense

DL: Tyler Harrington (Bates)

(34 TKL, 6.5 SCK, 9 TFL)

DL: Micah Adickes (Tufts)

(32 TKL, 4.5 SCK, 5.5 TFL)

DL: Robert Wood (Middlebury)

(28 TKL, 5 SCK, 9.5 TFL)

DL: Patrick Fabrizio (Bowdoin)

(19 TKL, 4.5 SCK, 7.5 TFL)

DL: Jordan Stone (Wesleyan)

(26 TKL, 4.5 SCK, 7 TFL)

DL: Niyi Odewade (Amherst)

(32 TKL, 4.5 SCK, 9.5)

LB: Mark Upton (Bates)

(87 TKL, 7 SCK, 14 TFL, 1 INT)

LB: Greg Holt (Tufts)

(98 TKL, .5 SCK, 6 TFL)

LB: Parker Chapman (Amherst)

(66 TKL, 2 SCK, 2 FF, 1 INT)

LB: John Jackson (Middlebury)

(61 TKL, 7.5 SCK, 11.5 TFL, 2 FF, 1 INT)

DB: Spencer Donahue (Trinity)

(46 TKL, 3 SCK, 3 FF, 2 INT, 5 Break-ups)

DB: Tim Preston (Tufts)

(28 TKL, 5 INT, 6 Break-ups)

DB: Ian Dickey (Colby)

(52 TKL, 1 FF, 3 INT)

DB: Kevin Hopsicker (Middlebury)

(37 TKL, 1 TFL, 2 INT)

DB: Nate Taylor (Wesleyan)

(19 TKL, 1 TFL, 3 INT)

DB: Joe Frake (Bates)

(43 TKL, 2.5 TFL, 3 INT)

Offensive POY: Running Back Chance Brady ‘17  (Tufts)

Chance Brady
Chance Brady ’17 (Courtesy Tufts Athletics)

If you have any doubts about the legitimacy of picking Brady for this award, just ask any of the corpses he left strewn all over Middlebury’s field on Saturday. Middlebury and Tufts’ matchup had tremendous championship implications, but it also effectively decided the Offensive POY race. Brady and Jared Lebowitz were the two front runners heading into the game. Lebowitz struggled in the first half before mounting an impressive comeback in the second, and Brady absolutely buried the Panthers throughout afternoon. He had five total touchdowns (three rushing, two receiving), including three in the decisive second quarter that saw Tufts take a 34-7 lead into halftime. Brady eviscerated the entire league this season, and his work put him in the NESCAC history books – on Saturday, Brady set the record of most rushing touchdowns in a single season with 17. What a stud.

Defensive POY: Defensive Back Spencer Donahue ‘17 (Trinity)

Spencer Donahue
Spencer Donahue ’17 (Courtesy Trinity Athletics)

It is the mark of a truly great defensive back when they can have an impact on the activity in the backfield as well as in coverage, effectively putting their finger on the pulse of the game in all areas on the field. At times this season it seemed like there were three or four Spencer Donahues running around all over the field; that’s how dominant he was from the safety position. He was particularly effective at getting into the backfield, recording three sacks and 6.5 tackles for a loss. Donahue wraps up a tremendous career with an 8-0 season, and we think he should take home some personal hardware as well.

Rookie of the Year: Greg Holt ‘20 (Tufts)

Greg Holt
Greg Holt ’20 (Courtesy Tufts Athletics)

As one great defensive player leaves in Donahue, another one rises up in Greg Holt. Holt led the entire league in tackles with 98, and was the centerpiece of a defense that helped the Jumbos surprise many in the league and finish at 7-1. Early in the season Holt didn’t really get into the backfield, recording no sacks or forced fumbles in the first four games of the season despite 14 and 20 tackles in his first two college games. However, something clicked in the second half of the year, and Holt tallied .5 sacks and six tackles for loss over the final four games. Holt gives the Jumbos a player to build a defensive dynasty around.

Image result for steve holt
There is no relation between Greg Holt and Steve Holt…that we know of.

Coach of the Year: Jeff Devanney (Trinity)

Not a very tough call here. If your team finishes 8-0 with an average margin of victory of over 24 points, your status as coach of the year is pretty hard to argue. Trinity was the best team wire to wire this season (even though it took a couple weeks for the geniuses over at NbN to put them at #1 in the power rankings), and look poised to continue their run next year.

Don’t Sleep, Young Bloods: The Polar Bears Might Surprise

 

Projected Record: 1-7

Projected Offensive Starters: *Seven Returning

QB: Timmy Drakely (‘17)*

RB: Nate Richam (‘20)*

WR: Nick Vailas (‘18)*

WR: Garrett Thomas (’18)

WR: Liam Blair-Ford (’17)

TE: Bryan Porter (‘18)*

OL: Kyle Losardo (‘17)*

OL: Brian Mullin (‘17)*

C: AJ Mansolillo (‘19)*

OL: Ben Jurkic (‘17)

OL: TBA

Projected Defensive Starters:  *Seven returning

OLB: Andre Joyce (‘20)

MLB: Latif Armiyaw (*18)*

OLB: Andre Jett (‘20)

DL: Steve Anderson (‘17)*

DL: Danny Wanger (‘17)*

DL: Nadeem Elhage (‘16)*

DL: Jay Mobley (‘20)

DB: Reeder Wells (‘17)*

DB: Jibrail Coy (‘16)*

DB: Cameron Rondeau (‘19)*

DB: Henry Little (‘18)

Projected Specialists: *One returning

K: Andrew Sisti (‘18)*

P: Chen (‘20)

Offensive MVP: Nate Richam ‘20

Yeah, he’s a freshman, but might as well go bold. Bowdoin was last in the league in rushing, rushing attempts, rushing touchdowns, and yards per carry, averaging 2.2 yards per carry, totaling under 500 yards, and racking up just 3 TDs in 2015.  That was partly due to Tyler Grant getting hurt (Grant has hung up the spikes, and won’t be playing this year). In 2014, Tyler Grant ran for 893 yards, and 8 TDs, as a sophomore. He got more touches than anyone in the NESCAC that year. Needless to say, his injury caused some problems.

Richam, a West Hartford, Connecticut native, has drawn rave reviews this preseason. Yes, he’s a freshman, but the Polar Bears desperately need to establish a running game this year. Richam’s quick, he’s strong, and he has that ability to make people miss that you can’t coach. Bowdoin threw the ball 177 times last year, third most in the league, but historically, Bowdoin likes to run the ball, so look for last season’s historic lows in rushing production to at least return to normal levels this year.

Defensive MVP: Reeder Wells ‘17

This is the least exciting defensive MVP pick possible. Reeder Wells hasn’t put up huge numbers in his career, but he’s as steady as they come. He’s never missed a game. He’s the captain on defense, he’s a Texan, and he makes tackles. He’s had at least 36 tackles every year. He only has 1 career interception, and he’s never had a sack, but his value and consistency will make him the most valuable defensive player for the Polar Bears this season.

Welcome Back: Liam Blair-Ford ‘17

By the numbers, Blair-Ford hasn’t done much as a Polar Bear yet. His career receiving numbers aren’t very big, and he’s only played 10 career games, missing extended time due to injury. Despite all that, the word on the street is that he’s in great shape, and he’s gonna play a big role this year.

Biggest Game: September 24th, at Middlebury

Yeah, it might be strange to pick the opener. Think about it this way. Bowdoin hasn’t finished a season above .500 since over a decade ago (2005). The Bears need to win one of the first two games, and while Amherst at home would be a huge, huge win, objectively they have a better chance taking down the Panthers, considering Amherst’s won 19 in a row, and three straight NESCAC championships. If they win one of the first two, they’ll be in a good spot.

Best Tweet:

It’s gotta be this video of a barely comprehensible Latif Armiyaw looking really, really hot. You’re looking at the owner of the Bowdoin Track & Field 60m dash record there folks. As quick a linebacker as you’re gonna find in the NESCAC.

http://https://twitter.com/jacklucy73/status/763146721664888832

Summary:

It’s hard to have an offseason more brutal than Bowdoin’s. They lost the usual seniors (but actually retain a handful 2016s, playing an extra year due to injury, like Nadim Elhage, and Jibrail Coy). After that though, things get bleak. They lost Philippe Archambault ‘19, arguably their best defensive player, a French-Canadian beast, who has returned to Canada. They’ve lost a handful to retirement, be it due to injury, or simply quitting, including former impact running back Tyler Grant ‘17. Perhaps worst of all, the team lost a handful of valuable players in a plagiarism scandal: 5 or 6 guys, most of whom figured to receive significant playing time, will miss the season.

So yeah, a rough offseason, but the freshman class shows great promise,and they return a lot of veterans with starting experience, which shouldn’t be overlooked. There’s a lot of buzz about the energy level and hunger that this team has. A duo of sophomore baseball guys, Brandon Lopez ‘19, and Ejazz Jiu ‘19 have joined the team this year, and Jiu ‘19 looks like he’s going to have an impact at wide receiver. He’s a big target. Richman ‘20 has looked great at running back, and Chandler Gee ‘20 is a really fast slot receiver who has impressed so far. On defense, a trio of freshman linebackers, Joe Gowetzski (ILB), Christian Pridgen (OLB), Sydney Guerrier (OLB), look like they could do some damage.

The group of returners is solid. In particular, the success of  WR Nick Vailas ‘18 and TE Bryan Porter ‘18 will play a big role in the team’s chances. Vailas had almost 600 receiving yards and added 6 TDs, while Porter had over 400 receiving yards with 5 TDs. Porter made 2nd team all-NESCAC last year as a sophomore, he was one of only two Bowdoin representatives, and he’s also an excellent blocker.

Two of Bowdoin’s top offensive linemen, Kyle Losardo ‘17 and Brian Mullin ‘17, return as well. When you ask Bowdoin guys about top offensive players, they often point to those two as being weapons on the line.

The keys for this team are going to be health, running the ball, and stopping the run. Healthwise, they’re already extremely thin, and if they start to lose talented veterans, they’re going to be in a tough spot. Richam and sophomore RB Andrew Tichy will need to have big seasons in order for the Polar Bears offense to work, and the defense is going to have to at least be average, as opposed to league-worst, against the run. Bowdoin won’t have much room for error, but if they can limit injuries and mistakes, they should have the pieces to put together a decent season, with a little luck.

NbN 2015 End of Year Football Awards

Big plays, big hits, and jaw-dropping performances - We love NESCAC football. (Courtesy of Michael O'Hara/Middlebury Campus)
Big plays, big hits, and jaw-dropping performances – We love NESCAC football. (Courtesy of Michael O’Hara/Middlebury Campus)

We’re very sad to see football season go. Covering all of the drama, success and disappointment this season, it’s felt at times like we were on the field ourselves, living through the ups and downs. On a grand scale, Amherst took a lot of the drama out of the season by so consistently dispatching its opponents, but let’s not downgrade the exceptional performances of so many individuals on every team across the league. Even amongst so many standout showings, a few deserve recognition above all else.

Offensive Player of the Year: Tufts RB Chance Brady ’17

Chance Brady '17 (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
Chance Brady ’17 (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

Brady was on our radar coming into the year, but we had no idea he was this good. Not only did he split carries last season with Zack Trause ’15 practically 50-50, but Tufts has historically been one of the most pass-happy offenses in the NESCAC. That completely changed this season with Brady serving as a workhorse for the Jumbos. Brady had 187 carries (two behind Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17), and led all qualified running backs in yards, yards per game and yards per carry while also tallying 11 rushing scores, two shy of the Tufts single-season record.

Honorable Mention: Middlebury QB Matt Milano ’16, Middlebury WR Matt Minno ’16, Amherst QB Reece Foy ’18, Trinity QB Sonny Puzzo ’18, Colby RB Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17

Defensive Players of the Year: Wesleyan DE Jordan Stone ’17 and Bates LB Mark Upton ’17

Mark Upton '17 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)
Mark Upton ’17 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

Adam – Sheer production is the best way to describe Mark Upton’s career at Bates, and he gets my vote for DPOY because of his leadership on a young defense to go along with those gaudy stats. Bates lost a lot from their 2014 defense, including the majority of the linebackers who played besides him. Teams game planned towards Upton unlike before, and while he couldn’t quite match the 84 tackles he had last year, he came close. Upton finished with 71 tackles, four sacks, three forced fumbles, and an interception. He played best down the stretch averaging 9.8 tackles per game in his final five games.

Jordan Stone '17 (Courtesy of Wesleyan University Athletics)
Jordan Stone ’17 (Courtesy of Wesleyan University Athletics)

Joe – I went with Jordan Stone because he was a physical monster. Not only that, but Stone played alongside a bunch of freshmen on the D-line, and the Wesleyan defense as a whole was very green, so his numbers stand out that much more – and boy are they impressive. Thirty-five total tackles, 5.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss. Ten! When thinking about these kinds of awards, my biggest question is always, Which player would it hurt the most to lose? I think this season it was Stone.

Honorable Mention: Amherst LB Evan Boynton ’17 , Middlebury DL Gil Araujo ’16, Bowdoin LB Branden Morin ’16, Middlebury CB Nate Leedy ’17, Trinity S Paul McCarthy ’16, Tufts LB Zach Thomas ’18

Kicker/Punter of the Year: Trinity K/P Kyle Pulek ’16

K/P Kyle Pulek '16 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
K/P Kyle Pulek ’16 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

Pulek was consistently great punting the football (15 inside the 20, including six against Middlebury alone, which was a huge difference in the Bantams winning that contest), but it was his proficiency once thrust into the kicking role that gives him the edge over Amherst’s Jackson McGonagle ’16. Last season, Trinity’s kicking faults more or less directly led to a pair of Trinity losses. This season, kicker Eric Sachse ’19 was doing a fine job before he went down with an injury. Pulek came on and looked like a seasoned vet, making 10-10 extra points and 5-8 field goals – two of those misses were blocks, and the other was from 39 yards out.

Honorable Mention: Amherst P Jackson McGonagle, Tufts K/P Willie Holmquist ’17, Hamilton P Pat Donahoe ’16

Return Man of the Year: Trinity KR/PR Darrien Myers ’17

KR/PR Darrien Myers '17 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
KR/PR/WR Darrien Myers ’17 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

Not a ton of options on this one, and Myers is a more than deserving candidate, mostly because of his work on punt returns. He averaged 13.5 yards per return, a pretty sick number. Two of his returns went for touchdowns, and his 74-yard punt return for a touchdown against Middlebury was a huge lift in their eventual win. Myers was not as dynamic on kickoffs as he has been in the past averaging 22.3 yards per return, but he still was a clear choice for us.

Honorable Mention: Tufts KR/PR Mike Rando ’17 and Williams KR/PR Mark Pomella ’16

Rookie of the Year: Hamilton DE Tyler Hudson ’19

DE Tyler Hudson '19 (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)
DE Tyler Hudson ’19 (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)

Hudson exploded out of the gates with as good a debut in the NESCAC as anyone has had in awhile. Against Tufts he had 15 tackles with 4.5 tackles for loss. Keep in mind that he plays defensive end! He wasn’t that productive the rest of the year, but the final stats of 47 tackles, four sacks, and 12.5 TFL (second in the NESCAC) are pretty nifty. Hudson is so good that he even was on the field for the Continentals goal line package, though he never was able to bring in a reception. Hudson will be fun to watch for the next three years.

Honorable Mention: Tufts DB Tim Preston ’19, Trinity LB Shane Libby ’19, Trinity RB Max Chipouras ’19, Bowdoin DB Cam Rondeau ’19

Coach of the Year: Tufts’ Jay Civetti

Tufts Head Coach Jay Civetti (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
Tufts Head Coach Jay Civetti (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

With apologies to EJ Mills who cranks out 8-0 seasons like they can be made on an assembly line, Coach Jay Civetti deserves this one. The Jumbos went 6-2 and took another big step forward as a program. This season Tufts turned into a team that ran the ball first and forced big plays on defense. That is the EXACT opposite of what this team was just two years ago. It took Civetti a little time to have the results show up on the field, but what he is building at Tufts both on and off the field is impressive, and we were impressed with how he fit his game plan to his players’ talents.

Honorable Mention: Amherst’s EJ Mills, Wesleyan’s Dan DiCenzo

Breakout Player of the Year: Amherst QB Reece Foy ’18

QB Reece Foy '18 (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
QB Reece Foy ’18 (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

Our biggest worry for Amherst coming into the year was that they would be plagued by subpar QB play. Foy was not perfect this year, but he was the catalyst for the Amherst offense. He played his best football in the first half putting up more than 250 yards of total offense between running and passing in each of his first three games. He didn’t surpass that mark again the rest of the way, but he still made enough plays down the stretch of games. He ranked in the top five amongst starters for passing yards, yards per attempt, completion percentage, and touchdowns, so calling him above average is a pretty easy call.

Honorable Mention: Hamilton WR Charles Ensley ’17, Tufts LB Zach Thomas ’18, Bowdoin WR Nick Vailas ’18, Trinity LB Liam Kenneally ’18, Bates CB Trevor Lyons ’17

Most Surprising Team: Tufts

Tufts took the lead by storm this season. They are for real. (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
Tufts took the lead by storm this season. They are for real. (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

Well this couldn’t have been easier. Tufts was the most surprising team a year ago, and they still managed to up their play this season. By beating one of the big dogs in Week 8, Tufts really made a statement about their ability to compete in the future. Two years removed from a 31-game losing streak, Tufts might be a title contender in 2016.

Honorable Mention: Hamilton

Best Single Unit: Amherst LBs

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Thomas Kleyn ’16 (#52) and Evan Boynton ’17 (#40) led Amherst’s dominant linebacking corps. (Photo by Joe MacDonald)

Given that Amherst graduated two VERY good linebackers from the 2014 team, not many would have thought this unit would end up here. But Evan Boynton ’17, Tom Kleyn ’16, Parker Chapman ’17 and Jack Drew ’16 were phenomenal. Their individual statistics are all great of course, and you can look at them here. As a group they were great tacklers, never allowing for big plays. Unlike many linebackers in the NESCAC, this group was equally good against the run and pass, making the Amherst defense able to adjust to anything.

Honorable Mention: Trinity OL, Middlebury DBs, Wesleyan RBs, Amherst K/P

Consistency Award: Middlebury LB Tim Patricia ’16

LB Tim Patricia '16 (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)
LB Tim Patricia ’16 (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

Patricia gets this award not just for his performance in 2015, but for the entire body of work that is his stellar career. The California native came all the way to Vermont to play ball and made an impact right away. Patricia started 32 games in his career and amassed 289 tackles – the third-most in Middlebury history since 1994 when they started recording individual defensive statistics. It’s rare to see a player lead an entire defense from Day One and never miss a beat.

Honorable Mention: Amhest WR Devin Boehm ’17, Amherst DB Jimmy Fairfield-Sonn ’16, Bowdoin TE Bryan Porter ’18, Chance Brady, Jabari Hurdle-Price

Another One Bites the Dust: Fantasy Report Week 6

QB Matt Milano '16 was good yet again from a fantasy perspective, but the Trinity defense was nearly as productive and was a threat to the Middlebury signal-caller all day. (Courtesy of Michael O'Hara/Middlebury Campus)
QB Matt Milano ’16 was good yet again from a fantasy perspective, but the Trinity defense was nearly as productive and was a threat to the Middlebury signal-caller all day. (Courtesy of Michael O’Hara/Middlebury Campus)

Injuries are playing a huge role in the fantasy world this week, especially given that no waiver moves were made last week. With that being the case, there are so very unfortunate rosters this week, with some teams, like Nick’s, especially, employing guys we know to be out in their starting lineups. Adjustments will have to be made as we shift to the postseason.

Matchup 1: Joe 111 – Adam 76

Joe Adam
Pos. Player Pts Pos. Player Pts
QB Matt Milano 24 QB Austin Lommen 24
QB Alex Snyder 13 QB Reece Foy 12
RB Kenny Adinkra 11 RB Jack Hickey 0
RB Jabari Hurdle-Price 16 RB Chance Brady 10
WR Devin Boehm 8 WR Pat Donahoe 2
WR Ryan Rizzo 0 WR Mike Rando 3
TE Bryan Porter 13 TE Alex Way 1
FLEX Lou Stevens 6 FLEX Nick Vailas 2
FLEX LaShawn Ware 7 FLEX Jackson McGonagle 4
D/ST Middlebury 7 D/ST Wesleyan 13
K Charlie Wall 6 K Ike Fuchs 5
BE Devon Carrillo 0   BE Gernald Hawkins 4
BE Conrado Banky 0   BE Ryder Arsenault 0
BE Tyler Grant 0   BE Shaun Carroll 0
 Total 111    Total 76

I now haven’t lost since a tight four-point defeat at the hands of Nick in Week 1. Per usual, Matt Milano ’16 carried my squad, but his production was actually matched this week by Adam’s Austin Lommen ’16. Nobody else answered the bell for Adam, and I got contributions from almost everyone. Bryan Porter ’16 is turning into a big fantasy pickup, with scores of nine, two, nine, nine and now 13 since I picked him up going into Week 2.

Matchup 2: Carson 63 – Nick 42

Carson Nick
Pos. Player Pts Pos. Player Pts
QB Sonny Puzzo 17 QB Gabe Harrington 2
QB Jared Lebowitz 2 QB Tim Drakeley 0
RB Frank Williams 1 RB Jaylen Berry 9
RB Max Chipouras 12 RB Connor Harris 3
WR Matt Minno 5 WR Darrien Myers 5
WR Mark Riley 2 WR Dan Barone 1
TE Rob Thoma 0 TE Jordan Jenkins 0
FLEX Ian Dugger 6 FLEX Ben Kurtz 0
FLEX Jack Cooleen 0 FLEX Matt Hirshman 2
D/ST Amherst 18 D/ST Trinity 20
K Charlie Gordon 0 K Eric Sachse 0
BE Neil O’Connor 2   BE Diego Meritus 0
BE LaDarius Drew 0   BE Trevor Miletich 0
BE Nick Gaynor 0   BE Raheem Jackson 0
 Total 63  Total 42

Yikes. A real clunker from Nick this week, but as mentioned above, he didn’t have the chance to make any roster moves this week and that clearly hurt him. The game day scratch of TE Trevor Miletich ’16 was another big blow, as the man’s replacement for Middlebury, Dan Fulham ’18 ended up with a TD. Amazing that the top point totals for both sides came from the defenses.

Standings:

Joe: 5-1
Nick: 3-3
Carson: 2-4 (1-1, 200 head-to-head points vs. Adam)
Adam: 2-4 (1-1, 163 head-to-head points vs. Carson)

It’s Not Your Imagination, Passing Is Up in the NESCAC: Part One

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There was a time when we never thought we’d see statistics like those put up by Mac Foote ’14 again. Now it seems like every team is airing the ball out more than ever, but is that true? (Courtesy of the Middlebury Campus)

From 2011 to 2014, only 25 percent of teams finished the season throwing for more than 200 yards per game. If you take out Middlebury, that number becomes 16.6 percent.  This year, there has been a noticeable departure from that norm. Through six weeks of the 2015-2016 season, seven of the ten teams are averaging over 200 yards through the air, and Tufts is just off that mark with 199.7 YPG. As usual, Middlebury is pacing the league with 332.8 passing yards per game. Bowdoin, a team that finished eighth in the NESCAC in passing just one year ago, showcases a new and improved aerial attack under new Head Coach JB Wells that ranks third.

Other teams like Amherst and Williams have seen large upticks in their numbers in part because of strong quarterback play. The league’s higher passing numbers point to the possibility that the NESCAC is moving away from the ground heavy attacks they have long featured. Are defensive lines closing gaps like never before causing teams to turn to the pass? Are teams starting to envy Middlebury’s capacity to consistently throw up 300 passing yards a game? The reason is unclear, but there is no doubt that change is happening. The best way to answer this is to examine the numbers and go team-by-team to see whether the change is temporary or systematic.

2015 Passing numbers through Week 5 in below graph. All other stats are through Week 6.

overallchart  Middlebury

middleburyPeople who follow NESCAC football understand the prestige of the Middlebury Panthers passing attack. Its program employs the pass-heavy offense, which is made explicit by the impressive passing numbers it has put up in recent years. In each of the past four seasons, Middlebury has finished with a commanding lead in passing yards per game, and you would have to go back to 2007 to see Middlebury not finishing toward the top. The 2014 season marks the only time that Middlebury has dipped under 300 yards in the last five. Still, in 2014 QB Matt Milano ’16 threw for over 24 touchdowns, which was good for fourth in the last 23 years for which the NESCAC has records, with only three interceptions.

Despite graduating top WR Brendan Rankowitz ’15 (36 receptions, seven touchdowns), Milano’s offense hasn’t missed a beat in 2015. Through six games, Milano has thrown for an average of 317.3 yards per game with 17 touchdowns. He has already thrown nine interceptions, but he connects with his receivers roughly 60 percent of the time. Milano continues to connect with WR Matt Minno ’16 at an impressive rate. Last season, Minno lead the Panthers with nine receiving touchdowns, and he has remained one of Milano’s top targets. Ryan Rizzo ’17 had also picked up where he left off last season, hauling in 23 receptions and two for touchdowns, before succumbing to a season-ending knee injury on the first drive against Trinity. When Milano graduates, Jared Lebowitz ’18 will inherit the offense, and any betting man would predict that Middlebury will still rely on the pass heavily with him.

Verdict: Enduring. Middlebury will continue to throw the ball all over the place.

Bowdoin

bowdoinAfter finishing eighth in the NESCAC in passing yards per game in 2014, it may be surprising for some to see Bowdoin close to the top of the pass rankings. Under new head coach JB Wells, the Polar Bears’ new offensive approach is a complete 180 from the one it displayed last fall. Last season, Tyler Grant ’17 was a workhorse for Bowdoin, rushing the ball 226 times for 893 yards and eight touchdowns. This season, after the implementation of Wells’ offensive scheme, the Bears’ have become one of the most pass-heavy in the league. Last season, Bowdoin scored ten touchdowns, nine of which came on the ground. This season the Polar Bears have found their way into the end zone 12 times, but 10 of those scores have been through the air. Last fall, the Bears only threw the ball 244 times in eight games, and they have thrown the ball 241 times through six games.

In the three starts he has had, Week 4 POW QB Noah Nelson ’19 has done an admirable job in replacement of Tim Drakeley ’17, averaging 196.5 pass yards per game and firing seven touchdowns. WR Nick Vailas ’17 has emerged as a top threat in Bowdoin’s aerial attack, leading the team in receptions (34) and yards per game (67.2). TE Bryan Porter ’17 has become a crucial part of the offense, accounting for 26 receptions and four touchdowns. There has been a renaissance in the Bears passing offense

Verdict: Enduring. With a new coach, Bowdoin is committed to throwing the ball.

Trinity

trinityTrinity is passing the ball at a rate higher than any of its past four seasons. Having not exceeded an average of 188.5 since 2011, the Bantams are averaging 243 through the air in 2015. Due to the success of emerging RB Max Chipouras ’19, only 5 of Trinity’s 19 touchdowns on the season have been receiving, but make no mistake that the Bantams are moving the ball through the air much more. QB Sonny Puzzo ’18 has burst back onto the scene and found immediate chemistry with his receiving core.

In 2014, only four Trinity receivers reached double digits in receptions. This season, Darrien Myers ’17 (27 receptions, two TDs), Ian Dugger ’16 (22 receptions, 296 yards), and Bryan Vieira ’18 (21 receptions, three TDs) are evidence of a deep and consistent passing attack. Through eight games last season, the Bantams only threw the pigskin 173 times; through six in 2015, that number is already more with 176 attempts. The return of Puzzo is the clear catalyst of the uptick in passing, and he has two more seasons after 2015. However, the Bantams still want to be known as a smash-mouth physical team, and they are likely to retain that philosophy.

Verdict: Enduring-ish. Puzzo has two more years of eligibility, but after that…

Williams

williamsAveraging 247.2 passing yards per game, Williams’ passing game is the most prolific it has been in the last five seasons, but the Ephs have had very successful quarterbacks in the past. Coming off a season in which he threw for an average of 181.4 yards per game with seven touchdowns, QB Austin Lommen ’16 has improved upon his success through the air. This season, that average jumps up to 248.8. Going up against two top five pass defenses in the NESCAC to close out the season (Wesleyan and Amherst), it’ll be interesting to see if Lommen can maintain the numbers he has put up thus far.

Since 2011, Williams has employed a balanced offense, passing and running the ball at a similar rate. That has not been the case this year with the Ephs passing much more. Going into this Saturday, the Ephs have already almost matched their receiving touchdown count from last season with six. Williams showcases an experienced receiving arsenal which includes Darrias Sime ’16 (29 receptions, 2 TDs), converted-QB Mark Pomella ’16 (23 receptions, 1 TD), Alex Way ’16 (18 receptions), and Colin Brown ’16 (15 receptions). With the exception of Way, each of the highlighted receivers has topped their numbers from last year, and Way is three catches away from doing the same.

Verdict: Temporary. Lommen and all those receiving threats are graduating.

Hamilton

hamiltonHamilton is another team whose passing numbers are the highest they’ve been since 2011. As the above graph indicates, the passing game has steadily been on the rise. Despite an 0-5 start to this season, QB Chase Rosenberg ’17 started the season under center but has since lost the starting spot to Cole Freeman ’18. As opposed to Rosenberg’s 115.8 passing yards per game and 4:3 touchdown to interception ratio, Freeman has averaged 190.8 yards through the air with a 4:1 ratio in two fewer appearances.

Last season, Hamilton threw for only seven touchdowns; this season, 10 of their 13 scores have been via pass. RB LaShawn Ware ’18 is replicating his production from last year but the receiving core is producing at a higher level than in the past. Pat Donahoe ’16 and Charles Ensley ’17 each are enjoying great seasons. With the team’s expanding trust in its passing game, and Bates’ last place pass defense left on their schedule, Hamilton may finish with four players having 20+ catches.

Verdict: Enduring. No matter who’s playing QB next year, they will throw the ball.

Amherst

amherstAmherst’s 214.7 passing yards per game in 2015 is impressive in that the Lord Jeffs also boast the NESCAC’s best running attack (209.3). With the exception of the 2014 season, Amherst’s passing numbers have seen jumps in each of the past five seasons. In 2014, a dynamic duo made up of sophomore running backs Nick Kelly ‘17 and Raheem Jackson ‘17 gave Amherst incentive to take advantage of its success on the ground. This season, the emphasis has returned to Amherst’s passing game. Kenny Adinkra ’16 has assumed leading running back duties because of an injury to Kelly.

The offense for Amherst has morphed into one more than happy to take chances down the field. Wide receivers Devin Boehm ’17 and Jackson McGonagle ‘16 have paced the Amherst receiving core with 30 and 26 receptions respectively, both averaging nearly 70 yards a game. Foy has also connected with WR Nick Widen ’17 and TE Rob Thoma ’17 regularly, despite them being non-factors just a year ago. Amherst’s 282 passing yards through the air in Week 1 against Bates may be skewing the data, but their passing numbers are no fluke. With his arsenal of receivers, Foy is primed to terrorize Trinity and Williams.

Verdict: Enduring. Foy will be around for two more years.

Check back tomorrow for the final four teams and a conclusion about what this means for the NESCAC.

No Tricks Here: Weekend Preview 10/31

The Trinity O-line hopes to enforce its will against Middlebury on Halloween Saturday. (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
The Trinity O-line hopes to enforce its will against Middlebury on Halloween Saturday. (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

This is a week full of intrigue for NESCAC teams and loyal ‘CAC fans alike. There’s something for everyone in Week 6. For the championship hopefuls, two games have major implications. The Game of the Week features Amherst traveling to Tufts and trying to extend the 16-game winning streak. Up in Middlebury, the undefeated Bantams will fight to avoid another late-season slide like the one suffered years ago. For other teams not fighting for a title there is still plenty to play for. Bates and Colby open up CBB play this weekend, always a point of pride for these football programs. Elsewhere in Maine, Wesleyan still has a lot to prove. They’ve played to the level of their competition all season long, and the Cards would like to do some damage against what should be a weaker team in Bowdoin. Bowdoin will also be dealing with a question mark at quarterback, as Tim Drakeley ’17 is expected to be healthy, but there’s no guarantee that he’ll take the reins from impressive first-year Noah Nelson ’19. Hamilton heads to Williamstown for the final game of the weekend. Hamilton is, yet again, trying to get off the schneid and get its first win since 2012. The streak has stretched to 25 games now, and is coming up on the Tufts’ record of 31 straight losses. Meanwhile, the home team might be playing to save the boss’ job. There is widespread discontent over a program that has gone from an 8-0 season in 2010 to 5-3 in 2011, 4-4 in 2012 and 2-6 the past two seasons. It’s hard to say which team needs this win more.

Players to Watch

Middlebury RB Diego Meritus ’19

The Panthers are rushing for 2.1 yards per carry. Not good. It’s not all Meritus’ fault, of course. He’s actually a good runner, and has shown his ability to make guys miss in the screen game. He’s a big body and fast, so it’s surprising that Middlebury hasn’t had more success on the ground. Head Coach Bob Ritter seems committed to the first-year, though, and no one else has gotten significant carries since Week 1. Especially with WR Conrado Banky ’19 out now, the rushing game will take on more importance for Middlebury.

Bowdoin TE Bryan Porter ’18

With the first-year Nelson under QB, Porter needs to play a big role to help out the youngster. Two weeks ago, when Nelson had a phenomenal debut, Porter caught five balls and a touchdown, and last week his one catch was a 37-yard TD. Don’t expect there to be a lot of room downfield for the Bowdoin wideouts, meaning that Nelson is going to have to rely on Porter. It’s going to be huge for Bowdoin to convert on third downs in order to keep the ball out of the Cardinals’ hands. If Wesleyan is able to milk the clock with the running game, this will be over early.

Colby DE Ryan Ruiz ’16

When playing the triple-option, it’s imperative for the defense to keep to its assignments and not fly up field. Therefore, the impetus is on Ruiz, the Mules’ best defensive lineman, to lead the charge. He needs to keep the Bates slot backs from breaking out wide by getting outside leverage on the guy blocking him and allowing his teammates to make plays. If Colby can get a sizeable lead, though, then Ruiz will have a chance to pressure Pat Dugan ’16 and improve on his team-leading 2.5 sacks.

Hamilton RB LaShawn Ware ’18

I could essentially copy and paste the summary for Meritus from above, except that Hamilton Head Coach Dave Murray has shown a willingness to give some carries to Jason Nastovski ’18. Any time a team is having as much trouble running the ball as Middlebury and Hamilton are, a lot of that comes down to offensive line play. Running backs need holes to run through. The problem is exaggerated for Hamilton, though, because they aren’t having much success in the passing game, either. Ware averaged 3.9 yards per carry a year ago with 3/5 of the same offensive line. Things won’t change around for the Conts until Hamilton can get the ground game going.

Game Previews

Wesleyan at Bowdoin, 12:30 PM, Brunswick, ME

Live Stats  Video

Five weeks ago, we had no idea what to think about the Wesleyan Cardinals. A year removed from a senior class that brought the program back to relevance and competed for a championship three years in a row – earning a shared title in 2013 – Wesleyan had a plethora of questions coming into 2015. They’ve performed admirably, scaring Middlebury at home in Week 1 and putting up a good fight and outplaying the Lord Jeffs in every aspect but points scored a week ago in Amherst. Now the Cardinals are 3-2 and if they want to even have a minuscule shot at sharing a NESCAC title this year – and they’ll need a lot of help – they can’t lose again. I think this is a case of an inexperienced team coming into its own, and things are just looking up for them.

As for Bowdoin, the 30-20 win two weeks ago over Hamilton and the debut of Nelson gave hope to Polar Bear fans, but it now appears that it was false hope. No first-year should be expected to put up the kind of eye-popping numbers every week that Nelson posted against Hamilton, but without that kind of play Bowdoin doesn’t have enough fire power to topple the Cardinals. Losing their top two running backs has really hurt Bowdoin, which has only 58.4 rushing yards per game this season.

With that in mind, Bowdoin is forced to drop back and throw the football more often than not, which has to have Wesleyan DE Jordan Stone ’17 salivating as he wakes up this morning. Stone is one of the most physically-talented defensive players in this league and doesn’t get talked about too much on this blog, but that’s not because of his play, and more so because we just don’t talk about line play a ton. But Stone has 4.5 sacks, which is tied for second in the NESCAC with Micah Adickes ’18 of Tufts. Tufts teammate Zach Thomas ’18 leads the NESCAC with 5.5 sacks. Here’s the kicker, though. The Wesleyan defense has faced 150 pass plays. Tufts? 188 pass plays.

With the Cardinals starting to figure things out as a team and still a bevy of concerns for the Polar Bears, it’s going to be a frightful Halloween for Bowdoin.

Prediction: Wesleyan 35 – Bowdoin 14

Trinity at Middlebury, 12:30 PM, Middlebury, VT

Live Stats  Video

A year ago this week the championship-hopeful Bantams were stunned in the Coop by Middlebury, breaking a more than decade-old home winning streak of 53 games. That loss sent the Bantams spiraling to three losses to end the year. Once again, these teams meet with Trinity undefeated and Middlebury with an outside shot at a shared title. The ramifications will be large no matter which way the result ends up.

This matchup bodes well for the Bantams. The Middlebury run defense, expected to be stout this season, has bent pretty considerably against some top rushing attacks. The Panthers allowed 5.1 yards per carry to Wesleyan in Week 1 and 3.9 per carry to Amherst in Week 3. They’ve effectively shut down the rushing games of Colby, Williams and Bates, but Trinity’s freshman tailback Max Chipouras ’19 will provide a stiff challenge. What’s more, the Panthers have to be prepared for the dual-threat at QB that Sonny Puzzo ’18 provides.

The key for Middlebury, as always, is to score early and force teams to throw the football – something that they haven’t done particularly well this year. Their halftime scores so far this season: 7-13 at Wesleyan, 21-2 vs. Colby, 7-10 at Amherst, 9-7 vs. Williams and 14-10 at Bates. In all but one game, Middlebury was within four points at halftime. When they’ve started to get the offense rolling in the second half and forced teams to throw, the Panthers defense has responded with some big takeaways and shut down the opposition. That strategy could be particularly effective this week given Puzzo’s recent struggles – he had two picks at Tufts and only completed 10 of 20 passes last week vs. Bowdoin.

Offensively for Middlebury, the rushing attack has been bad, plain and simple. Only once, in the Panthers’ blowout victory over Williams, has the running game been effective. But, frankly, Middlebury has proven that they don’t need to run the ball in order to be successful. It would be nice, but Middlebury makes up for its rushing deficiency with short passes and running back screens. With Banky apparently out for the season with an ankle injury, the impetus now falls on slot-turned wideout Ryan Rizzo ’17, slot receiver Tanner Contois ’18 and All-League player Matt Minno ’16 on the other side to make some big plays in the receiving game for Matt Milano ’16. I think they do just enough to squeak by the Bants.

Prediction: Middlebury 28 – Trinity 21

Bates at Colby, 1:00 PM, Waterville, ME

Video

The CBB is under way, and with both of these teams populating the bottom of the standings, the Maine championship becomes the primary focus. This game turned into a high-scoring OT affair a season ago at Bates, but I don’t see the same thing happening this time around. Though RB Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17 has really turned it on for Colby as of late, the offense still ranks last in the ‘CAC with 13.4 points per game. Gabe Harrington ’17 has really struggled with eight interceptions in five games, but he’s also been sacked 10 times and his receivers aren’t exactly running free all over the field. It’s hard to tell who’s to blame on the Colby offense because nothing is going right at the moment, but if they are going to break out – particularly throwing the ball – this could be their chance.

The Bates defense has been only slightly better than Colby, allowing 27.0 points per game, and is last in the league with 305.6 passing yards per game allowed. Wideouts Mark Snyder ’17 and Mbasa Mayikana ’18 are big targets on the Colby offense even if they haven’t been that productive so far, and could be found on a couple of deep balls for big plays.

The Bates offense, as we know, relies on misdirection and the running game. The loss of slotback Shaun Carroll ’16, who had been averaging 5.3 yards per carry, really hurts, but the Bobcats hope to offset that loss with the return of Sean Peterson ’18 to the lineup. His debut a week ago against Middlebury was not very impressive in the running game, but he caught a few passes and was able to show off his athleticism in open space. That he garnered 14 carries despite averaging just a yard per rush shows that he is expected to be a big part of the offense down the stretch. Peterson and crew will need to have a big-time day on the ground in order to get their second win. I think Colby will land the first punch in the CBB battle but hitting on a couple of deep throws and burning clock with Hurdle-Price, and as long as that defensive line stays disciplined the back seven can make enough plays to continue Bates on offense.

Prediction: Colby 21 – Bates 17

Hamilton at Williams, 1:30 PM, Williamstown, MA

Live Stats  Video

Things are not good in Clinton and Williamstown these days. For the Continentals part, there has been a lot of moral victories, including an OT loss against Tufts and two close games with Wesleyan and Colby. The defense has really stood on its head at times despite playing some younguns, and Cole Freeman ’19 stepped into the limelight two weeks ago at QB and would have lead Hamilton to a victory if not for Nelson’s Godly performance for Bowdoin. At the end of the day though, you can’t argue with the scoreboard, and Hamilton is still 0-5. The Ephs, meanwhile, amidst some rumblings of discontent from people around the program (nothing concrete), started off well with two wins sandwiched around a handy and expected beatdown against Trinity. However, the last two weeks have been disastrous for Williams, and with a roadtrip to Wesleyan in Week 7 and a rivalry game with Amherst in Week 8 looming, this might be the Ephs’ last shot at a victory to move to 3-5 and avoid a third straight 2-6 record, something that seems impossible for such a storied program.

Williams has allowed just 198.0 yards per game through the air, but they’ve also been behind for considerable amounts of a few games and have faced Bates, so coincidentally they rank eighth in rushing yards allowed per game. Nevertheless, I think that Williams is better against the pass than the run, which is good when matching up with Hamilton, who hasn’t been able to get a sputtering running attack going whatsoever. LaShawn Ware ’18, a talented runner who showed some potential a season ago, is averaging just 3.1 yards per carry, and subsequently Jason “Bane” Nastovski, previously cast as a fullback, led the squad with 12 carries last week to Ware’s nine. Combined, the pair had just 62 yards rushing on 21 carries. Clearly, a lot of pressure will be placed on Freeman and his receivers, particularly Charles Ensley ’17, a dynamic playmaker who just needs to get the ball in his hands, and the reliable Pat Donahoe ’16.

So do the Conts finally get the monkey off their back this week, or do the Ephs get mad and pull out a victory? I’m expecting an ugly game, with, as usual, a turnover being the difference. That Williams is at home I think benefits them, and Hamilton has been much worse on the road, losing 29-4 at Trinity and 30-20 at Bowdoin. Williams gets its third win of the season.

Prediction: Williams 21 – Hamilton 14