Losing LaShawn Ware for the year is pretty brutal, but luckily 2015 All-NESCAC selection Charles Ensley is back for the Continentals. Ensley had 665 receiving yards last year, coming to an average of 83.1 Y/G, both of which were good enough to rank him at second in the league. The kid has wheels, which makes him a huge deep threat, so whoever ends up winning the quarterback competition (Cole Freeman ‘18 vs. Brandon Tobin ‘18) will be testing opposing secondaries to Ensley’s side of the field.
Defensive MVP: DE Brent Lobien ‘17
Brent Lobien wreaked havoc in the backfield last year, evidenced by his nine and a half TFL and five sacks. He had the third-most tackles on the Hamilton defense, and he forced a fumble and recovered two. Simply put, Lobien is a ball hawk, and he will help lead Coach Murray’s defense along with the other three seniors on the Hamilton defensive line.
Biggest Surprise in Camp:
Chase Rosenberg ‘17 is no longer going to be taking snaps under center. Instead, the senior has moved to wide receiver where he looks to become a secondary target behind Ensley. Rosenberg is an athletic 6’1”, so it makes sense that he has made the move since the primary quarterback battle features Cole Freeman ‘18 and Brandon Tobin ‘18. It seems like this switch is happening more and more since the emergence of Julian Edelman as one of Tom Brady’s favorite targets. Let’s just hope Rosenberg’s quarterback, whether it turns out to be Freeman or Tobin, doesn’t get unfairly punished by league officials like Edelman’s has been…
Biggest Game: vs. Bowdoin, October 15th, 12:00pm
Hamilton ended the year on a high note by winning two of their last three games, but they are faced with a tough schedule to start the year as they face Amherst, Wesleyan and then Trinity. That’s why their matchup with Bowdoin in week four is the most important game on their schedule. It’s unlikely that they get through the first three unscathed, so getting back on track with a win at home against Bowdoin will be monumental for the Continentals.
What killed Hamilton last year was their 0-5 start. Though the Continentals have won 2 of their last 3 games, they travel to Amherst and Wesleyan before finally playing at home, where they will host Trinity. I wouldn’t say that’s the easiest first three games of the season. Luckily, the Bantams have a significantly easier final 5 games: vs. Bowdoin, at Colby, vs. Williams, vs. Middlebury, at Bates. Bowdoin and Colby will likely be two of the worse teams in the league this year, and it is especially important that Hamilton has a home game following their tough opening stretch. Williams’ new coach, Mark Raymond, is a very highly touted head coach who had a great deal of success at St. Lawrence over the last 6 years. However, Raymond was only hired in February, so he has had limited time to work with his players, something the Continentals are hoping to take advantage of. Middlebury should be down this year compared to recent years after suffering the losses of Matt Minno ‘16 and Matt Milano ‘16, and writer Liam O’Neil is actually putting Middlebury on upset alert in this Week 7 matchup as shown in his Top 10 games of 2016 article last week. Playing at Bates is never easy, but Coach Murray’s squad could be in the midst of a hot streak at this point, so anything could happen.
It’s important to remember, however, that if Hamilton wants to win these games, they are going to need to make some huge strides on offense. They ranked dead last in YPG last year, in large part due to their abysmal rushing attack, which gained just 2.3 yards per carry last year! Simply put, Hamilton could not string together drives last year, evidenced by their league worst 15.1 first downs per game. And even when the Hamilton offense did manage to get into scoring positions, they struggled to convert those chances into points. Though the sample size is small (6 attempts), Hamilton only hit 16.7% of their field goals – in other words, they hit ONE FIELD GOAL last year. For a team with a pretty respectable defense, getting 3 points where you can is crucial. For example, in their opener against Tufts, the Continentals lost by 3 points in overtime. They also missed two field goals.
On the defensive side of the ball, however, Hamilton is in very good shape once again. They do lose their top two tacklers, but defensive end Brent Lobien ‘17 and linebacker Matt Glebus ‘17 are back to anchor the Hamilton defense along with seven other returning starters. Coach Murray is confident that their defense can keep them in games (they were 5th in the conference in points allowed) and I understand why. This is an experienced group (9 of the 11 starters are seniors), and they play a physical style of football that starts up front. Lobien and defensive tackle Nick Sobczyk ‘17 tied for fourth in the league with 5 sacks last year, and the other end Tyler Hudson ’17 was right behind them with 4 sacks. This group can get pressure on the quarterback, so the question becomes whether or not the offense can convert defensive stops into points. As of now, it’s hard to say yes, but maybe Hamilton can prove people wrong this year.
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 represented the last home Middlebury football game that I will watch as a student at this College. It was probably the 10th or so such game that I’ve seen (I know I missed one this year and I probably missed one in my first two years, and I missed them all when I was off campus as a junior) and I’ve gone through a transformation with regards to my feelings towards football at Middlebury.
It started out as resentment because I was cut quicker than you can say “Good bye” when I tried out as a freshman (fairly, I should add). It turned into anger that first year and sadness as the friends I made during preseason turned into strangers that I barely said hello to walking around campus. It became jealousy the next year as I watched the football team take home a shared NESCAC title. As we started up Nothing but NESCAC in the spring of my sophomore season, and as I began to mature (though not that much), my feelings became more analytical and critical, and I started keeping my ear to the ground as any good journalist ought to do. However, being on the other side of the planet in Australia during the 2014 season, I was so far removed from the actual games that my feelings were fairly indifferent. Then I returned to campus this fall and everything felt different. Not only were the players aware of our writing here on this blog, which I thought was very cool, but I also found myself deeply invested in the team for the first time since Coach Ritter laid the axe on me in The Grille freshman year. The boys that I had tried out alongside and felt comparable to three years ago have become grown men – at least physically (we’re all still college kids at some level) – and color me proud of the way these guys have played – any disappointment over the 5-2 record as we stand today be damned – and the way they’ve grown up.
There are a lot of reasons not to play football in college, especially at the D-III level. There is no scholarship money, no fans watching on TV, no promise of a future career. And then there are the reasons to play. A cool, autumn day, just your closest friends and your parents (and maybe your dog) in the stands, the smell of the charcoal grill wafting over from the now deserted tailgate, and a tight-knit group of brothers laying their bodies on the line just because they love to play the game.
Forgive the soliloquy, and allow me to proceed to the usual stock report.
Hamilton Line Play
Both sides of the ball for Hamilton were impressive against Middlebury. In the first quarter alone LaShawn Ware ’18 had 74 yards rushing on 12 carries. The Continentals defensive line had three sacks and put heavy pressure on all of the Middlebury quarterbacks all day long while also keeping the Panthers to 2.6 yards per rush. Now, it’s all relative of course. Ware ended up with 77 yards on 21 carries (you can do the math but that’s only three more yards on quite a few carries after the first quarter), and nobody else could get going running the ball, either. I thought the O-line did a good job of protecting Cole Freeman ’19, though. Middlebury racked up three sacks of its own, but otherwise Freeman had enough time to take a lot of shots deep down the field. That didn’t really pay off, as Freeman threw four picks (right after we had highlighted how well he had been taking care of the football), but nonetheless you love the gutsy calls from an up-and-coming team that just got its first win in a long time, and Freeman couldn’t have thrown those balls without time to step up.
Wesleyan QB Mark Piccirillo ’19
With starting QB Gernald Hawkins ’18 battling with an injury the past two weeks, Piccirillo has started to weasel his way into the lineup. Who knows how much of this timeshare is a result of the ailment to Hawkins and how much is a result of their respective plays. Hawkins is very physically gifted, but he hasn’t completed a high percentage of his passes and Coach Dan DiCenzo appears to be shying away from letting him throw the ball. Hawkins had only 13 attempts in Week 6 and 12 this past week, but he ran the ball 12 times against Williams. Meanwhile, Piccirillo has gone 27-35 (77.1 percent) for 269 yards, one touchdown and no picks the past two weeks, while also rushing for 54 yards on 15 attempts. This looks like a situation that will provide a great QB battle in camp next year.
Bates CB Trevor Lyons ’17
The first five weeks of the season were a struggle for the Bobcats, but it’s all worth it because Bates took home the CBB title yet again by beating up the Polar Bears 31-0 on Saturday. Lyons had maybe his best two games of the season the past two weeks, taking back a pick six in each game and breaking up two passes against Bowdoin. Against Colby, Lyons interception return for a TD came in the third quarter with Bates down 3-0. The Bobcats went on to win 10-9. Last week Lyons once again returned an interception early in the third quarter, this time 50 yards for a score that put the game out of reach. Lyons also does double duty as the team’s punt returner.
Colby WR Sebastian Ferrell ’19
In case you couldn’t tell from the intro to today’s stock report, I’m waxing a bit nostalgic and so I decided to look on the bright side of things and go for an extra stock up and one less stock down. So this brings us to first-year wideout Sebastian Ferrell, who had just four career catches before breaking out with eight grabs and 110 yards in a loss to Tufts. With that performance, Ferrell leapt to fourth on the Mules with 12 receptions on the season. His breakout has coincided with a reduced role for Mbasa Mayikana ’18. It will be interesting to see if that trend continues in Week 8.
I’m not at Williams, I don’t know this for a fact, and I haven’t heard this from any players – but from the outside it looks like this team is falling apart. This is how the last four weeks have gone for Williams: Week 4, outscored 27-7 in the second half at Middlebury in a 36-14 loss; Week 5, go down 13-0 and then 30-7 in an eventual 30-15 loss at home against Tufts; Week 6, get beat by Hamilton, a team that hadn’t won in three years, hadn’t beaten Williams in 19 years and hadn’t won in Williamstown in 29 years; Week 7, narrowly avoid a shutout by scoring a touchdown with 1:11 left in the game in a 27-7 loss to Wesleyan. We’ll leave it at that.
Sorry, folks, but the cat’s out of the bag. Amherst is the 2015 NESCAC Football Champion, barring a massive upset at the hands of Williams this week and a Trinity victory. It’s a shame that there’s no playoff in the NESCAC and that teams are not eligible for the D-III playoffs. There’s no point in whining about the structure of the NESCAC playoff system, though, so instead we’ll just whine about the fact that the league is severely lacking parity these days. Dating back to 2011, Amherst, Trinity, Middlebury and Wesleyan are a combined 124-32 (79.5 percent). The only other teams to have a winning season are Williams in 2011 (5-3), Bates in 2012 (5-3) and Tufts this year (5-2).
Yes, the game between Trinity and Amherst is very important. Yada, yada, yada. Joe has you covered there if you want to read about that. Spoiler alert, it’s a bold prediction. Elsewhere, it’s rivalry season in the NESCAC with the second leg of the CBB and Little Three taking place this weekend. Bowdoin makes the quick jaunt up to Lewiston to face off against Bates who just won the first leg of the CBB against Colby, and Williams visits Wesleyan in the Little Three. For the Ephs, this is the first of back-to-back games against Wesleyan and Amherst, and the final two weeks might be the last two for Coach Aaron Kelton. Since going to 2-1, Williams has lost three in a row with last week’s loss to Hamilton a particularly stinging loss because it broke the long losing streak for the Continentals. Last year the Ephs managed just 123 yards of offense and no points in a 22-0 loss that would have been even more lopsided if Wesleyan hadn’t had to kick five short field goals. Unless the loss last week galvanized the team, expect this year’s result to be similar.
Meanwhile Bates can complete the salvaging of their year if they beat Bowdoin on Saturday. After going 13-11 over the past three seasons, the Bobcats have lost a good deal of close games and are just 1-5. A win over Bowdoin seals the fifth consecutive year of the CBB for Bates and means the graduating Bobcats will have never lost to the Polar Bears. Bates certainly isn’t happy to have the record they do, but their final two games against Bowdoin and Hamilton are both winnable ones. If they can finish at 3-5 with a three-game winning streak and an uncontested CBB title, things would look drastically different than they did just a week ago. However, that is still a ways away.
Four to Watch
Running Back Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17 (Colby): Despite a disappointing season for the Mules overall, Hurdle-Price has been fabulous. A slow start to this season is long in the past as he has had four straight games of over 100 yards rushing, including 202 yard, two TD performance against Wesleyan in Week 3 that served as the tone setter. What has really made him so valuable though is his receiving as he has 19 receptions for 146 yards. Then you add in his kickoff returns and in total you get the NESCAC leader for all-purpose yards at 171.7 per game, well above the next highest total of 144.7 from Darrien Myers ’17. The Mules are a heavy underdog at home against Tufts, but regardless of what happens, Hurdle-Price is going to get his yards.
Linebacker Branden Morin ’16 (Bowdoin): After having just two tackles in the season opener, Morin has been a tackling machine averaging 10.8 per game, and he now leads the league. Last week he had a sack to go along with his 11 tackles. The Bowdoin defense has been bad overall against the run, allowing 209.5 yards per game, 54.2 more yards per game than anybody else. That stat is probably the biggest reason why Bates is feeling confident entering tomorrow. Morin has to be able to make another dozen or so tackles in order to keep Bates from marching up and down the field all day long. Some of the other linebackers for Bowdoin are very inexperienced and have not played against Bates, and the coaching staff is relying on him to be a steadying force up front.
Defensive End Jordan Stone ’17 (Wesleyan): It’s a given that Williams is going to throw all the time, and that is exactly what Stone wants to hear. He leads the Cardinals with 5.5 sacks, and he has three in the past two weeks. Williams has been decent at keeping QB Austin Lommen ’16 upright, but Stone will be one of their hardest challenges yet. The Ephs are unlikely to get much going on the ground which will allow Stone to pin his ears back and rush the passer. Stone isn’t quite a sack specialist as he is important for Wesleyan’s run defense also, but he is definitely one of the best pass rushers in the league.
Wide Receiver Charles Ensley ’17 (Hamilton): My goodness, Ensley has turned on the jets recently. His statistics from the past three games: 19 receptions for 376 yards and four touchdowns. Those numbers coincide with Cole Freeman ’18 becoming the starting QB midway through the game against Bowdoin. Ensley was in this spot two weeks ago, but I don’t feel bad putting him here again because of how well he has done. Freeman also deserves credit for his job coming in after starting the season as the third string QB. Freeman only has one pick in 124 pass attempts. If Hamilton wants to get their second straight win, Ensley must have a big day against the Middlebury secondary.
Hamilton (1-5) at Middlebury (4-2): 12:30 PM
The Continentals got on the right side of the win-loss column last week in part by taking advantage of mistakes by Williams. They also were able to run the ball more effectively than usual as they broke 100 yards rushing for the first time all year. They still averaged just 2.9 yards per carry (amazingly, Hamilton has not had a game this year where they average at least 3.0 yards per carry). They will have a harder time on the ground against the Middlebury run defense led by Tim Patricia ’16 and, if he’s active, Addison Pierce ’17. Even if Pierce is out, Aaron Slodowitz ’18 is more than capable fill-in.
One advantage for the Continentals is how banged up Middlebury is at receiver. Of course, Matt Minno ’16 is still relatively healthy which should cause problems. Every team has injuries, especially at this point of the season, and they really hurt when grouped together in a particular position group. This will be closer than the 37-9 blowout last season, but it won’t be that close. The only worry I have for Middlebury is that they come out flat after last week’s physical loss.
Prediction: Middlebury over Hamilton 26-13
Bowdoin (1-5) at Bates (1-5): 12:30 PM
I already talked about the stakes for Bates. The win against Colby was a huge confidence booster, but they can’t be that confident as the offense took a huge step backwards after the big day they had two weeks ago against Middlebury. Passing for only 43 yards against Colby is not going to cut it versus a Bowdoin team that is weak against the pass. The matchup of corner Jibrail Coy ’16 vs. wide receiver Mark Riley ’16 will be a fun one to keep an eye on. The Bobcats are dealing with injuries to some of their skill players which has hurt them.
Speaking of injuries, Bowdoin will not have its top two running backs, Tyler Grant ’17 or Andrew Tichy ’19 tomorrow. Given how much they have been throwing the ball, one wouldn’t expect that to be too big of an issue. The team that scores first will put a lot of pressure on their opponent as this could be another low-scoring CBB affair.
Prediction: Bowdoin over Bates 17-13
Tufts (4-2) at Colby (1-5): 1:00 PM
So the Jumbos didn’t managed to put much of a scare into Amherst last weekend. It happens. Running against Amherst was never going to be easy, and allowing a defensive touchdown to the Jeffs made things pretty much impossible. The Jumbos will have to go to the air in order to beat Colby because the Mules strength of defense is the defensive line. This is the game that Tufts really wants in order to get to five wins.
The Mules are in a little bit of disarray on offense as Christian Sparacio ’18 got significant playing time at quarterback against Bates and scored the Mules’ one touchdown. Gabe Harrington ’17 had looked better in the previous two weeks, but he regressed back to his early season form vs. the Bobcats. The offense has really been the downfall of Colby this year, and there is no magic formula in Week 7.
Prediction: Tufts over Colby 24-17
Williams (2-4) at Wesleyan (4-2): 1:00 PM
As mentioned above, Hamilton was able to run against the Ephs, and that does not bode well at all for this weekend. Watching Wesleyan last week, I thought that the Cardinals were trying to get too fancy on offense instead of relying on that bulldozing offensive line to get easy yards on the ground. Against Williams, Wesleyan is probably going to keep things pretty simple for whomever ends up starting at QB, Gernald Hawkins ’18 or Mark Piccirillo ’19. The Cardinals still feel like they have plenty to play for in the last two weeks even if they are out of the conference race.
I don’t know what to expect from Williams. They have in the past shown up in rivalry games more so than other games. The Ephs have almost completely given up on running the ball, and the defense is soft against the run. On paper Wesleyan should win this game relatively easily.
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.
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.
People 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.
After 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 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…
Averaging 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 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’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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.