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

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.


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.


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…


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.


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.


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.

Dreams Never Die: NESCAC Fantasy Football is Back!


We know you were hoping that we wouldn’t do this again. That we’d stop pretending that this is the NFL and just let the kids play. That we’d retire our make-believe fantasies of running an NFL organization and building a perennial championship competitor.

But we did it anyway.

This season, four opponents once again step up to the plate and compete for NESCAC Fantasy Supremacy – editors Joe MacDonald and Adam Lamont, longtime contributor Carson Kenney and newcomer Nick DiBenedetto.

The rules are basically the same as last year. We shrunk the roster size slightly, bringing it down to 14 players. We’ll be starting two each of QBs, RBs and WRs, one TE, one FLEX (RB, WR, TE), a D/ST and a K. Each team has four bench spots.

With this week as an exception, player acquisitions will be made on Tuesdays every week via the very sophisticated method of group chat. The waiver order will always go in reverse order of the standings. If there is a tie in the standings the tiebreakers listed below will take affect.

The following two sections are basically copied verbatim from last year’s initial fantasy article:


Our scoring scheme is essentially the same as an ESPN standard league, so in the interest of saving time and space I won’t put down every point total here.
The only difference is in the points we award for passing. In ESPN standard leagues, QB’s receive one point for every 25 passing yards and four points for a TD pass. However, the NFL is much more pass happy than the NESCAC. Over the three years from 2011-2013 (I chose not to go through the tedious work of adding the 2014 information to this study), there were 316 passing touchdowns and 306 rushing touchdowns in the NESCAC, and 45,452 passing yards compared to 34,181 rushing yards. So, we decided to award six points for touchdowns of any kind (passing, rushing or receiving), and one point for every 20 passing yards as opposed to 25. Running backs and receivers earn one point for every 10 yards on the ground or through the air.
One other miscellaneous note: individual players do not receive points for kick returns. For example, Darrien Myers ’17 is one of the league’s best return men, but if he runs a kickoff back for a touchdown he will accrue no points, while the Trinity D/ST will receive six.

We will be competing in weekly head-to-head matchups. There are four teams, so each team will play each other team twice over the first six weeks. Weeks 7 and 8 will serve as a single-elimination playoff. The top seed will play the fourth seed, the second will play the third, and the winners of the Week 7 matchups will compete for the title.
First tie-breaker: Head-to-head record
Second tie-breaker: Most points in head-to-head matchups
Playoff tie-breaker: QB points
Second playoff tie-breaker: RB points
Third playoff tie-breaker: WR points

We’ve also added one new wrinkle to try and compensate for the most glaring inefficiency in NESCAC Fantasy Football – injuries. So, if an owner plays an individual who ends up not appearing in that week’s game, and there was no prior indication that he would not be playing (meaning that he played the entire game last week, and to the best of our knowledge was healthy going into the current Saturday), then the owner will receive the average of all the players on his bench who are eligible to play that position. Make sense? Good.

Below is how the draft itself shook out. Some picks might raise a few eyebrows. After each round there is a bit of analysis from one of the team owners.


Joe MacDonad: Middlebury QB Matt Milano ’16
Adam Lamont: Amherst RB Nick Kelly ’16
Carson Kenney: Wesleyan RB LaDarius Drew ’15
Nick DiBenedetto: Trinity RB Joe Moreno ’19

Joe: The NESCAC is a running back-heavy league. So I took the gunslinging Matt Milano. No one throws it quite as often or effectively as Middlebury, and that offense is loaded. I really wanted either Drew or Moreno in Round 2 (specifically Drew), but my competitors were too smart for that. Shocker. I also will be interested to see if Moreno can really return this level of value.


ND: Trinity WR Darrien Myers ’17
CK: Middlebury WR Matt Minno ’16
AL: Tufts RB Chance Brady
JM: Wesleyan RB Lou Stevens

Adam: Such a blatant homer pick by Nick to take Trinity WR Darrien Myers ’17 that you can’t help but love it. The Minno pick could be considered high for a WR, but he looks primed for a massive year the way he and Milano found chemistry down the stretch. I love Chance Brady, might have picked him a little high there at seven. Joe showed his respect for the Wesleyan offense by taking another Cardinals running back eighth.


JM: Bowdoin RB Tyler Grant
AL: Williams QB Austin Lommen
CK: Trinity QB Sonny Puzzo
ND: Colby QB Gabe Harrington

Carson: I got off to a great start in my opinion by snagging Drew and Minno, but I needed a quarterback. As a Trin alumn/current employee, obviously my allegiance is with the Bantams. Puzzo didn’t play at all last year so he should have a lot to prove. Word on the street is the kid is about to blow, and since he’ll get fantasy points through the air and on the ground, I thought he was a good choice at QB. Adam taking Lommen that early, in my opinion, was a bit of a panic pick.


ND: Bowdoin WR Dan Barone
CK: Bates WR Mark Riley
AL: Wesleyan QB Gernald Hawkins
JM: Colby RB Jabari Hurdle-Price

Nick: Mac’s pick in the fourth round looks promising. The Colby RB’s should have ample opportunities to put fantasy points on the board. Mark Riley seems to be Bates’ weapon, that may or may not work out for Carson as teams may stack Riley’s side. Adam went with a young Wesleyan QB in the fourth round, which could prove to be the pick of the draft. The Floridian knows what football is, but does he know how to play in the frozen tundras of the Coop. Gernald Hawkins could emerge as a big-time player this year. Lastly, Dan Barone is a solid pick as he should be a big contributor to Bowdoin’s offense at wide receiver.


JM: Middlebury WR Ryan Rizzo
AL: Colby WR Ryder Arsenault
CK: Middlebury RB Jonathan Hurvitz
ND: Amherst QB Alex Berluti

Joe: If you’ve read anything I’ve written about Middlebury this season, I’ve been hyping up Rizzo like you wouldn’t believe. Full disclosure, he’s a friend of mine, but he’s also a damn good football player. The caveat is that there are some other really good wideouts pushing him right now, and I could see Conrad Banky ’19 taking away some of his reps. But I think when the time comes, Rizzo will produce.


ND: Trinity TE Matt Hirshman
CK: Trinity WR Ian Dugger
AL: Tufts WR Mike Rando
JM: Tufts TE Nik Dean

Adam: Quickly getting into the part of the draft where we say, why not, I’ll take him. Hirshman didn’t have a catch last year so total trust pick. Carson also stays loyal to Trinity and makes a solid pick with Dugger. Then Joe and I go back to back with Tufts guys, two good picks. Nik Dean at tight end is a really good one for Joe because the NESCAC as a league does not tend to use tight ends in the passing game very often, and Dean should get consistent targets.


JM: Colby WR Mbasa Mayikana
AL: Bates Slotback Shaun Carroll
CK: Amherst TE Rob Thoma
ND: Wesleyan TE Ben Kurtz

Carson: I was confident in the team I had picked up to this point. Have a good group of receivers, two running backs I like, a QB, so I figured I needed a tight end. I wanted to take Hirshman since he’s a Bantam and is looking to have a big year, but DiBo had a stroke and forgot how to human, so I let him have him. Amherst is going to be good this year but they are inexperienced at QB. So why not throw quick passes to your TE? Also, I like Monty’s pick with Carroll. Could have a sneaky good year in Bates’s two slotback offense.


ND: Trin D/ST
CK: Amherst D/ST
AL: Amherst WR Jackson McGonagle
JM: Tufts QB Alex Snyder

Nick: I started off the eighth round with a flawless pick in the Trinity D/ST. The Bantams are on brink of another undefeated season, and if all goes well, the Trinity defense will be up to par. Trinity had a solid special teams last year, and Devanney welcomes in a true competitor in a freshman kicker. Carson followed in my footsteps, taking one of the other top defenses in the league. The Amherst defense is gritty and they are looking to repeat as undisputed NESCAC Champions. If all goes well for Amherst, this pick from CK will be the right one. Adam has a nice pick with Amherst wide reciever Jackson McGonagle, coming into his senior year he should be a threat, and we heard that he trained with a lot of D-I talent this summer – potential for consistent points there. Really uneasy about Joe’s pick here. Why go with a QB who is going to win one game this year!?!? Tufts QB Alex Snyder has seemed to grow exponentially since his freshman year, but I’d rather see Joe choose a winning QB.


JM: Hamilton RB LaShawn Ware
AL: Wesleyan K Ike Fuchs
CK: Wesleyan WR Neil O’Connor
ND: Williams RB Connor Harris

Joe: I like my pick better than the rest here. I actually think the Hamilton O can be middle of the pack, as Ware is a good runner, and whoever ends up starting for Hamilton – whether that’s Brandon Tobin or Chase Rosenberg – will be doing so because they had a promising camp. Either Rosenberg will have shown improvement, or Tobin will have come in and wrestled the starting job away. I do think Connor Harris could be a steal, though. He showed off his athleticism in the return game last season. Let’s see if that translates to the backfield now.


ND: Middlebury TE Trevor Miletich
CK: Trinity WR Nick Gaynor
AL: Williams TE Alex Way
JM: Trinity RB Ethan Suraci

Adam: The round started with Nick changing his pick from the Trinity freshman kicker who he couldn’t remember the name of to Middlebury’s tight end Trevor Miletich ’16. Ended up working out pretty nice for him. Then what felt like the 20th Trinity player came off the board. I grabbed my tight end in Alex Way, and then somehow Joe decided that it was necessary to take yet another Trinity player with his pick. Unless the Bantams score 100 points a game, some of these picks are going to look quite silly.


JM: Midd D/ST
AL: Tufts WR Ben Berey
CK: Middlebury K Charlie Gordon
ND: Trinity Kicker

Carson: I’m a big believer that kickers are the most underrated player on your fantasy team. A good kicker can get you an easy 10-12 points a week which can be huge in winning a matchup. I took Mason Crosby in the seventh round of my real life fantasy draft (which I’ve started out 0-2 so what do I know). Gordon should only have to worry about extra points for most of the year, or kicks from 30 yards or closer, so I’m optimistic he can get me quality points every week. Trinity Kicker is a funny name for a person but I trust Dibo knows what he’s doing.


ND: Middlebury RB Diego Meritus
CK: Middlebury QB Jared Lebowitz
AL: Hamilton WR Pat Donahue
JM: Bates QB Pat Dugan

Nick: Diego was my Middlebury RB pick out of the hat, but he is actually nasty after watching his highschool highlight film. Carson went with Middlebury’s hometown (sort of) hero. Jared Lebowitz is a big bodied sophomore QB who may not see the field due to Matt Milano, but I believe Lebowitz is up and coming. Backup QB’s are awkward picks, but in the 12th round he is a fine pick. Adam chose Pat Donahue. Joe went with the Bates senior which is a good pick to get a starting QB this late.


JM: Middlebury WR James Burke
AL: Colby RB Carl Lipani
CK: Bates Slotback Frank Williams
ND: Bowdoin QB Tim Drakeley

Joe: I think Burke is a steal here, and I actually had Banky on my mind but couldn’t pass up on Midd’s starting wideout opposite of Minno. Sure, maybe a bit of a homer pick, but I like Burke’s upside way more than anybody picked after him. Maybe Lipani will make me look like a fool, though, if he can seriusly cut into Hurdle-Price’s carries.


ND: Middlebury WR Tanner Contois
CK: Trinity QB Henry Foye
AL: Wes Defense/ST
JM: Amherst K Charlie Wall

Adam: Taking a Midd wide receiver late is never a bad pick since they throw the ball so often, even though Contois is pretty deep on the depth chart right now. I grabbed the Wesleyan Defense/ST, realizing my mistake of not grabbing one of Trinity, Middlebury, or Amherst too late. Wesleyan had a great defense a year ago, but that unit is almost entirely gone. I think that while the defense will take a step back, this will still be a good unit because of the talent on the roster and the coaching ability of the Wesleyan staff.

Making the Turn Home: The Weekend Preview 11/1

Two weeks of football are left to be played, and much is still to be decided. Like any good college football schedule, the NESCAC is backloaded with the best games at the end of the season. The Little Three and CBB both play the second of their three game series in what are sure to be highly contested games.

Yet the focus of the league is squarely on Hartford, Connecticut. It was not just that Trinity lost their first home game since 2001 last week, but also how they did so. The game was not close, and nobody could argue that Trinity was the better team. Trinity is hoping it was simply a one game blip that they can rebound from.

Three to Watch

 Wide Receiver Chris Ragone ’15 (Trinity): The battle between the front seven of Amherst and offensive line of Trinity is obviously going to be tantamount (more on it later), but don’t overlook the ability of Trinity to throw the ball. Henry Foye ’15 has shown himself to be a serviceable QB, but he requires time to set his feet and hit open receivers. Ian Dugger ’16 will draw Jaymie Spears ’16 on the majority of plays, and Foye will want to avoid Spears whenever possible. That makes Ragone so important if Trinity wants to keep Amherst off balance. The senior had limited production early on with most of it coming off of big plays, but in the last two weeks he has averaged five catches and 53 yards per game. Because he only stands 5’10”, Ragone relies on exquisite route running to create space for throws. Fooling the Amherst secondary is not easy, but keep an eye out for Trinity to take a shot or two deep with a double move from Ragone early.

Wide Receiver Dan Barone ’16 (Bowdoin): Lets continue the receiver theme with the number one target for Mac Caputi ’15. The junior has 30 receptions, three times the amount of any other Bowdoin player. He works mostly out of the slot where he is mismatch for linebackers. Since a 95 yard performance at Hamilton, two great secondaries in Trinity and Wesleyan slowed his production to only 33 yards per game. The Bates secondary is no slouch either, and Barone will have to work hard to find space in the middle of the field. Look for Caputi to target Barone especially on 3rd down plays. Establishing an early rhythm in the passing game is a must for a Bowdoin offense that could not move the ball against Wesleyan. Just like Trinity must do against Amherst, the Polar Bears will not be able to run the ball every time on first and second down.

Linebacker Chris Tamasi ’15 (Amherst): Tamasi was an absolute force on the field last Saturday. He had three sacks and two forced fumbles to go along with his nine total tackles. In the second quarter he had consecutive sacks to help put Tufts into 3rd and 38 from their own eight yard line. He now leads the NESCAC in tackles for loss with 11.5. Tamasi acts as an outside linebacker/defensive end most of the time. He makes up for his lack of height(5’11”) by out-leveraging larger offensive tackles. The Trinity offensive line is the biggest in the NESCAC, but that will not scare Tamasi. In fact, he is likely relishing the challenge in front of him and the rest of the Jeffs. Also, if you didn’t know, the senior is a member of the Allstate AFCA Good Works team for his community service efforts at Amherst.

The Picks

Game of the Week: Amherst (6-0) at Trinity (5-1)

In some ways Amherst is a better match-up for Trinity than Middlebury was last week. The Jeffs rely on a downhill running attack led by Nick Kelly ’17 and Max Lippe ’15 to make the throws when he needs to. Even more so than usual, this will be a game decided at the line of scrimmage. Both teams have similar mentalities as physical teams that do not try to fool you.

The best hope for Trinity is to keep the game very low scoring and have Kyle Pulek ’16 control field position. The Bantams are not built for overcoming leads in the second half and they can’t let the game get away from them like it did last week. They are going to try their hardest to control the clock by running ball with Chudi Iregbulem ’15. Even if he is 100%, running on Amherst is not an easy task. The Jeffs allow a NESCAC low 2.4 yards per carry.

Early in the year it appeared that Trinity had assembled a run game that nobody in the NESCAC would be able to slow down. They showed cracks first against Hamilton and then more visibly on the road at Bowdoin. Then Middlebury shut it down completely. Teams have felt comfortable loading the box and allowing their defensive lineman more freedom to try to get into gaps and make plays.

Earlier in the week we pointed out how the Trinity has seen their pass rush disintegrate in recent weeks.

The question of cause or effect might have confused some of you who thought, well yes of course it is a cause because sacks are bad for an offense! While that is obviously true, a sack also happens because circumstances help the defense to key on a pass. The stagnation of the running game influences everything Trinity tries to do. When they can’t move the ball, suddenly teams can send blitzes and cause confusion along the line.

And the Jeffs are a team that loves to wreck havoc behind the line scrimmage. Last week they had 12 tackles for loss in total with Tamasi and Max Lehrman ’15 combining for nine of them. The Amherst defense is not the most impressive physically, but they almost never miss an assignment.

On the other side of the ball, don’t expect any fireworks from Amherst. Max Lippe ’15 has done a lot of good things to stabilize the offense, but defenses don’t have to worry about a multitude of skill players running wild on them. Some of the Amherst sluggishness last week could be attributed to recovering from a body blow game. Amherst rose to the occasion on offense against Wesleyan, and they are likely to have a similar game this week.

The health of Iregbulem has obviously been a factor for the Bantams in recent weeks, but their problems go deeper than that. Though it seems shocking to think the Bantams could lose at home for two weeks in a row, The Jeffs have shown themselves to be the best team in the NESCAC.

Prediction: Amherst 20 over Trinity 10

Bates (2-4) at Bowdoin  (2-4): Game Prediction and writeup by Joe MacDonald. After their overtime victory last week, the Bobcats have a chance to clinch the CBB if they can figure out the Polar Bears. The Bates offense looked as balanced as it has all year as they grinded their way to 163 yards on the ground. How the two senior quarterbacks play will likely be the difference between two teams that have looked good in spurts but struggled overall. Mac Caputi ’15 struggled mightily against Wesleyan and was benched in favor of Tim Drakeley ’17 for a good portion of the game. Yet as he has before, the younger Caputi should return to the starting lineup again Saturday. Meanwhile, Matt Cannone ’15 has fought through injuries and should be healthy enough Saturday to make plays through the air and on the ground. That will be the difference in a close Bates victory.

Prediction: Bates 28 over Bowdoin 21

Wesleyan (5-1) at Williams (2-4): Before the season we were high on the possibility of Williams affirming their comeback season by beating Wesleyan at home and ending Wesleyan’s perfect season. We ranked it sixth in our ten biggest games of the year. The Ephs did take Middlebury to overtime just three weeks ago so the potential is there for a close game. Still, Jesse Warren ’15 and company will do enough on offense while the Wesleyan defense stifles the Williams offense. Both teams went into the season expecting to be run first teams, but at this point in the season have become stronger passing teams.

Prediction: Wesleyan 28 over Williams 17

Colby (1-5) at Tufts (3-3): How real is the magic in Medford? The Jumbos have a chance to get to 4-0 at home with Colby visiting. As we have said many a time, the Mules are better than that record indicates. They felt like they gave the game away against Bates in the final minutes. Gabe Harrington has to hit receivers when they are open instead of simply going for the deep ball. He went 13-38 (34%)  against Bates. The Tufts offense is just happy they don’t have to face Amherst after the Jeffs dismantled them. Jack Doll ’15 had to leave the Amherst game in the first quarter and his status is unclear for this week. The Jumbos need him in order to get to .500. No team has given us more trouble picking than Tufts, but we are going to go with our gut and say they do what appeared impossible. Tufts will go undefeated at home.

Prediction: Tufts 35 over Colby 28

Middlebury (4-2) at Hamilton (0-6): It is tempting to think this is a trap game for the Panthers coming off of their big win and having to travel to New York. We just don’t see Middlebury allowing themselves to get into a dogfight with a Hamilton team that has shown some friskiness but no results. The array of weapons at Matt Milano’s ’15 disposal is too much for Hamilton to slow down. Chase Rosenberg ’17 has averaged only 129 yards since his first game of the season. It will be a challenge for him to get even that amount against a Middlebury secondary that has come into its own as a unit. We said it was best to catch the Panthers early, and unfortunately for Hamilton, that is not the case.

Prediction: Middlebury 34 over Hamilton 13

Last Week: 3-2

Season Record: 24-6

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

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

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

Three to Watch

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

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

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

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

The Picks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Trinity 27 over Middlebury 21

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

Prediction: Amherst 31 over Tufts 21

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

Prediction: Wesleyan 31 over Bowdoin 17

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

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

Prediction: Colby 21 over Bates 20

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

Prediction: Williams 24 over Hamilton 14

Last Week: 4-1

Season Record: 21-4

Trinity Team Preview – The Bantams Try to Keep Streaking

Editor’s Note: This preview was co-written by Trinity seniors Carson Kenney ’15 and Sean Meekins ’15.

2013 Record: 6-2

Returning Starters: 16 (8 offense, 6 defense, 2 specialists)

Offensive Overview:

Losing the explosive trio of Evan Bunker ’14, Ben Crick ’14, and A.J. Jones ’14 to graduation will not make it easy on the Bantams offense this year; however they are very optimistic about avenging last season’s 6-2 record. There is a major QB battle that seems to have Henry Foye ’16 leading the pack. Hayden Jardine ’17, Ryan Murphy ’17, and highly touted recruit Spencer Aukamp ’18 are also in the QB mix for this season. Chudi Iregbulem ’15 and Jacob River ’15 are hoping to pick up where the dominant running back tandem of Crick and Bunker left off. Returning starters, Chris Ragone ’15 and Ian Dugger ’16, are going to be the main targets for Foye.

Michael Budness ’15 is going to be a key-returning factor for the Bantams offense. Budness will fill the roll as the wildcard in the offense because he is able to line up at many positions. Brendan Oliver ’15 will return at tight end hoping to also play a major part in the offense this season. The rest of the offense is going to need to step up this season to be the major contender in the NESCAC, but none will be more important then the always consistent offensive line. Tackles Matt Porter ’16 and Will Lynner ’16, guards Connor Flynn’16 and Connor Golden ‘15 and center Joe Magardino ’15 all return. The line has had major success in past years, and looks to continue it success behind captain Magardino. As long as the O-Line stays healthy the Bantams’ offense will have major success.

Defensive Overview:

With a lot of returners including four of the five top tacklers from last year, expect a big year for the Bantam defense. Linebackers Rob Gau ’15, Mike Weatherby ’14, Tom Symanzski ’15, and Frank Leyva ’16 , who missed a lot of the year last year due to injury, look to anchor a D that ranked third in the NESCAC last year in yards per game. Gau and Weatherby combined for 88 tackles last year (16 for a loss), and Symanski was an All-NESCAC linebacker. This year’s freshmen class of backers is also one of Trinity’s best in recent history. As for the secondary, Mike Mancini ’15 is back at free safety, and Brian Dones ’15 will try to lock down receivers at corner. Mancini totaled 48 tackles last year while Dones finished 11th in the nation with 1.8 passes defensed per game. Word out of camp is that sophomore Cornerback Yosa Nosamiefan ’17 is impressing people with his improvement over the summer. Look for him to see time at corner this year across from Dones. Safety Casey Tanner ’15 and Paul McCarthy ’16 will also help stabilize a Bantam secondary that looks to make big plays.

Up front defensively the Bantams will rely on DE Preston Kelly ’16, NT Kyle McGuire ’15, and DE Lyle Baker ’15. Baker had 27 tackles in the 2012 campaign before missing all of last year. His return along with Kelly and McGuire returning should give offenses around the league plenty of trouble establishing any sort of running game. Coming off a year where Trinity ranked sixth nationally in defensive pass efficiency, expect this veteran laden defense to help ease the pressure placed on the offense which is the biggest question mark for right now. If the defense is able to stay healthy, and the offense is able to limit turnovers and control the time of possession, look for the Bants to make a hard push for the NESCAC title.

Courtesy of Trinity Athletics
Courtesy of Trinity Athletics

Three Big Questions

1. Who will be the starting QB?

Junior Henry Foye is leading the pack up to this point, but it will be interesting to see how the season unfolds. Sophomores, Jardine and Murphy, are looking to be potential candidates behind Foye. Spencer Aukamp is going to have a major eye on him this year, as the New Jersey recruit is also looking to contend heavily for the QB battle. People are hyping up the QB battle due to Puzzo’s departure but Foye (who started 5 games last year, all of them wins) can flat out ball too.

2. Can the veteran linebackers continue to show consistent success?

Gau, Weatherby, Szymanski, and Leyva are all returning linebackers. These linebackers have had immense success in the past and hope to continue to anchor the consistently dominant Bantams’ defense. As long as everyone stays healthy the Bantams will be able to control NESCAC offenses.

3. Can offensive tackle Matt Porter stay healthy?

Porter is without question one of the best tackles in the conference. The question is, will he be able to stay on the field to protect Foye more often than not? He missed time last year due to a sprained knee that was suffered in the middle of the season and will play a very important role this season in anchoring an offensive line that is one of the league’s best. With an offense that lost playmakers, the O-Line will need to be tough up front and create holes early in the season to allow Rivers and Iregbulem to get their feet under them and get going. If Porter is able to stay on the field for the majority of the year, expect the running game to flourish.

Team MVP: It’s no question that Trinity will rely on their offensive line after losing starters at key positions, namely running back. Bunker and Crick were one of the greatest 1-2 punches at RB that the NESCAC has ever seen.  The receiving core is also experienced and will play a big part in Trinity’s success this year. However none of this is possible without the O-Line. Led by Porter, Magardino, Golden and  Flynn, the Bantams offense will be able to take off if the line continues their dominance in the trenches. The backs will be able to establish the running game which will in turn allow Foye to air it out, meaning good things for the Bants.

Biggest Game of the Year (Sean)

Oct. 25 against Middlebury.

Every game at home for the Bantams is a big game because of the 51 game winning streak, and Middlebury shocked the Bantams in Vermont last year in a controversial game that left the Bantams with a bad taste in their mouths. Not saying that game cost the Bantams their season, but in the short eight game sprint, they cannot afford another mishap leading into their last two major games. The Bantams need to be looking at Amherst in the following week of the season with a 6-0 record. That is why the October 25th game is so vital. The Bantams are playing a good Middlebury team, so they must make their presence known.

Biggest Game of the Year (Carson)

Nov. 1 against Amherst.

After losing to Amherst last year in somewhat dramatic fashion, the Bants are eager to get back on the field with the Lord Jeffs. In NESCAC football, every single game is incredibly important, however this will be the biggest game of the year. Aside from wanting revenge from last year, this game is also the last home game for Trinity of the year, which hopefully means the last chance to extend their winning streak at home. If the Bantam’s are still in contention for the title come November 1st, expect Hartford to be buzzing as Amherst makes the trip to the Coop.

Best Tweet of the Offseason: Not many NESCAC teams can claim they made SI. #NPITC

Trinity reloads instead of rebuilding, and despite the loss of stars from 2013, the Bantams will be right back in the thick of the title race.