More than the Main Course: Weekend Preview 10/9


The Bantams hope to keep their sparkling record and scoreless streak alive. (Courtesy of Robert LeBel)
The Bantams hope to keep their sparkling record and scoreless streak alive. (Courtesy of Robert LeBel)

Amherst and Middlebury is the main attraction this weekend, and Joe broke that down in detail yesterday, but the other four games still offer plenty to chew on. Trinity and Wesleyan are heavy home favorites against Hamilton and Colby respectively, but those games are still important measuring sticks. Bowdoin has beaten Tufts five straight times, and it would certainly behoove the Polar Bears to extend that streak to six in order to get their first win of the year. Bates and Williams meet in Western Massachusetts as both teams are in need of a win.

Four to Watch

1. Defensive End Zach Thomas ’18 (Tufts):

Zach Thomas
Tufts Athletics

Last year Thomas saw the field mostly as a kicker filling in for the injured Willie Holmquist ’16, and he has played great through two games at DE after playing there sparingly in 2014. He had 2.5 sacks against Bates, two of which came on third down to end Bates’ drives. Bowdoin allowed six sacks last week (admittedly Amherst is a different animal than most), and Thomas will get plenty of chances to rush the QB if Tufts gets up early. Along with Shane Thomas ’17 (no relation), the sophomore is part of a young group who are emerging for Tufts as difference makers, something that the Jumbos have lacked for a long time.

Shane Thomas '17 (56) is emerging as a force, leading the Jumbos in tackles. (Courtesy of Josh Kuckens/Bates College)
LB Shane Thomas ’17 (56) is emerging as a force and nice complement to DE Zach, leading the Jumbos in tackles. (Courtesy of Josh Kuckens/Bates College)

2. Wide Receiver Colin Brown ’16 (Williams):

Colin Brown
Williams Athletics

Brown and fellow wide out Darrias Sime ’16 probably spent much of the week drooling at the tape of Jack Cooleen ’16 ripping up the Bates secondary. Brown is 6’5″, but he was shut down last week against Trinity. A year ago he had by far his best game of the season against Bates hauling in eight catches for 96 yards. The young Bates secondary has to figure some way of forcing Brown and Sime to be physical, not just when the ball is in the air but also at the line of scrimmage. Unfortunately, that lies outside of how Bates usually plays, meaning that Brown should get a lot of clean breaks off of the line. Once he gets moving, he is much more difficult to stop.

3. Running Back Nick Gaynor ’17 (Trinity):

Nick Gaynor
Trinity Athletics

Hats off to Gaynor who has transitioned to running back almost as smoothly as one could hope. Given the long history of Trinity backs, nobody expected the Bantams to have to turn to a wide receiver. He has answered the call averaging 4.5 yards per carry so far. He still retains some of his receiver instincts to cut outside and only try to run through arm tackles, but that is also playing to his strengths as a shifty runner. The one concern for Gaynor is his three fumbles so far. Those are the only turnovers that Trinity has had all year. Freshman Max Chipouras ’19 could take carries away from Gaynor as the year goes along, but for now Gaynor is the signature back for the Bantams.

4. Defensive Lineman Tyler Hudson ’19 (Hamilton):

Hamilton Athletics

The Continental defense has looked much better in 2015, and Hudson has been a stud for them already as a freshman. He was everywhere against Tufts with 4.5 TFLs, and he proved that it wasn’t a fluke against Wesleyan with a sack and pass batted down. His 5.5 TFL are the most in the league. Hudson is from Whitesboro, New York which is a 15-minute drive away from Hamilton. Coach Dave Murray is a longtime coach and recruiter in Central New York, and Hudson is exactly the type of football player that Murray is trying to convince to stay close to home. Already……….

Game Previews

Bowdoin (0-2) at Tufts (2-0): Medford, Massachusetts, 1:00 PM

These two met last year with the same records, and the result was Bowdoin’s first win of the year. The Jumbos have found a way to take that magic oil that helped them win all four home games on the road the first two weeks, eeking out an overtime win and a one-point win. They are still not a great football team, but they are coming close to good and that’s enough to beat the lower half of the league. Chance Brady ’17 might not play because of a concussion, but Dom Borelli ’19 has looked good as the backup running back so far.

Bowdoin has looked pretty listless in their first two games. QB Tim Drakeley ’17 has thrown the ball well, but the Polar Bears have been forced to get away from running the ball with Tyler Grant ’17 because they have fallen behind so quickly. The defense, especially that secondary, has to play better as a unit. Until Bowdoin wins a game, you have to pick against them.

Prediction: Tufts over Bowdoin 19-13

Hamilton (0-2) at Trinity (2-0): Hartford, Connecticut. 1:00 PM

The easy opening schedule for Trinity continues, though the Bantams beat Hamilton by just 12 points last year. That game was at Hamilton, and the Bantams don’t have to worry about a long bus ride this year. Sonny Puzzo ’18 is playing great, attacking the defense downfield and not making any mistakes.

Hamilton is going to struggle unless Trinity suddenly catches the turnover bug. They don’t have the athletes to match up with Trinity in the open field, and they can’t sell out against the run like they did against Wesleyan. Charles Ensley ’17 and Pat Donahoe ’16 are underrated receivers, but even they will have trouble against the Trinity secondary. The scoreless streak ends, but the Bantams still cruise.

Prediction: Trinity over Hamilton 28-6

Bates (0-2) at Williams (1-1): Williamstown, Massachusetts. 1:00 PM

QB Austin Lommen '16 and the Ephs could find no room to operate against the Bantams last weekend. (Courtesy of Robert LeBel)
QB Austin Lommen ’16 and the Ephs could find no room to operate against the Bantams last weekend. (Courtesy of Robert LeBel)

On the surface this is the same Williams team we saw last year: an easy win over Bowdoin before a shutout loss to Trinity. However, I think the Ephs have more going for them this year. Much of that rests on the shoulders of Austin Lommen ’16, and despite subpar statistics from him last week, I think he bounces back against Bates. Mark Pomella ’16 is there as a change of pace quarterback, but the Ephs will win or lose because of Lommen. The running game has not improved much, and the Ephs can be made one-dimensional. That might not be a terrible thing against Bates.

Williams’ biggest worry is that their young defense wilts against the triple option, though the Bobcats haven’t been very successful moving the ball so far this year. Shaun Carroll’s ’16 statistics are inflated by one 80-yard run, and the Bobcats have not sustained enough drives. After their tough loss last week, this game is a test of the Bobcats leadership and resilience. Bottom line for me is I see the Williams offense capitalizing at points a week after Trinity gave them chances to make plays and the Ephs failed every time.

Prediction: Williams 27 – Bates 20

Colby (0-2) at Wesleyan (1-1): Middletown, Connecticut. 1:00 PM

Colby has struggled to run the ball and is going up against a Wesleyan team that suffocates teams when they run. Gabe Harrington ’17 might throw the ball 30 times in this game, and he needs receivers like Ryder Arsenault ’17 to get open much more consistently than they have. Last week against Middlebury the only success that Colby had in the passing game was a few go-up-and-get-’ems from young wideout Mark Snyder ’18.

If Wesleyan’s talent is going to coalesce into a very good football team, this is the week for them to do it. A big victory would give the team a huge boost in confidence. Justin Sanchez ’17 has been relatively quiet, and tomorrow would be a great time for him to intercept Harrington once or twice. The front seven has already proven that it is up to snuff with Shayne Kaminski ’18 and Jordan Stone ’17 helping to lead the way. The Mules don’t have the horses (bad pun intended) to hang for four quarters.

Prediction: Wesleyan 30 – Colby 10

Flex Those Muscles: Stock Report 10/5

#11 Reece Foy '18 has been a revelation through two weeks for Amherst. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
#11 Reece Foy ’18 has been a revelation through two weeks for Amherst. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

When Amherst scored with 3:43 left in the first quarter to go up 24-0 against Bowdoin, the message was clear: the champions are still on top. They were simply on a different level than the Polar Bears. The Jeffs took their foot off the gas pedal and cruised to a 37-6 win. Elsewhere, Trinity went out and pitched their second consecutive shutout against Williams, and Middlebury cruised to a 28-9 victory against Colby. Combined the three won by a score of 89-15, and the scores could have been even more lopsided than that. Of the Fantastic Four of NESCAC football, only Wesleyan struggled as it took a late fourth quarter comeback to keep Hamilton in the winless column.

Nine out of the 10 games so far had the same result as last year (Middlebury beating Wesleyan is the only different result), and the results so far have mostly reinforced the idea that the league is built on two levels. Jumping up or down a level is possible (William’s descent has been coupled with Wesleyan’s and to a lesser extent Middlebury’s rise), but for the most part a team’s performance from year to year remains within that tier. The top of the bottom tier is occupied by Bates and Tufts, and the Jumbos win on Saturday affirmed their status as the team closest to making the jump from the bottom to the top tier – though they’ve win by slim margins in both weeks.

Stock Up

Wide Receiver Jack Cooleen ’16 (Tufts)

Cooleen’s statistics from 2014: 13 catches, 195 yards, two touchdowns
Cooleen’s statistics from Saturday: seven catches, 178 yards, two touchdowns

Tufts really only had one way of moving the ball on Saturday. That actually worked pretty well in the second half when Alex Snyder ’17 threw the ball up for grabs to the 6’5″ Cooleen. All 17 of Tufts’ points were a direct result of long balls to him. The two touchdowns came on 45- and 27-yard catches by Cooleen, and the game-winning field goal was set up by another 45-yard reception. Cooleen was beating mostly one-on-one coverage on the outside against much shorter defensive backs, and other teams have had success with being physical against him. That wasn’t the case on Saturday, and the Jumbos escaped with a win mostly because of his efforts. If he is able to sustain that threat of a deep jump ball, the Tufts offense suddenly adds a whole other dynamic to it.

Quarterback Reece Foy ’18 (Amherst)

Well, Amherst has found a quarterback, and that should scare every team in the NESCAC. The defining moment of the game against Bowdoin was when Foy was forced to step up on a pass play and took off to run. He quickly made it into the second level, and once he got going it was clear that he was faster than every Bowdoin defender. The play was a 90-yard run, and Foy finished with exactly 300 yards of total offense. Having thrown for 242 YPG, he is second in the NESCAC in that category. He is still not the most accurate quarterback, but as long as he can keep his completion percentage right around 60 percent (he is at 61.3 percent right now), he will be fine. Foy has the luxury of throwing to athletes like Jackson McGonagle ’16, too, who made a few acrobatic catches where he simply outmuscled Bowdoin defensive backs for the ball. The Amherst coaching staff has made it clear that they are sticking with Foy at QB, and he has given them no reason not to be happy with that decision.

Trinity Defense

Through two games, the Bantams haven’t allowed a point. You don’t need to have created your own sports website about NESCAC sports to know that that means they are pretty good. Their dominance goes even deeper than that. The Bantams have allowed only 167.5 YPG, the best in the NESCAC and 88 YPG less than second place Wesleyan. Their six takeaways through two games is also tops in the league. The scariest part of the defense is their youth: the top six tacklers are all underclassmen and three of them are freshman linebackers. Safety Spencer Donahue ’17 collected NESCAC Defensive Player of the Week honors, making him the second straight Bantam defensive back to win the award (Paul McCarthy ’16 won it last week). Williams had their chances as they got into Trinity territory on five different drives, but the Bantams made the plays in big moments. The play of the game came from McCarthy who wrestled a jump ball away from Darrias Sime ’16 in the end zone to keep Trinity up 14-0 at the beginning of the second half. The Trinity defense still has yet to face the best offenses in the league, but so far so good for the Bants.

This is just a really great photo we wanted you to see. (Courtesy of Josh Kuckens and Bates Athletics)
This is just a really great photo we wanted you to see. (Courtesy of Josh Kuckens and Bates Athletics)

Stock Down

Bates’ Decision Making

Bobcats faithful are still at a loss for how they let the game Saturday against Tufts get away from them. Bates was up 14-0 at halftime, and their young defense was playing well. The Jumbos stormed back, but after a Tufts safety made it 17-16, the Bobcats were in a position to win with a 4th and goal from the one-yard line with just under seven minutes to play. However, instead of taking the field goal and the lead, Coach Mark Harriman went for it and watched Ivan Reese ’17 fumble the ball into the end zone for a Tufts touchback. Harriman has been aggressive near the end of games before, but this decision was puzzling because it amounted to an extra point for kicker Grant DeWald ’18, who is 4-4 on the season on PATs. I can see the logic of Harriman wanting to go for it so close to the end zone – and in a sense it worked, since Reese had the first down – and thinking that even if they got stopped that Tufts was pinned deep. But, hindsight is 20-20, and in this case he should have trusted his kicker and defense.

Quarterback Gernald Hawkins ’18 (Wesleyan)

The Cardinals struggled to move the ball all day against a very game Hamilton defense, and their inability to throw the ball downfield was a big part of that. Hawkins was just 14-31 (45 percent) for 157 yards, and Coach Dan DiCenzo went to backup Mark Piccirillo ’19 for short spurts as well as leaning on Devon Carrillo ’16 to run the Wildcat offense. Hawkins did not look comfortable sitting in the pocket and tried to make plays with his legs without great success. He did have one rushing touchdown that was negated by a Wesleyan penalty. Quarterback Jesse Warren ’15 was at times under appreciated for his importance in the Wesleyan offense and ability to keep defenses honest. Hawkins threw the ball more than 20 times in the first half, and the Cardinals put too much pressure on him without trying to wear down the Hamilton defense. Wesleyan has two weeks to get their offense right before they face Amherst.

Kicking Game

Kicking is usually an adventure in the NESCAC, but this weekend was an unusually bad one. In the Colby-Middlebury game, Middlebury blocked a punt that led to a safety, and Colby blocked two extra points and a field goal by Middlebury. Colby’s John Baron’s ’18 first punt went -2 yards (not a typo), and in the second quarter he boomed a 79-yarder that rolled out at the one-inch line – one of the few kicking bright spots on the day, coupled with Pat Donahoe’s ’16 71-yarder to the two-yard line. Trinity had a bad snap on a punt lead to punter Kyle Pulek ’16 having to throw a pass out of desperation that led to a nine-yard loss. Hamilton missed a 32-yard field goal, and Wesleyan almost lost because their extra point was blocked after their first touchdown. The Tufts kicking game was off all day long with an eight and 14-yard punt, two botched snaps leading directly to nine Bates points, and a 22-yard missed field goal – this after kicker Willie Holmquist ’17 went 3-4 on FGs last week, including a game-winner in OT, to earn Special Teams POW honors.