Although we saw a relatively unsurprising series of results in this weekend’s games, there were certainly some important headlines and things to focus on as we move into the final third of the season. The only real excitement this week was that Amherst (5-1) topped Wesleyan (4-2) in an ugly game out at Amherst, but then again someone had to lose that game as we start to see the top teams in the league squaring off against each other. Hamilton squeaked out a 3-point victory over Colby at home, holding on to their unofficial title as “the best of the rest,” and now Trinity, Middlebury, and Amherst are the only remaining teams with championship hopes. And luckily for us, Middlebury and Trinity meet this Saturday in a de-facto league championship.
This one could just be called the O’Brien-Snyder duo, but I will give credit to Colby’s entire offense. Against Hamilton, QB Jack O’Brien ’20 did his best Matt Stafford impression, going 28-41 for 241 yards and 2 touchdowns, while throwing no interceptions, to ultimately still fall short 27-24. Colby entered the game with just 7 points as their previous season high, so finishing with 24 is clearly an upgrade no matter what the outcome. O’Brien’s favorite target was undoubtedly WR Mark Snyder ’18, whom he connected with 7 times for 99 yards and 2 TDs. Putting up 24 points is obviously a huge step forward for Colby’s offense, not only scoring more points, but allowing their defense to actually get a break on the sideline instead of having to come right back onto the field. Look for O’Brien and Snyder to continue to do damage as Colby gets into their CBB matchups against the much weaker Bates and Bowdoin squads.
There really was not much to highlight from the Bates-Middlebury matchup this weekend, as Middlebury did exactly what they expected to do, blowing out Bates 43-17. What was interesting about Middlebury’s offensive attack, however, was that 10 different receivers caught a pass of at least 5 yards, 7 receivers had at least 2 receptions, and 7 receivers had between 20 and 75 receiving yards. This is an incredible amount of balance in a receiving corps that leads the league in yards and touchdowns, with much thanks to QB Jared Lebowitz ’18. Despite a week 5 loss to Williams, Middlebury’s title hopes are still very much alive thanks to early season wins over Amherst and Wesleyan. This type of balance and depth will give Middlebury a chance to score a lot of points against an elite defense as Trinity comes to town for a big week 7 showdown.
I was hesitant to include this one, because I don’t feel that Amherst has done much to lose credibility despite a somewhat down year in 2016. Prior to the Wesleyan game, Amherst had not beaten a “top tier” team. They took care of Bates, Colby, Bowdoin, and Hamilton, but fell to Middlebury, keeping them in the middle of the conference. After grinding out a 21-17 against Wesleyan, they have certainly solidified their place amongst the top teams in the NESCAC, even while dealing with quarterback uncertainty all year.
Wesleyan’s Title Hopes
I know the same could be said for Williams this week too, but with all due respect to the Ephs, Wesleyan’s expectations for this season were a little bit higher. After losing week 1 to Middlebury, the Cardinals got hot, winning 4 in a row. Amherst had been struggling to find a consistent quarterback, and Wesleyan was just not able to capitalize. Lots of credit needs to go to the Amherst defense, who held Piccirillo and co. to just 197 yards of total offense. Piccirillo ’18 didn’t throw an interception and Wesleyan didn’t lose a fumble, which is why I am more inclined to say that Wesleyan simply could not get anything going on offense. With Dario Highsmith ’20 out, there was no rushing attack for Amherst to respect, so they could key in on the secondary. Wesleyan has no choice but to play the spoiler for the rest of the season, with intriguing matchups versus Williams and Trinity on the horizon.
Jared Lebowitz’s Health
Potentially the biggest story of the weekend is that Middlebury QB Jared Lebowitz ’18 left the game against Bates in the second quarter with what appeared to be some sort of ankle or knee injury. This is not meant to be a knock on the rest of Middlebury’s team, but it is no secret that their offense is contingent upon having Lebowitz’ under center. I don’t know the full extent or even much about the injury at all – it is possible that he was merely roughed up on a play against Bates, and with the game being so secure, the substitution was merely precautionary. I certainly hope this is the case, because like any other NESCAC fan, I’m eager to see how Middlebury’s offense stacks up against the mighty Trinity defense. Either way, this is worth keeping an eye on because even if Lebowitz plays next week, his performance could be limited.
QB: Gabe Harrington ’17* RB: Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17* WR: Ryder Arsenault ’17 WR: Alex Kramer ’17*
WR: Mark Snyder ’18 TE: Braden Wilson ’17 LT: Shane Normandeau ’19 LG: Will Julich ’17 C: Mike Roberts ’17* RG: Anthony Cappellino ’17* RT: Larry Patrizio ’17*
Defensive Starters(*Seven returning)
DE: Ben Hartford ’18 DT: Chris Marano ’17* DT: Sam Gomez ’18 DE: Henry Wallrapp ’17* OLB: Justin Lamere ’17* MLB: Sam Friedman ’19 OLB: Bryan Mcadams ’18* CB: Adam Balaban ’18* SS: Will Caffey ’19* FS: Ian Dickey ’18*
CB: Patrick Yale ’19*
Offensive MVP: Running Back Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17
Colby’s offense is led by 2015 First Team All-NESCAC running back, Jabari Hurdle-Price. Hurdle-Price had a monster year in 2015 leading the mules in rushing, receiving and returns on special teams. The only factor preventing Hurdle-Price from these numbers in 2016 is the left side of the offensive line, which remains a big question mark for Colby. With consistency on the offensive line for the Mules, expect Hurdle-Price to put up even bigger numbers than he did last season. It will be interesting to see how opposing defenses prepare for the ground attack against Colby, as they were able to find the end zone ten times on the ground and only two times in the air.
Defensive MVP: Safety/Linebacker Ian Dickey ’18
Ian Dickey had a breakout season in 2015 and was second on the team with forty-three tackles. With leading tackler, Stephen O’Grady graduated, the Mules will depend upon Dickey to make even bigger plays for them. Last season, Dickey anchored a secondary that consisted of two freshmen. Having a full season of experience under his belt expect Dickey to have a breakout year for Colby.
Biggest Surprise of Camp:Injury Bug nowhere to be found.
In 2015, Colby lost many valuable players throughout the season via injuries. Losing players to injury coupled with a lack of both depth and experience resulted in a 1-7 season which put them dead last in the NESCAC. This past Saturday, Colby had a joint practice with Bates, and arguably the biggest positive coming out of this is that there were no injuries. Coach Michaeles remains optimistic about his program and knows the capability they have if they remain healthy in 2016.
Biggest Game: Bowdoin at Colby, 12:30 PM November 12, Waterville, Maine (Maine’s Super Bowl)
Colby starts their 2016 season in a hectic fashion. Normally, opening at Williams would be a good thing, but Williams recently hired the former St. Lawrence head coach, Mark Raymond. Raymond is one of the better division three football coaches and is known for his success in turning St. Lawrence into a winning football program. This will not be an easy opener for the Mules. Things do not get easier for Colby as they play Middlebury, Wesleyan and then Amherst in weeks two, three and four.
Fast Forward to week eight: A home CBB rivalry finale against Bowdoin. This game does not only mean a lot to the Colby football program, but it is one of the most highly anticipated events in Maine. In 2015 both teams were 1-6 going into this game and Bowdoin ended up winning 35-13. Colby was unable to score until late in the 3rd which summed up their lack of offense the entire season. Having the home field advantage and experience in both the offense and defense, expect this week eight battle to go down to the wire.
I believe the saying goes: “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in the morning, Colby opponents take warning.”
Summary: Colby’s 1-7 season in 2015 was attributed to their inability to find the end zone. They were struck with the injury bug early on and were unable to adjust from there. In order to improve from their disappointing season, Colby will need more production and consistency from their offense as well as to remain healthy throughout. They have the talent to win some quality NESCAC football games, but they need their offense to produce. Although his 2015 numbers are discouraging, coach Michaeles has full faith in senior Gabe Harrington to lead the offense. Harrington had a solid season in 2014 and his performance will determine whether or not the Mules’ offense will succeed. Michaeles also has the option of junior Christian Sparacio who gained some experience in 2015 and will definitely compete for snaps. The one position that has been locked in since the end of 2015 is the starting running back position. Jabari Hurdle-Price looks to continue where he left off last season as he was arguably one of the best athletes in the NESCAC. Hurdle-Price was the only consistent spark in the Mules’ offense a year ago. Behind Hurdle-Price is running back Carl Lipani. Lipani provides Colby with plenty of depth at running back. A big asset for the Mules offense this season is the return of wide receiver Ryder Arsenault. Arsenault missed major time in 2015 due to injury and has been a consistent target for them in the past, leading the team in receptions in2014. Alex Kramer and Mark Snyder will look to compete for reps at wide receiver. Braden Wilson will be at tight end for the Mules after starting the final four games of last season. With improvements in the air attack, Colby could be a dangerous football team on offense.
On defensive, Colby will look to fill the void of leading tackler and captain Stephan O’Grady as well as All-NESCAC defensive end Ryan Ruiz and defensive tackle Harry Nicholas. Replacing the graduated O’Grady will be Sophomore Sam Friedman. As a Freshman in 2015, Friedman recorded nineteen tackles in six games. Additionally, the Mules will look towards senior Bryan McAdams and junior Justin Lamere to produce for them at linebacker. Senior Henry Wallrapp provides experience on the defensive line at strong side defensive end. Replacing Ruiz and Nicholas will be Gerry Nvule, Chris Marano, Sam Gomez and Ben Hartford. Colby’s secondary was filled with underclassmen in 2015. Ian Dickey started all eight games at safety as a sophomore and was second on the team in tackles behind O’Grady. The youngest part of their secondary was Will Caffey and Patrick Yale who started at both cornerback positions as freshmen. These three are locks for starting jobs this season but the other safety position is up for grabs. John Baron will be the place kicker and punter for the mules in 2016. Last season, Baron went four for five in field goal opportunities, including a thirty-seven yarder against Tufts. He was seven for eleven in extra point opportunities. With a more productive offense in 2016, Baron will have more opportunities to put points on the board for Colby.
If you missed Part One yesterday, here you go. Otherwise, read on.
Ranked seventh in passing yards per game, Tufts is one of the few teams that isn’t passing the ball more this season. QB Alex Snyder ’17 doesn’t have the completion percentage of his predecessor, Jack Doll ’15 (who completed 70 percent of his passes), but he’s averaging more passing yards per game (191.7 to Doll’s 186.5). Snyder’s advantage in this regard can be explained by the fact that the Jumbos are averaging more than 50 yards per game this season than they did the last. All things considered, their passing game isn’t seeing the volume it has in recent years. Considering Snyder’s 173 pass attempts thus far in 2015, Tufts offensive scheme is very unlike the one that encouraged QB John Dodds ’13 to throw the ball nearly 350 times in 2012. Averaging close to 13 receiving touchdowns over the previous four seasons, the Jumbos offense is on pace to fall short of that average this fall, having found the end zone through the air only six times through week six.
Instead, RB Chance Brady ’17 has become the pinnacle of the offense. Averaging 104.2 ground yards per game, Brady has rushed for nine touchdowns. Despite Tufts dynamic ground game, its receivers are still producing. WR Mike Rando ’17 leads the team in receiving with 28 receptions. Ben Berey ’17, while not reproducing at the same clip that he did last year (38 receptions, one TD), is contributing to Tufts’ pass production with 13 receptions for 166 yards and a touchdown. The Tufts passing game is clearly not the same threat that it has been in recent years, but it remains a large part of its offensive production. The Jumbos feel that the way to success in the NESCAC is predicated by running the ball first and foremost. They will retain the ability to throw the ball a lot, but the rushing game will become more and more important.
Verdict: Enduring. But not likely to increase in the near future.
Wesleyan is like Amherst in that its running game is just as valuable as its passing game. Through Week 6, the Cardinals are averaging basically the same amount of yards through the air and ground. QB Gernald Hawkins ’18 has averaged 157.0 passing yards per game but has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns. Unlike QB Jesse Warren ’15, who threw for 190 yards per game while firing 15 touchdowns, Hawkins’ arm is not what makes him a dangerous offensive weapon. Simply put, Warren wasn’t a threat on the ground; Hawkins is. He led the Cardinals in rushing through five weeks, until he was held out of most of the Bowdoin game because of health concerns.
Wesleyan’s running attack is paced by Jaylen Berry ’18, who has managed 59.5 yards per game and two touchdowns. WR Devon Carillo ’17 leads the team in touchdowns (five) and poses a significant threat as a productive pass-catcher (10 receptions). WR Mike Breuler ’16, who had only two receptions in 2014, has emerged as Hawkins’ top target. He has hauled in 29 receptions, making him the only player other than Carillo to break the double digit plateau. The ability of Hawkins and Mark Piccirillo ’19 to run the ball helps keep the defense honest and opens up the passing game, but the Cardinals are a team that ideally wants to be running the ball the majority of the time.
Verdict: Temporary. The Cardinals want to run the ball first and foremost.
Colby threw the ball nearly 300 times last fall, which accounted for over half of their plays. Through six weeks, the Mules have let the ball fly just 42.4 percent of the time. With an average of 150 passing yards per game, Colby is averaging fewer yards through the air than they have in three of their previous four seasons. QB Gabe Harrington ’17 has struggled to find consistency with his receivers, throwing for only one touchdown with nine interceptions. He is completing nearly 52.7 percent of his passes, but almost a fifth of them are short passes to RB Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17. Last season, WR Ryder Arsenault ’17 emerged as a leader of the WR core with 25 receptions for 263 yards and four touchdowns. As Arsenault has dealt with an injury that he sustained during Week 2 at Middlebury, Mark Snyder ’18 has stepped up in a big way. Snyder has been Harrington’s go-to guy in Colby’s passing attack, recording 25 receptions for 229 yards and a score. Colby has incorporated running backs into their passing game more this season, as Hurdle-Price is already converging on his receptions total from last year.
On the ground, the junior running back is averaging 101.8 yards per game while accounting for half of the Mules’ eight touchdowns. In 2014, 11 of the 17 touchdowns Colby scored were passing, but this year only one of the nine has been. Against Bates and Bowdoin, Colby should have better luck and improve their passing numbers. Even so, the passing offense has taken a step back from where it was, and it is unclear if a quality quarterback is on the roster right now.
Verdict: Temporary. This dip won’t last as they will get back to passing the ball.
I’ve heard it said that a rising tide lifts all ships. This fall, Bates is challenging that claim. After averaging only 116 passing yards per game over the past three seasons, Bates has thrown the ball with more efficiency at 130 yards per game, but the volume has essentially stayed the same. Bates has not topped 170 pass attempts in the last five seasons, and it’s unlikely that QB Patrick Dugan ’16 is going to change that this year. Dugan has attempted 122 passes thus far, which is similar to the pace QB Matt Cannone ’15 set last fall. When Dugan throws the ball in the air, it’s extremely likely that WR Mark Riley ’16 is going to be on the receiving end of the play. Riley has carried the receiving core with 33 receptions and 382 yards, which is nearly half of the team’s receiving yards.
Like Colby, Bates much prefers to run the ball, but the schemes the two teams run are of course very different. RB Ivan Reese ’17 has handled the bulk of the carries, and slot back Frank Williams ’18 has run the ball for an average of 40.7 yards per game and a team high three touchdowns. Seven of the team’s eleven scores have come on the ground, and the Reese/Williams combination has accounted for six of them. Obviously since Bates runs the triple option, they are not going to suddenly start airing it out.
Verdict: Enduring. The Bobcats are not about to start the throwing the ball more.
Teams throwing the ball more: Seven (All but Tufts, Colby, and Bates)
Number of teams throwing the ball more which are expected to continue doing so: Five (Trinity and Wesleyan are temporary in our minds)
Despite the graduation of two successful quarterbacks last season in Jack Doll and Jesse Warren, names like Sonny Puzzo and Reece Foy have filled the void. Multiple receivers have burst onto the scene in 2015 and quarterbacks are taking full advantage of big play opportunities through the air. Whereas only six receivers averaged over 50 yards per game last season, there are 14 topping that mark this fall. Only one NESCAC receiver, Mark Riley, managed over 70 receiving yards in 2014, with 71.5. That number has been topped by six receivers thus far, with Middlebury’s Matt Minno leading the group at 98.0
Teams’ receiving arsenals are becoming the focus on offense, and secondaries are being exploited like never before. Middlebury has long been the only NESCAC team worthy of high praise for its aerial attack, but 2015 has created a different narrative. An outlier in much of recent history, the Panthers passing game is being converged upon. Smash mouth football has receded as the norm in the NESCAC and more exciting offenses have emerged. This isn’t just a short-term uptick either. Yes, there are some younger secondaries that are being exploited, but the vast majority of QBs will be back next year. They will have another year of experience. New NESCAC coaches are more willing to throw the ball than their predecessors. Buckle up because this trend is not going to stop.
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.
Usual rank-man Nick DiBenedetto is on vacation this week (probably sipping mai tais in Cabo San Lucas … just kidding, he just had mid-terms), so I, Joe MacDonald, am taking over. So after today you can stop heckling me for ranks that aren’t even mine, and can start telling me how stupid I am while actually knowing what you’re talking about.
1. Amherst Lord Jeffs (4-0; Last Week: 2)
The LJ’s are the defending champs, 4-0, looking for their 16th straight win, and are better than the 2014 title team. That’s because besides having a great defense and a great rushing attack, Amherst actually has a passing threat this season. The Lord Jeffs have averaged 7.3 yards per pass attempt, third in the NESCAC, all thanks to Reece Foy ’18 (and some talented receivers and great blocking). They’re still a rush first team (953 yards on the ground, 5.3 YPC and 10 TDs, all 1st in the NESCAC), but the aerial threat is a scary new dimension.
2. Trinity Bantams (4-0; Last Week: 1)
Tufts be damned. No team gets through a season without a scare or two. The Bantams defense still looks great, and by the way, the Bants have the No. 2 scoring offense in the league. If anything, I’m a little concerned about the run game. Maybe that’s silly for a team averaging 4.4 yards per carry, but I think there will be a lot of pressure put on Max Chipouras ’19 as he develops into a feature back, and I worry about him wearing down and about how a first-year hangs in there when Trinity meets the big boys in Middlebury, Amherst and Wesleyan.
3. Middlebury Panthers (3-1; Last Week: 3)
Is that a running game I see? Yeah, it was only one game, but we all knew that Diego Meritus ’19 had the physical ability to do what he did to Williams. He’s really good with a head of steam. It’s just hard to get going when you’re taking handoffs standing still in the shotgun next to the QB. He’s also been effective in the screen game, so more of that is in order. But defensively, what’s going on with the rush defense? The Panthers have allowed 301, 100, 190 and 95 yards rushing so far, and that’s not with teams running out the clock against them. This was the 4th-best rush defense in the ‘CAC a year ago. Time to get it together.
4. Wesleyan Cardinals (3-1; Last Week: 4)
Now it gets interesting, but I’m giving Wesleyan the slightest of edges over Tufts. Wesleyan has just been there before. And, even without LaDarius Drew ’15, the run game is scary and multi-faceted. I know they’re young, but it’s a winning culture, and that appears to have carried over. At least, that’s how I choose to look at it, rather than a team that plays down or up to the level of its competition. Can they match Amherst’s level, though? We’ll find out tomorrow.
5. Tufts Jumbos (3-1; Last Week: 6)
Another team with a few questionable close calls, but an equally eye-opening close loss. Formerly a high-flying, pass-happy team with no defense, the Jumbos are actually relying on their D to carry the load. They’ve given up a lot of yards, but only 116.8 per game on the ground (4th-best) and have 12 takeaways (1st) and 14 sacks (T-1st). The defense stalled the Continentals’ offense in the OT period in Week 1 and then forced interception, fumble recover, 4th-and-out on Bates’ final three possessions in Week 2. This week the Jumbos try to prove they are in the top half to stay.
6. Williams Ephs (2-2; Last Week: 5)
Watch out for that cliff … sorry, guys, I couldn’t resist. I know what it feels like to be looking up at something that seems to be further than the moon, but for everyone between 6-10, competing for a NESCAC title is a fantasy right now. So it goes in the NESCAC where “parity” has not been the name of the game. However, the Ephs earn this spot by virtue of their Week 1 trouncing of the Polar Bears. Aside from that, they have a close win over Bates and two uninspiring performances against Trinity and Middlebury. What do they do well? Pass defense, having only allowed 201.3 YPG. Then again, Trinity and Middlebury had big leads and they’ve also played the triple-option Bobcats. Still, they’ve got some playmakers there, and they’ll be needed this week against Tufts.
7. Bates Bobcats (0-4; Last Week: 7)
Playing close games earns the ‘Cats some respect, but they’d really prefer a W. Some head-scratching calls have directly led to a couple L’s – plays that make one look like a genius when they go right. In any case, the’ve got to move the ball better. Thirty pass attempts from Pat Dugan ’16 a week ago seems confusing, until you realize that 20 of those came in the fourth quarter with the Bobcats down big. The fact is that they aren’t tricking teams with the triple-option anymore, and opponents have started to bottle up Mark Riley ’16, the league’s leading receiver a year ago. This could quickly get ugly if the offense doesn’t start rolling.
8. Bowdoin Polar Bears (1-3; Last Week: 10)
They have a W, which is better than can be said for the teams below them in the ranks, but I so nearly put them ninth, because I just don’t buy the supernova debut from Noah Nelson ’19. I’m happy for him, but nothing about his game or practice play in the preseason or first three weeks screamed ‘immediate star.’ With a really tough second start against Trinity this week, I expect to see Bowdoin drop a spot next week. But for now, they’re on a winning streak, and so we have them eighth.
9. Colby Mules (0-4; Last Week: 9)
Not much good going on in Maine right now. The defense is playing okay for Colby, and the D-line specifically has shown me some flashes of penetration. But seven interceptions from starting QB Gabe Harrington ’17 just isn’t getting it done. He’s not getting much help, though. Top target Mark Snyder ’18 provides a lot of size and good hands, but he’s not blowing away any DBs. They don’t even have a passing TD yet … hopefully the resurgence of Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17 starts opening up some throwing lanes.
10. Hamilton Continentals (0-10; Last Week: 10)
The Continentals have been competitive, so good times seem to be ahead. However, they’re not right around the corner. There’s far too much confusion at quarterback, and no rushing attack to speak of. After looking very respectable in the first two games, allowing 17 points to Tufts in regulation before surrendering a TD on the overtime drive and just 15 to points to Wesleyan, Trinity and Bowdoin have torn up the Continentals’ defense. There are some youngsters on the Hamilton defense making plays, which is encouraging, but there are still more questions than answers.
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):
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.
2. Wide Receiver Colin Brown ’16 (Williams):
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):
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):
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……….
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
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.