Change is a Good Thing: Football Power Rankings Week 6

As the top half of the league spent the first half of this NESCAC season collectively pounding the state of Maine week after week, we were finally treated with a slate of games with legitimate championship implications, and it certainly lived up to the hype. With Trinity visiting Tufts and Middlebury welcoming Williams, as well as a pair of 0-4 teams in Hamilton and Bowdoin squaring off, Saturday was sure to make this rookie blogger’s Power Rankings debut a whole lot easier.

  1. Trinity
Dominque Seagears
Dominique Seagears ’18 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

There is one team in this conference that is undefeated and as long as that holds true, Trinity will remain at the top of these rankings. Max Chipouras ’18 logged a season high 165 rushing yards on 29 attempts and the Bantams defense was able to turn Tufts over 4 times, 3 of those being interceptions off of Ryan McDonald ’18. They once again had a new defensive MVP, this time in the form of defensive back Dominique Seagears ’18 whose 100 yard interception return for a touchdown surely flipped this game on its head. It’s hard to imagine Trinity sliding out of this spot after next week’s matchup at home against Bowdoin, but Middlebury the following weekend will be their biggest test to date.

2. Williams

What a week for the Ephs and again what a week for Bobby Maimaron ’21. Maimaron connected with classmate Frank Stola with 0 seconds left on the clock to stun previously undefeated Middlebury 27-26. Maimaron impressed again, racking up 288 total yards of offense and 3 TDs, earning his second consecutive NESCAC offensive player of the week honor. But I think the most impressive part about this Williams win was how they got it done. They were outgained 432-378, they didn’t force any turnovers on defense, and they found themselves down two scores with 9 minutes left in the game, but still managed a way to win. Despite the fact that Jared Lebowitz ’18 made perhaps his strongest case for being the best quarterback in the league and a continued recipient of compliments from this blog, it was once again the first year QB on the other side of the ball who shone the brightest, leading his team on a 12 play, 80 yard drive in just over two minutes to win what was the biggest game for Williams football in a long time. While Wesleyan and Amherst also sit at 4-1, it’s the Ephs who earn the top spot for one-loss teams with a resume that features a win on the road against a title contender in Middlebury and a single loss to undefeated Trinity in Hartford. Until Wesleyan and Amherst show that they can hang with the big boys, it’s Williams who will hold onto this spot. A lot of things need to fall their way for them to have a chance to win this thing, and while I don’t have the metrics in front of me, I would imagine that still having Tufts, Wesleyan, and Amherst remaining puts them towards the front of toughest remaining schedules, but there is no reason this team should have anything less than championship aspirations, especially after this week.

3. Middlebury

The Panthers were one play away from firmly planting themselves as the second horse in what looked as if could be a two horse race for the NESCAC, and this space would’ve been taken up with a discussion about 6-0 Middlebury vs. 6-0 Trinity in Week 7 after both teams steamroll Bates and Bowdoin respectively, but the defense couldn’t get a stop against Williams in the waning seconds on Saturday and instead find themselves amongst the rest of the one loss teams rooting for a Trinity loss (although aren’t we all rooting for a Trinity loss?). Unlike Amherst, whose loss against Middlebury a few weeks back raised as many questions about the actual quality of their team as much as it did their chances to get fitted for rings in November, this loss didn’t really do anything to make me feel that Middlebury can’t still sit atop the standings after 9 games. As I mentioned above, Middlebury still played great, Lebowitz ’18 was dynamite again, but Williams simply made more plays and won the game. This team is still a legitimate title contender, and although they can no longer go undefeated, their season was always going to boil down to Week 7 at Trinity. Win or lose against Williams, that was still going be the case. Beat the Bantams and they immediately become title favorites, lose to Trinity and start thinking about next year. This is still a very dangerous team.

4. Wesleyan

Wesleyan and Middlebury have the same record but Middlebury beat Wesleyan so they go ahead of them, nothing complicated about that. As much as it pains me to admit, I think this Wesleyan team is going to sneak up on someone in the next few weeks and be a serious spoiler in the title race. Yet the simple fact that I’m talking about a team that is tied for second as a potential spoiler and not a contender should tell you how much they’re flying under the radar. Their lone loss was a 30-27 Week 1 defeat to Middlebury in Middlebury, they beat Tufts at home, and they’ve taken care of their business against the bottom half of the league to find themselves at 4-1. Mark Piccirillo ’19 is probably the best player that no one is talking about, as his 388 passing yards against Bates kept him comfortably at the top of the passing charts, his 333.2 YPG first in the league. Piccirillo, however, also leads the league with 7 interceptions, and he is yet to have a game without one. If he can find a way to limit the turnovers, then this team is talented offensively to outscore any one team for 60 minutes. Mike Brueler ’18 has comfortably been the best WR in the league this year, running away with the gold medal for receptions and receiving yards, and still leading in touchdowns as well. If Piccirillo and Brueler bring their A game they can throw a wrench in someone’s title plans. While I don’t think they quite have it defensively this year to make a serious splash, I’m confident enough to know that they are going to play a crucial role in the outcome of this season.

Mark Piccirillo ’18 leads the league in passing yards per game with 332, and makes the Cardinals offense dangerous to anyone.

5. Amherst

This team gives me a headache. I simply don’t know what to make of them. They’ve scored no less than 31 points in a game all season, and they lead the league in scoring offense with 35.8 points per game. But these guys don’t seem to scare anybody this year. Maybe it’s because of the fact that there isn’t one guy on the offensive side of the ball that scares anybody. Jack Hickey ’19 leads the top rushing offense in the NESCAC, but only averages 79.4 yards a game as he is simply half of their two-pronged attack alongside Hasani Figueroa ’18. Maybe it’s because at this point in the year I don’t think there are a lot of people who have much hope for Reece Foy ’18 to return to the POY caliber player he was before his injury, and Ollie Eberth ’20’s name is not going to be one of the first to come up in a debate over who the best quarterback in the NESCAC is. Maybe it’s because they have 4 wins over the 4 worst teams in the league and lost to the only good team they played in Middlebury. Regardless of what it is, I don’t think there is a team in this league with more to prove than the Purple and White. Their four remaining opponents are a combined 16-4, with the “worst” of those teams being Tufts, and Ellis Oval is never a fun place to play. The matchup I’m most looking forward to this week is Wesleyan @ Amherst because I think it’s the matchup we will learn the most from. Amherst’s performance this week will be the strongest indicator yet of what kind team they’re shaping up to be, which is anywhere from a 4-5 team to an 8-1 team.

6. Tufts

Ahead of the Jumbos are 5 teams with better records, and below them are 4 teams with worse records, so slotting them in 6 was as easy as it gets this week. Tufts probably isn’t the 6th best team in this league, if I had to guess I think they’ll finish somewhere in the top 4, but as a product of some close games and outrageously lopsided scheduling to begin the season, this is where they stand. A loss to Wesleyan in Middletown in overtime, and a one possession loss to Trinity, a game in which they more than likely would’ve won if not for Dominque Seagears ’18’s 100 yard interception return for a touchdown, a play that turned what would’ve been a 14-7 score line in favor of Tufts into 13-7 the other way. But if we’re counting Williams’ 17-9 loss to Trinity as an impressive showing, then I suppose we have to feel this way about Tufts as well, who were able to put up more points on Trinity than any other team this year.

I know I sound like a broken record here, but this Tufts team’s deal isn’t different than any of the other teams chasing after the top. They have weapons on offense, and some guys on defense, but neither side is really dominant enough to put a scare in you. Ryan McDonald ’18 has proven his ability has a dual threat QB and Jack Dolan ’19 is as dangerous a big play threat as there is in the league, but they have yet to find a way to fill the Chance Brady sized hole in their ground game. McDonald carries for 76.4 yards a game, but it’s hard to really set the tone with a quarterback as your main rushing threat. Defensively, it seems like they have some talented guys, but it just hasn’t come together. The senior trio of monsters in Zach Thomas, Micah Adickes, and Doug Harrison all rank in the top 5 in the league in sacks, and the team itself is 1st with 21, but their ability to get to the quarterback hasn’t really amounted to much as they rank 5th in run defense and 6th against the pass. The Jumbos, like everybody else, have a remaining schedule that could go either way, as they are definitely capable of beating any of Williams, Amherst, Colby, and Middlebury. We will know a lot more about how good this team is after they visit Williams on Saturday.

7. Hamilton

Mitch Bierman
Mitch Bierman ’21 wins both the “Breakout Star of the Week” award and the “Looks Most Like Landry Clarke from FNL” Award. (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)

Someone had to win this game Hamilton-Bowdoin game and it was the Continentals who escaped from the pack of winless teams to go to 1-4. Kenny Gray ’20 continued his strong individual season going 20-34 for 240 yards and 3 TDs, but the real story on offense for Hamilton was the breakout game of first year running back Mitch Bierman who ran for a career high 158 yards on 22 carries, providing a balanced attack for their first win of the season. Although by all accounts it has been a disappointing season for Hamilton, they still have a really good chance to finish 3-6 and end the season on a high note. They have Colby and Bates at home, both matchups in which they are the better team, and then they travel to both Williams and Middlebury. I’m fairly confident in counting both of these games as losses, but if the Conts want to turn that into bulletin board material and maybe catch one of those two looking past them at other obstacles in their race to a title, then I’m sure that would also be a tremendous moment for them as a program, and Pete could hop right back on as the conductor of the “Hamilton is Good” train for the 2018 campaign.

8. Bates

As long as these three teams remain winless, which unfortunately looks like it might carry on for another week, the moral victory trophy is going to be handed out on a relative week by week basis. Colby got pasted at home by Amherst, Bowdoin lost to previously winless Hamilton at home, and Bates went to Wesleyan and scored 23 points in a loss, losing by the least. So they will occupy the highly coveted 8th spot for this week.

On a more serious football note, Bates did impress in their trip to Wesleyan. Their option attack showed signs of life as they logged 287 yards rushing. Brendan Costa ’21 had his best game as the Bates QB1 with 170 rushing yards, but most importantly didn’t turn the ball over once, a significant improvement from his 4 interceptions in Williamstown the week before. No one’s asking Costa to look like Cam Newton, but if they’re going to prioritize the run then they need to take better care of the ball in passing situations. The defense continues to get smoked, as they allowed 41 more points this week, which actually brings their average DOWN to 43.4 points allowed a week. I don’t have a spin zone for that, the defense is just downright bad, but the offense trended in the right direction this week. Their run of pain should come to an end after they host Middlebury this week (don’t get your hopes up folks), and we’ll see how they can finish up against Colby, Bowdoin, and Hamilton.

 9. Bowdoin

Nate Richam ’20 is hidden on an otherwise weak offense, but is one of the best running backs in the league.

Bowdoin lost to a previously winless team in Hamilton, and Colby got smoked by a quite decent team in Amherst, but the Polar Bears are going to occupy the 9 spot this week. I know I said that the moral victory trophy and 8th spot would be the decided on a relative week by week basis, but that’s not going to be the case at 9. Neither Bowdoin or Colby are any good, but Colby’s offense is so downright poor (5.4 points/184.2 yards a game), that it’s hard to justify putting them over anyone. We are at the point in the year for these bottom tier teams that you just have to find a couple of silver linings and focus on those. Nate Richam ’20 had some flashes of production, and first year quarterback Griff Stalcup ’21 played turnover free football. They are both obviously still young and hopefully can be two pillars to build on moving forward.

10. Colby

I really don’t have a whole to say here. Colby vs. the top offense in the NESCAC was always going to be ugly and Amherst didn’t disappoint, hanging 40 on the Mules. Just as Bates’ “holding” Wesleyan to 41 points lowered their points allowed average, Colby’s scoring 7 raised their offensive to a whopping 5.4 scored a game. This goes without saying but the biggest problem, among many, for this team is that they simply don’t have any weapons. Jake Schwern ’19 is both their leading rusher and their leading receiver, which is more of an indication that they have no one who can make plays downfield or a quarterback that can get it to them.

Luckily for Colby and Bowdoin, and Bates I guess, although my Maine sources tell me they are the third wheel in this whole Maine rivalry (just like Wesleyan in the Little Three even if they don’t realize it), is that they still have each other to look forward to, and any team with an archrival can tell you that having that game (or games) at the end of the season is like having your own championship or bowl game to play for. If Williams or Bowdoin went 1-7 last year but beat Amherst or Colby, respectively, in Week 8, it sure wouldn’t have felt like they went 1-7, and the same will go for these teams this year. They still have something to play for.

 

Something Exciting This Way Comes: Week Five Power Rankings

The NESCAC schedule this season seems to share a structure with the Alfred Hitchcock classic Vertigo. There is a first half that is somewhat formulaic and drags on forever, and then a second half that blows it all out of the water with incredible drama, despite some dull plot holes . The first half of the season featured good teams playing bad teams, and now the good teams play the good teams and the bad teams play the bad teams. This is obviously the time in which the championship will be decided, so let’s see where the teams stand heading into the “Judy” half of the season (watch the movie folks!)

Kim Novak is all the NESCAC teams at once.

1: Trinity

Until Trinity loses, they have earned the top spot in the rankings. They have the best running back in the league in Max Chipouras ‘18, the third best quarterback in the league in Sonny Puzzo ‘18 (dm us on Twitter, I can defend my claims,) and a defense that seems to have a new MVP every week. Recently, it has been the linebacking corps that has stepped up. The secondary has been impenetrable all year, giving up only 126 passing yards per game, a very impressive stat in the pass-heavy NESCAC. But the rush defense is rounding into shape. Linebackers Shane Libby ‘19 and Dago Picon-Roura ‘19 have stuffed rushing attacks to the tune of 98 rushing yards per game. And it’s a good thing they did, because Williams has a tremendously underrated rushing attack. Stopping Connor Harris ‘18 and freshman weapon Rashad Morrison ‘21 was the key to Trinity surviving a strong upset bid. The season is about to get interesting for the Bantams. They haven’t played any of the upper tier yet, which has contributed to their aura of invincibility. But with Tufts this weekend, that will change. That rush defense will again be tested by Ryan McDonald ‘20. And, through no fault of their own, they have a legitimate challenger in Middlebury, and their matchup with the Panthers in two weeks looms.

2: Middlebury

Speaking of the Panthers, they are starting to look as dominant on offense as Trinity does on defense (and pretty formidable on defense as well.) To continue my quest to compliment Jared Lebowitz ‘18 in every article, he has raised his level of play past even where it was last year. We wrote at the beginning of the season that the key to Middlebury’s title hopes would be taking care of the ball, and Lebowitz only has two interceptions this year after having five at this point last season. Additionally, in Wesleyan and Amherst, Middlebury has played two of the best defenses in the league. Lebowitz has not dominated those games. Against Amherst he only had 205 yards, and against Wesleyan he only completed 50% of his passes. But in those two games he has 6 touchdowns and no interceptions, and, lo and behold, Middlebury has won both games.

Lebowitz not turning the ball over has allowed Middlebury to win games in other ways. Jimmy Martinez ‘19 is a combination of Tyreek Hill and a Power Ranger in the return game. He’s so terrifying that teams would rather squib kicks than give him the chance to run them back. This gives Lebowitz the Panthers excellent starting field position. And the defense, after struggling against Wesleyan in the fourth quarter in Week One, has become one of the most explosive units in the league. They scored two touchdowns against Amherst, including one from LB Wesley Becton ‘18, who is quickly becoming a First Team candidate. The unit leads the league in interceptions, and have done it against elite competition, unlike Trinity.

3: Amherst

The Amherst Football redemption tour bus hit a pothole last weekend when they dropped a key home game to Middlebury. A win against the Panthers would have put them in a great position to at least split the league title; now they’ll need some help from the teams remaining. Defense was not the problem for the Mammoths against Middlebury. They held the vaunted Middlebury offense to just 287 yards, by far their lowest output of the season. And the three passing touchdowns that the Panthers produced were heavily aided by 3 Amherst interceptions. One of those came from starter Ollie Eberth ‘21, but two came from Reece Foy ‘18. Herein lies Amherst’s problem. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that Foy is not ready to be the player he was before his injury last off-season. Eberth is a great talent, but the prospect of beating Trinity with a first year QB is not a promising one. Amherst has the best rushing attack in the league, with Jack Hickey ‘19 and Hasani Figueroa ‘18 (189 yards combined against Middlebury.)Amherst should up both of their carries to make up for the inconsistencies at QB, but you can’t beat teams like Middlebury or Trinity without a well-rounded offense.

James O’ Regen ’20 is one of the biggest receivers in the league at 6’4″, and has been using that size to put up even bigger numbers.

4: Wesleyan

I really wanted to put the Cardinals ahead of Amherst here, but after the outcry against the Stock Report I thought better of it. The Cardinals offense continued to fly high last weekend against Colby, as did the remarkable season of QB Mark Piccirillo ‘18. He is tied with Lebowitz for the league lead in touchdowns and passing yards per game, and has one of the highest completion percentages in the country  at over 70%. He does have a propensity for interceptions (6 already on the year,) and that hurt them in their opening loss to Middlebury. Their rushing attack is coming together nicely as Dario Highsmith ‘20 continues to flash huge potential, and they might even be able to give him more carries and keep some pressure off of First Team Candidates Piccirillo and WR Mike Breuler ’18.

For Wesleyan, the fault is not in their stars, dear Brutus, but in their defense. The stats are solid (between third and fourth in the league in yards and points per game,) but they are not as dangerous as they were last season. The unit has only forced four turnovers on the season, the lowest of the top teams, and that includes none against Middlebury. That may seem like a bit of a nit-picky complaint against a unit that has only given up 15 points per game despite playing Middlebury and Tufts already, but it matters. They simply haven’t been as dangerous on defense as Middlebury and Trinity have, and that is why they’re just outside of the upper echelon.

5: Williams

Rashad Morrison ’21 is another weapon on a Williams offense that is getting scarier by the minute.

I know that Bates’ defense make every team they play look like me in online Madden (that is, unbeatable,) but Williams’ performance last week.was still impressive. They put up 590 yards of total offense, including 289 rushing yards, and 47 points, the second most in the league this year. Bobby Maimeron ‘21 continued his star turn in his freshman year, and Frank Stola ‘21 netted 172 and two touchdowns. The defense tallied four interceptions against the overmatched Bates offense. It was an all around domination that showed just how far Williams has come from being one of the worst teams in the league just last season. Something to watch for out of this game was the emergence of versatile weapon Rashad Morrison ‘21. After not playing in the first three games, the speedy receiver exploded for 85 yards and a touchdown on just five carries. Between him and Connor Harris ‘18, Williams has two explosive backfield options who can break games with their speed. The Ephs are very much here to stay, and have another chance to notch a huge upset this weekend in Middlebury. The Panthers should be very wary.

6: Tufts

Tufts has done nothing to deserve being dropped in the rankings. I’m just getting that out the way now before Rory and Sid text me and call me names. They suffered a tough loss to Wesleyan in Week Two, and since then have beaten up on lower tier teams, just like the teams above them on this list. Ryan McDonald ‘18 is the best dual-threat QB in the league, averaging over 90 rushing yards per game in addition to 220 passing yards. However, he is their entire offense. RB Dom Borelli ‘19 has struggled with injuries and inconsistency all year, and they lack an explosive playmaker outside of swiss army knife WR Jack Dolan ‘18. This is what separates them from the likes of Trinity, Middlebury and Wesleyan. They don’t have enough other weapons to win when they face a team that has the athleticism on defense to stop McDonald. Trinity, Middlebury, Wesleyan, Williams and Amherst all have that.

7: Hamilton

The Continentals have got to be a little frustrated, both in the schedulers and in themselves. For a couple years they’ve been amassing young talent, and it looked as if they, not Williams, would be the team to rise up out of the bottom tier and take on the big dogs. And after a close loss to Tufts in Week One, the “Hamilton is good now” train (on which I was the conductor) took off a little prematurely. Hamilton still hasn’t won a game yet this season, despite exciting young players such as QB Kenny Gray ’20 and WR Joe Schmidt ’20. However, they have also had to play all of those “big dogs” pretty immediately, and right in a row. Hamilton has played, in this order, Tufts, Amherst, Wesleyan and Trinity. So their record and anemic defensive and rushing statistics can be partially attributed to a young team playing very good teams early in the season. In the second half, they still have Middlebury, but they also finally play teams like Bates and Colby, whom they should beat. Look for Hamilton to grab some wins in the next couple weeks.

8: Bowdoin

Nate Richam
In his bio on the Bowdoin football website, Nate lists his favorite food as “linebackers,” which is awesome.

Here we are, the bottom tier. Bowdoin gets the “moral victory” trophy for being at the top of this group on the strength of their surprisingly solid rushing attack, led by Nate Richam ’20, who in his sophomore year is averaging 71 yards per game on five yards per carry. He doesn’t get a lot of red zone chances, as Bowdoin’s quarterback play has been less functional than the Trump White House and just as hard to watch. But in Richam, Bowdoin has the semblance of an identity, a power running team that works hard for every possession. They also have played a very difficult schedule thus far, and should use the second half to work on this identity.

9: Colby

These bottom two teams are both here for opposite, and historically bad reasons. For Colby, it is their offense. They don’t seem to have one. Colby has only scored 20 points all season, for an average of five per game. They only have 786 total yards, or to phrase it differently, nearly five hundred fewer than Jared Lebowitz has on his own. These numbers are bad no matter who they’ve played, and doesn’t bode well for even the easier games in the second half.

10: Bates

Three out of the five highest scoring games this season have come against the Bobcats. The Bobcats just gave up 590 yards to Williams, which is the equivalent of giving up 985 yards to Trinity. Bates recently gave up 75 yards on the ground and a touchdown to the dog from Air Bud, who died several years ago (sorry.) Bates’ defense hasn’t gotten much help from the offense, which has ten turnovers. I do like the direction Bates is trending in, as they have entirely given their season over to building up young QBs Matt Golden ’20 and Brendan Costa ’21. This second half should be about auditioning those two for the QB of the future role. Bates has no hope of winning any games this year if their defense doesn’t approach mediocrity real soon.

The Best of the Rest: Week Four Football Weekend Preview

The marquee game of the season thus far is in Amherst, as Middlebury travels to the Mammoths in a game that starts the process of deciding the league champion. Amherst and Middlebury are the two teams with the best chance of supplanting Trinity, but staying undefeated will be crucial in that noble quest. Check out Colby’s breakdown of that game here.  Other than that game this week is pretty pedestrian, with mostly lower tier teams taking on better opponents. It will be interesting to see if Williams can build off their performance against Trinity last weekend, or if they are let down after a tough loss. And Trinity is worth watching as well, to see if their offense can rebound against a Hamilton team that can be sneaky-dangerous (ask Tufts.)

Colby (0-3) @ Wesleyan (2-1), 1:00 PM, Middletown, CT

As their Twitter page is very fond of pointing out, Wesleyan has one of the most potent passing offenses in the country thus far. However, they are not built to be a high volume aerial attack like, say, Middlebury is. Mark Piccirillo ‘18 doesn’t have the bevy of receiving weapons that Lebowitz does, nor is he as deadly accurate, as shown by his two picks against Hamilton. This is why it was so encouraging to see the Cardinal rushing attack get going in a big way against the Continentals. Sophomore Dario Highsmith ‘20 had the breakout game we’ve been waiting for, rushing for 95 yards and two touchdowns on just 15 carries. Wesleyan is at their best when their offense is multi-faceted, and after a one-dimensional first three weeks, they’re finally figuring it out. Look for them to continue to establish the run in a mismatch against Colby.

Dario Highsmith ’20 might be making a star turn before our very eyes.

Speaking of the Mules, their offense has continued to be anemic, putting too much pressure on an actually fairly good defense. QB Jack O’ Brian ‘21 has not thrown a pick since becoming the starter, but he also has completed just around 50% of his passes and really struggles throwing it downfield. The passing game can’t keep the ball on the field well enough to run it with Jake Schwern ’19, an underrated back who is averaging 4.5 yards per carry. Colby will try to run the ball on the Cardinals, but they really need to get some sort of threatening passing attack going. Unfortunately, Wesleyan is not a team offenses get “well” against.

Predicted Score: Wesleyan 31, Colby 9

Bates (0-3) @ Williams (2-1), 1:00 PM, Williamstown, MA

At the beginning of the season, we would have thought this game would be close, as these two teams would be battling it out for the “Best of the Rest” spot that we’ve written about in the past. But with Williams’ shocking improvement and Bates’ equally shocking struggles, it now looks like it could be a blowout. But, it also might not be. This is a very important game for both teams. Williams has impressed the league with their terrific defensive performance against Trinity. They had two sacks, a category in which they sit a second in the league, and nine tackles for loss in a pressure-filled performance that helped hold Max Chipouras ’19 to his worst performance on the season (just 2.8 yards per carry.) Unfortunately for them, Trinity’s defense was just as good, forcing the young Williams offense into four turnovers. Williams brought a lot of passion in that game, and they can’t afford to take a break against the Bobcats if they want to keep a legit chance at finishing in the top four (which I think they have.) The offense should rebound against a porous Bates defense, but the youth factor might make it harder to come back from a frustrating loss last weekend

Brendan Costa
Brendan Costa ’21 is the latest on the carousel of Bates starting QB’s.

Luckily for the Williams offense, Bates has made pretty much every team they play look like the ‘07 Patriots. To be fair, they have played three of the best offenses in the league (Trinity, Amherst and Tufts.) And also to be fair, their own offense has struggled so much that their defense can’t get a break. The Bobcats are on their their third QB of the year in Brendan Costa ‘21, and he looked impressive on the ground against Tufts (91 yards and a TD.) But he still completed only 42% of his passes. Even if Williams’ offense isn’t as dominant as the others Bates has faced, their defense should be enough to get them the win.

Predicted Score: Williams 24, Bates 10

Hamilton (0-3) @ Trinity (3-0), 1:00 PM, Hartford, CT

Trinity had some weaknesses exposed last weekend against Williams, namely on the offensive line and in the receiving game. Sonny Puzzo ‘18 and Max Chipouras ‘19 might be the best at their positions in the league, but Trinity doesn’t have a stud receiver. Koby Schafer ’20 is a great player, but he’d be better suited as a second option behind a Mike Breuler ’18 or a Conrado Banky ’19. This puts more pressure on Puzzo to make perfect throws, and on Chipouras to set up the offense in good spots. Therefore, if either of them are struggling, Trinity’s offense can sputter. And the way to make them struggle is to pack the box and stop Chipouras. Williams did that very effectively until a fourth quarter turnover gave the Bantams excellent field position. That’s when Puzzo ended the game with a TD strike to Schafer, keeping Trinity from suffering a huge upset. Also, it should be noted that Trinity’s defense still looked impenetrable despite finally giving up points. They dominated the Ephs inexperienced attack, with LB and Player of the Week Carty Campbell ’18 returning an interception 34 yards. They should to the same to Hamilton.

Hamilton has definitely seen the game plan that Williams used to limit Trinity. However, they probably do not have the personnel to repeat it. They have two solid linebackers in Cole Burchill ’19 and Tyler Hudson ’19, but neither of them are intimidating backfield presence, preferring to work in the secondary. And their D-Line has been roasted all season to the tune of 204 rushing yards per game (!!) Add in another inexperienced offense (despite a bevy of weapons that might make Puzzo fairly jealous) and Trinity should get back on their blowout grind this week.

Predicted Score: Trinity 42, Hamilton 6

Bowdoin (0-3) @ Tufts (2-1), 1:30 PM, Medford, MA

One of the most versatile offenses in the league takes on the worst defense in the league. Not exactly a recipe for a tight game. Tufts can beat you in a lot of different ways on the offensive end, but they all start with QB Ryan McDonald ‘19. McDonald has had a couple huge passing games (and one very bad one against Wesleyan,) and has six touchdowns and two interceptions on the year. But his greatest weapons is his legs. He has 295 yards and two touchdowns on 5.1 yards per carry. He does have an unfortunate fumbling habit (3 on the year) but he is undoubtedly one of the deadliest offensive forces in the league, and has been chiefly responsible for Tufts’s offense thriving even without Chance Brady.

Ryan McDonald ’19 is the key to Tufts’ offense.

Bowdoin’s defense is allowing an incomprehensible 477 yards per game this season. They seem to have found some modicum of consistency at QB in Griff Stalcup ‘21, but they simply cannot stay in games long enough for him to really get into a rhythm. If they could find some way to disrupt McDonald’s throwing, Tufts RB Dom Borelli ‘19 is battling an injury and may not play, limiting their rushing attack. They could play contain on McDonald and force him to make downfield throws. However, I don’t see their secondary being good enough to stop those throws even if they do that.

Predicted Score: Tufts 40, Bowdoin 10

Wake Me Up, When September Ends: Football Weekend Preview 9/29

This week features a slate of games that can be charitably described as “uneven.” That’s a nice way of saying that it features games where the better teams in the league play the worse teams in the league. And having learned our lesson last week picking Hamilton over Amherst, we’re not seeing any magic happening here. But there is good news. With these lopsided games happening earlier in the season, the end of the year should feature more games between strong teams. But we can’t get there without going here first.

Tufts (1-1) @ Bates (0-2), Lewiston, ME, 1:00 PM

The Jumbos have been the team to watch if you’re looking for close games this season. This has been mostly due to their strong schedule (an improved Hamilton team in Week One and then Wesleyan last week) but has also been due to their inability to close out games. Their defense allowed Hamilton to continuously tie up the game before the offense won it in OT, and then QB Ryan McDonald turned the ball over twice to help along Wesleyan’s comeback. Indeed, without multi-purpose weapon Jack Dolan ‘19, who had an 85 yard punt return touchdown to keep Tufts in it, the game wouldn’t even have been close. Tufts is in need of a blowout after two hard fought games, but that won’t happen if they don’t execute. This is a golden chance for the Jumbos to get things fully in order for a championship run.

Tufts’ defense is rounding into shape, but to beat Trinity (the ultimate goal for any NESCAC team) they have to get even better.

Bates, on the other hand, isn’t in a position to have a preferred kind of win. They have had a very difficult start to the season, highlighted by a 51-0 drubbing at the hands of Trinity that wasn’t even that close. Obviously not much has gone right for Bates this season, but offense has been the biggest issue. QB Sandy Plashkes ‘18 has been benched for Matt Golden, signifying that Bates is ready to go in a new direction. Left to their own devices, Bates would want to be a run-based offense, and when they’ve gotten to that style it has been successful. Peter Boyer and Kyle Flaherty have run the ball with authority, combining for 73 yards a game. But with no consistent QB play, the offense can’t stay on the field long enough to give them a chance to score. Tufts’ defense is still coming together, so Bates has the potential to improve a bit this game. At this point, that should be their goal.

Projected Score: Tufts 31, Bates 10

Wesleyan (1-1) @ Hamilton (0-2), Clinton, NY, 1:00 PM

After an inspired performance in Week One, Hamilton fell back to Earth in a big way last weekend, making several trigger happy “experts” (namely Colby and I) look pretty foolish in the process. Amherst smoked Hamilton 36-6, and while the dynamic Kenny Gray-Joe Schmidt duo ended up with respectable totals (245 yards, one TD for Gray, 54 yards for Schmidt,) most of that was in garbage time. Even so, it was Hamilton’s run defense that looked worst against the Mammoths. Amherst tallied over 250 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. Of course, Amherst has arguably the best ground game in the league, but if Hamilton wants to play with the big boys they have to be ready for that.

Mike Breuler
Mike Breuler ’18 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

Wesleyan had a run-heavy identity last season, but haven’t been able to get to it this year. This is partially due to the graduation of Gerald Hawkins and Devin Carillo, but it is also because they have gotten down big early in both of their games. This has called QB Mark Piccirillo ‘18 into action, as he has thrown the Cardinals back into both of their games. The Cardinals have a strong and experienced offensive line, as evidenced by Piccirillo’s success in finding Mike Breuler ‘18 deep. They could run behind that line as well, if sophomore Dario Highsmith ‘20 gets more carries. He should in this game, as Hamilton doesn’t have an answer for Breuler (no one does.) Expect the Cardinals to get up early this time, but it may just tighten up at the end if Gray can get going.

Predicted Score: Wesleyan 24, Hamilton 14

Colby (0-2) @ Middlebury (2-0), Middlebury, 1:00 PM

The almighty Schedulers have rewarded Middlebury’s difficult Week One matchup with Wesleyan with back to back games against Bowdoin and Colby. The Panthers absolutely smacked Bowdoin in Week Two, with Jared Lebowitz ‘18 putting up one of the most efficient games of his storied career. Lebowitz wen 20-26 for over 300 yards and four touchdowns, with no turnovers. That last stat is the most important one for him, as the only blemish on his sterling resume is a tendency to give up the football when under pressure. But the Panther O-Line, led by junior stud Andrew Rogan ‘19, gets better every week, and Lebowitz has reaped the rewards. He has also seamlessly worked in a large group of new receivers, who have filled in admirably as we wait for Conrado Banky’s explosion. All four of his touchdown throws were to different receivers last week, including new names like Maxim Bochman ‘20 and Jimmy Connell ‘21. Add in the emergence of Matt Cardew ‘20 as a solid running back option, and the Panthers look like the best offense in the league, maybe even including Trinity.

Colby, like Bates, has had a potentially dangerous running game squelched by inconsistency at quarterback. Jake Schwern ‘19 has run very well at times for the Mules, averaging 73 yards per game on 4.6 yards per carry. But he hasn’t gotten into the end zone yet, as Colby simply can’t sustain long drives. Pre-season starting QB Christian Sparacio ‘18 has been replaced by sophomore Jack O’Brian ‘20, who looked okay last week against Williams. Colby scored their first points of the year in that game. Unfortunately, Middlebury’s offense is firing right now, so any improvement on Colby’s end will probably fall flat, as Middlebury should dominate time of possession (as well as every other stat.)

Predicted Score: Middlebury 45, Colby 0

Bowdoin (0-2) @ Amherst (2-0), Amherst, MA, 1:00 PM

Another probable blowout this week features the Polar Bears traveling to Amherst to take on the Mammoths. As you’ve gathered from the earlier games, these two teams enter the game on vastly different trajectories. Amherst comes off a terrific 36-6 drubbing of Hamilton in which their running game and defense looked unbeatable. However, there is a question hanging over the game for the Mammoths; who is the quarterback. They got Reece Foy ‘18 back in Week Two after he missed the entire 2016 season with an injury. And Foy made an impact, rushing for a seven yard score. This is a good sign, as the thing that made him a POY candidate before the injury was his dual threat ability. But his backup Ollie Eberth ‘20 has filled in admirably in his absence, completing 64% of his passes with four touchdowns. Eberth is the QB of the future, and it makes sense to give him work in mismatches like this, but when Amherst meets the other title contenders, they will lick their chops at facing such an inexperienced QB (particularly one named “Ollie.”) I would think as soon as Foy is ready, he gets the ball back. But we’ll have to wait till Saturday to see.

Bowdoin also has quarterback issues, but their defense and running game aren’t good enough to make up for them. After only completing 42.9% of his passes, Noah Nelson ‘18 was replaced by Griff Stalcup ‘21, who has fared slightly better (54%.) They have also shown a strong offensive line and running attack, averaging 152.5 yards per game, good for fourth in the league. They have also scored all four times they’ve been in the red zone. These are stats that point towards an offense that has potential to control the game through posession if the defense could get a stop. Which so far, they haven’t. The Polar Bears allow 480 yards per game and 35 points, which doesn’t give a rush heavy offense much of a chance. Amherst has QB questions, but they simply beat Bowdoin at their own game.

Predicted Score: Amherst 27, Bowdoin 10

GAME OF THE WEEK: Williams (2-0) @ Trinity (2-0), Hartford, CT, 1:30 PM

At the beginning of the season, Williams versus Trinity did not have the ring of a Game of the Week. And frankly, to me it still somewhat doesn’t. To spoil my prediction, I don’t see a fairy tale ending for this game, but the very fact that we can discuss Williams in the same breath as Trinity like this is a tremendous achievement of which the whole Williams organization should be proud. And furthermore, Williams might not be the shark bait that other teams have been for Trinity so far this year.

Trinity ran and threw all over Bates last weekend, and is looking to do the same to Williams.

Most NESCAC fans know where Trinity is heading into this game.They have outscored their opponents (Colby and Bates) 86-0 this season, outgained them 901-374 and also, oh yeah, haven’t allowed a point all season. Sonny Puzzo ‘18 and Max Chipouras ‘19 have been as good as expected, but receiver Koby Schofer ‘20 has been a revelation thus far. He’s averaged 85 yards per game, and has stepped in very well for a team that lost several receiving weapons in the offseason. Defensively, Trinity doesn’t have any standouts statistically, but honestly this is mostly because they haven’t had to play in the fourth quarter yet this season. The whole unit has destroyed offensive lines so far this season, and has given the offense ample scoring chances with great field position. Long story short, Trinity is good.

Connor Harris
Connor Harris ’18 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

But, potentially, so is Williams? Earlier this week we leveled the crticism at the Ephs that they have played two lower caliber teams (Bowdoin and Colby) in the first two weeks, and so therfore their fast start is slightly exaggerated. But as several enterprising readers pointed out, that is unfair for two reasons. Firstly, Williams was supposed to BE one of those teams, so beating them handily is still impressive. And secondly, Trinity has also played weak teams thus far. This is not to say that Trinity isn’t as good as they look, but rather that Williams is as good as they appear. They have legitimate weapons in the passing game, thanks largely to a fantastic first year class. QB Bobby Maimeron ‘21 and WR’s Frank Stola ‘21 and Justin Nelson ‘21 have given the Ephs the all important vertical threat in the run-n’-gun NESCAC. But their offense is multidimensional. Senior back Connor Harris ‘18 has been one of the most underrated players so far this season. Harris has 162 yards in two games on 5.6 yards per carry, as well as two touchdowns. Harris is crucial to the WIlliams offense, as he provides a dynamic threat on the ground and opens up play action routes for Maimeron.

Jameson DeMarco
Jameson DeMarco ’18 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

And furthermore, despite all of these offensive weapons, Williamsgreatest asset this year has been defensive; their dominant pass rush. Williams has the most sacks in the league, 10, thanks largely to Jameson DeMarco ‘19, who leads the league with 3.5. So to recap, Williams has a good offense and dominant defense that has been untested against upper level teams. Just like Trinity. Hmmm….

Of course, I jest. Trinity will win this game handily. But there will be nothing better for all of thse young Ephs than a test against one of the best teams NESCAC has seen this decade. Williams is playing for next year, and it’s serving them very well this year. Watch out for the Ephs, not in this game, but down the line.

Predicted Score: Trinity 31, Williams 20

The Rich Get Richer: Week Two Stock Report

This was not the greatest week for NESCAC parity. There was only one game that was ever in doubt, the Wesleyan-Tufts classic, and all the other games featured elite teams beating up on the lower tier like Godzilla on Tokyo. But what there were this week were several incredible performances. Jared Lebowtiz ‘18 (20-26, 316 yards, 4 touchdowns) continued his incredible start, Jack Hickey ‘19 of Amherst (113 yards, 2 touchdowns) had a very effective game out of the backfield, and the entire Trinity team looked like the Monstars in Space Jam against Bates, winning 51-0. So there wasn’t a lot of excitement, but there were still several compelling threads to trace through Week Two. Here are some of them.

Stock Up

Wesleyan QB Mark Piccirillo ‘18

Mark Piccirillo
Mark Piccirillo ’19 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

At the beginning of the season, the First Team QB spot (and probably Offensive Player of the Year as well) looked to be a two man race between Jared Lebowitz ‘18 of Middlebury and Sonny Puzzo ‘18 of Trinity. And those two have certainly done nothing to take themselves out of that discussion; indeed, they both threw four touchdown passes. But by leading comebacks against high level opponents in the first two weeks, Piccirillo has catapulted himself right into that conversation. After throwing for 432 yards (4 touchdowns) and nearly leading a miraculous comeback against Middlebury, he followed it up with 279 yards and 3 touchdowns against Tufts in the biggest game of the year thus far. And furthermore, he did his best Tom Brady impression against the Jumbos, leading a game-tying drive late in the fourth quarter, and a game winning drive in overtime. He accounted for 345 of their 385 total yards in one of the most impressive performances of the young season. Quarterback play this season is at its highest level in years, and Piccirillo is a large part of that.

Trinity’s Streak(s)

As we all know, the Bantams are currently on a 13 game winning streak spanning over the last two years. But this season has spawned another streak for Trinity, one that is even more impressive. Trinity is currently on an eight quarter scoreless streak. Put more simply, they have not allowed a point yet this year. For all you non-football fans, that’s pretty good. And although Trinity hasn’t played the elite in the league yet, they didn’t have a shutout for all of last season despite being 8-0, signifying an improvement in their already-excellent defense. It has been a true team effort for the Bantams. They don’t have a player in the top 20 in tackles or sacks, but the whole unit has just been incredible. We’ll be keeping an eye on this streak as the season goes on.

Stock Down

Hamilton’s Ascendence

The experts here at NbN were perhaps a little premature in predicting Hamilton’s rise to the top. Of course, Amherst is a very good team, but many were expecting a better performance from the Continentals than we saw on Saturday. Amherst focused in on WR Joe Schmidt ‘20, holding him to 54 yards and no touchdowns after he destroyed Tufts in Week One. And without his greatest weapon, QB Kenny Gray ‘20 struggled, throwing a pick and struggling before garbage time. The defense was perhaps more concerning, however. The Mammoths had 257 rushing yards and four touchdowns, and simply dominated the game all the way through. Hamilton may not be as ready as we thought.

Football Blanks Hamilton in First Half, Powers to 36-6 Victory
Amherst put a damper on Hamilton’s improvement, smoking the Continentals 36-6. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

Tufts Defense

Tufts has been involved in easily the two best games of the season thus far, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. In both games, the Tufts offense has played fairly well (although QB Ryan McDonald struggled throwing the ball this week,) only to have the defense rendered unable to get a key stop. The secondary has been the main culprit. They gave up a legendary performance to Joe Schmidt in Week One, and Mike Breuler ‘18 roasted them in a similar way on Saturday. Breuler was Piccirillo’s main target, hauling in 13 catches for 201 yards and a touchdown. Incidentally, this gives Breuler 28 catches over the first two games. This is a ridiculous statistic that I would think has to be some kind of record. Tufts paid the price this week for their shaky defense, and one more loss would sink them in the league. The secondary will have to improve immensely if they want to stay afloat.

 

The Beat Goes On: Football Weekend Preview 9/23

Week Two features several games that could go either way, making for an exciting week of football. The schedulers continue their support of the Williams resurgence, giving the Ephs another game against the lower tier of the league. Hamilton gets another chance for a signature win, taking on the Mammoths in the close runner up for GAME OF THE WEEK. And the winner of that race, Tufts @ Wesleyan, promises to be a terrific matchup featuring two rivals who played in hard fought matchups in Week One.

Middlebury (1-0) @ Bowdoin (0-1)

Bobby Ritter
Bobby Ritter ’19 (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

The Panthers looked like the Patriots for the first three quarters of their opener against Wesleyan, and then the Browns for the fourth quarter. They led the Cardinals 30-13 with 7 minutes left, then surrendered two touchdowns in a four minute span before a game saving pick by Bobby Ritter ’20 ended the comeback. For Middlebury, the first three quarters should be the biggest takeaway. They made an elite defense look tired, as Jared Lebowitz ’18 spread the wealth between several receivers before Conrado Banky ’19 got involved at the end. And defensively, they held Wesleyan in check before running out of gas. They were particularly effective in stopping the run, as Defensive Player of the Week Wesley Becton ’18 put up 11 tackles and forced two fumbles. Middlebury has weapons on both sides of the ball, and should get better at playing all four quarters as the season goes along.

Bowdoin fell victim to Williams’ youthful energy, losing 28-14 in a game that wasn’t even that close. The Polar Bears struggled on offense, only gaining 220 yards total for the entire game. They did show signs of life on defense, with LB Latif Armiyaw ’20 spending most of the day in the Williams backfield, but the offense simply couldn’t do enough to keep them off the field. This won’t get better against the Panthers.

Predicted Score: Middlebury 38, Bowdoin 6

Williams (1-0) @ Colby (0-1)

Colby had the misfortune of running into Trinity in Week One, so it’s hard to get a read on how the Mules look this season. However, they scored 0 points against the Bantams, so it’s safe to say that the offense could stand to improve. Luckily, Williams’ defense is certainly not on par with Trinity’s. Look for Colby to try to establish RB Nate Richam ’18 and the running game early and often against the Ephs, who, being a young team, might struggle with a long road trip.

This picture, Frank Stola ’21 running away from a defender, basically sums up Williams’ week one match up with Bowdoin.
(Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Williams put on a terrific offensive display against Bowdoin, thanks almost entirely to a pair of first years. QB Bobby Maimeron ’21 threw for 283 yards and two touchdowns, and 168 of those yards, as well as both touchdowns, were to receiver Frank Stola ’21. Of course, this is a blessing and a curse for the Ephs. They have a bonafide weapon now, but Colby knows exactly who to focus on. They will focus their solid secondary, and particularly DB Don Vivian ’18, on Stola. This will be a test for these two phenoms, and I think they pass it.

Predicted Score: Williams 21, Colby 9

Amherst (1-0) @ Hamilton (0-1)

Both teams looked great in their season openers, with Amherst slaughtering Bates 41-17 while Hamilton narrowly lost to Trinity, 35-28 in overtime. Hamilton receiver Joe Schmidt won offensive player of the week honors after recording eight receptions for 214 yards and four touchdowns. Linebacker Tyler Hudson shared the defensive player of the week honors with Middlebury’s Wesley Becton. Hamilton sported the top three tacklers in week one with Cole Burchill and Colby Jones recording 13 and 11 tackles respectively. The Amherst Mammoths may not have any league leaders, but Ollie Eberth’s 210 passing yards and Andrew Sommer’s 10 tackles are still impressive.

Hamilton lost 34-0 at Amherst last year in the teams’ season opener. Hamilton has a long way to come to beat Amherst, but the Continentals looked much improved at Trinity and will need this home win to break into the top half of the conference. With the offensive performances last week, this game could turn into a shootout and might even come down to the last play.

Predicted Score: Hamilton 35, Amherst 31

Trinity (1-0) @ Bates (0-1)

Max Chipouras
Max Chipouras ’19 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

Not a lot to say about this one. Trinity is far and away the best team in the league, having won 12 in a row at this point. They pasted Colby 35-0, and didn’t even play that well. The offense turned the ball over three times, something uncharacteristic of both QB Sonny Puzzo ’18 and RB Max Chipouras ’19. That was to be expected with the shortened preseason; they will probably tighten it up going forward.

Bates has to be a little disappointed in their Week One performance. Senior QB Sandy Plashkes struggled mightily, going 7-19 with an interception against an Amherst defense that, while solid, is not quite on the level of, say, Trinity or Wesleyan. Bates was forced to run the ball a great deal, which they did fairly effectively, but not nearly well enough to give the defense a chance to breath. And that tired defense looked very tired, giving up four touchdowns to unknown first year QB Ollie Eberth ’21. Trinity should do everything Amherst did to the Bobcats, just far worse.

Predicted Score: Trinity 49, Bates 3

GAME OF THE WEEK: Tufts (1-0) @ Wesleyan (0-1)

Ryan McDonald ’18 will try to lead the Jumbos to a 2-0 start.
(Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

Overview:

The biggest match-up of the week is basically a must win for Wesleyan if they want any hope of competing for a title. There’s a chance that Trinity or one of the other contenders will lose one game, but they certainly won’t lose two. And Wesleyan already has their loss, falling to Middlebury on the road in Week One. In that game, they discovered that QB Mark Piccirillo ’18 (432 yards) is ready for prime time, but their offense was one dimensional. Middlebury shut down their rushing attack very effectively, forcing them to throw their way back into the game. Of course, the Panthers were surprised to find that they could.

This bodes well for their matchup with Tufts. The Jumbos squeaked out an overtime win in a classic against Hamilton. But over the course of that game their pass defense was certainly exposed. They gave up 365 passing yards to Hamilton QB Kenny Gray ’20, and 214 yards and four touchdowns to receiver Joe Schmidt ’20. Piccirillo and Mike Breuler ’18 are more experienced versions of those two, so Tufts may be susceptible to the same fate as last week.

Key for Tufts: Establishing the Run

Tufts QB Ryan McDonald ’19 was one of the stars of Week One, throwing for 267 yards and rushing for 92 more. He accounted for three touchdowns on his own, including this #SCtop10 candidate. But with all due respect to Hamilton (whom I think it’s clear that we’re high on this season,) Wesleyan’s defense is a bit of a different story. McDonald will not be able to throw all over the Cardinals, and they’re certainly experienced enough to not let him break free for long runs. Tufts should work early on running the ball to set up play actions and bootlegs for McDonald.

Key for Wesleyan: Controlling the Pace

The way that Middlebury was able to attack Wesleyan’s vaunted defense was by tiring them out. The Panthers are one of the best teams in the league at running no huddle, and Wesleyan’s defense looked gassed an confused several times during Week One. This was supported by several very short drives by the offense in the first three quarters, keeping the defense on the field. To prevent Tufts from following Middlebury’s game plan, Wesleyan needs take some time on their offensive drives.

Predicted Score: Wesleyan 27, Tufts 24

Fly, Cardinals Fly: 2017 Wesleyan Football Preview

2016 Record: 6-2

Projected 2017 Record: 8-1

Projected Starters: Offense (*Returning)

QB: Mark Piccarillo ‘19*

RB: Dario Highsmith ‘20

WR: Mike Breuler ‘18*

WR: Eric Meyreles ‘18*

WR: TBD

TE: TBD

OL: Beau Butler ‘18 *

OL: Terrance Norton ‘19 *

OL: Ryan Shutta ‘20

OL: TBD

OL: TBD

Projected Starters: Defense (*Returning)

LB: Shane Kaminski ‘18 *

LB: Brandon Morris ‘19*

LB: TBD

CB: Jason Mitzner ‘18*

S: Elias Comacho ‘18*

S: TBD

CB: Ben Thaw ‘20/Eli Blair-May ‘20

DE: Jude Lindberg ‘19

DT: Grant Williams ‘19

DT: Bobby Nevin ‘19

DE: TBD

Projected Starters: Special Teams (*Returning)

K: TBD

P: TBD

KR: Eric Meyreles ‘18*

PR: Eric Meyreles ‘18*

Summary:

Wesleyan finished last season at 6-2, very much in the mix as one of the top teams in the league. They did it with a dynamic, powerful defense that was complemented by a run based offense that very rarely turned the ball over. This is usually a pretty solid and sustainable formula for success. However, the Cardinals lost a lot of the pieces that made that formula work in the offseason. They are that rare team that could go either way this season. They could rely on their depth and have young players step up to help them make the leap to the true top tier, or they could fall to the middle of the pack.

On offense, most of their losses affect that crucial running game. Lead back Lou Stevens is gone, as is, of course, versatile threat Devin Carrillo. Carrillo’s loss particularly stings,as he was a factor in every part of Wesleyan’s offense. He had 12 rushing touchdowns, and was also their leading receiver. To replace that kind of production, senior QB Mark Piccarillo will have to become elite. He is close to that level already, accounting for 15 total touchdowns last season, but without Stevens and Carillo to fall back on he will be asked to make more difficult throws and to run the ball with more authority. Luckily for the Cardinals, they are still very deep at receiver, with Eric Meyreles ‘18 and Mike Breuler ‘18 forming one of the better duos in the league.

Defensively, they lost two of their standouts in DT Jordan Stone and DB Justin Sanchez. They were both all-league level players, but more than that they, along with Coach DiCenzo and his staff, were responsible for forming the tough as nails defensive identity for which Wesleyan has become known. Luckily, that identity has seeped into the pores of the other players. LB Shayne Kaminski ‘18 is more than ready to take over that leadership mantle, and Wesleyan boasts a trio of junior DT’s that stop opposing rushing attacks where they stand. Defense has never been a worry for the Cardinals, and it won’t be this year.

Depth is what the Cardinals hope will keep them afloat despite all these losses, and that leads to position battles. There are two major ones that we’re keeping an eye on. On offense, tight end is up in the air. Senior Jake Cronin ‘18 would appear to have an inside track due to his experience, but freshman Patterson ‘21 adds a receiving dimension to their offense. And on defense, that final LB spot is still open, although sophomore Will Kearney ‘20 has made an impressive push in camp and might be set as the starter. Wesleyan lost a great deal, but they also keep a great deal and look poised to make a leap.

Eric Meyreles
Eric Meyreles ’18 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

Offensive MVP: WR Eric Meyreles ‘18

One of the strengths of Wesleyan’s offense is their versatility. Last season they used Devin Carrillo ‘17 as a weapon from pretty much everywhere on the field. Carrillo had 12 rushing touchdowns, as well as 29 receptions as a receiver. His departure leaves them with a hole in that receiver hybrid spot that is so popular in today’s game. Meyreles is the logical choice to fill that void. He was their third-leading receiver last year with 21 receptions, and also uses his speed to be one of the most dangerous return men in the league. Wesleyan could well give some of Carillo’s rushing sets to Meyreles, making him an even more versatile threat.

Shayne Kaminski
Shayne Kaminski ’18 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

Defensive MVP: LB Shayne Kaminski ‘18

This choice is pretty straightforward. Kaminski was one of the best linebackers in the league last year as a junior, putting up 61 tackles and four sacks. Wesleyan as a team was one of the best defenses in the country, ranking towards the top in yards allowed for most of the season.Clearly, defense is Wesleyan’s identity. Unfortunately for them, they lost elite defensive back Justin Sanchez. This leaves a void at a leadership position for that elite defense, a void that Kaminski is more than ready to fill. Look for him at the end of the season as First Team and DPOY candidate.

Dario Highsmith
Dario Highsmith ’20 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

Player to Watch: RB Dario Highsmith ‘20

Wesleyan has long relied on a strong rushing attack to complement their stellar defense. Last season they averaged nearly 180 yards per game on the ground, and scored 21 rushing touchdowns. However, between Carillo and fellow graduated senior back Lou Stevens, the Cardinals have lost a large chunk of those yards and touchdowns. Enter Dario. Highsmith put up an impressive first year last season, fitting in seamlessly to Wesleyan’s vaunted rushing attack, averaging 4.4 yards per carry and, most importantly, not fumbling once all season. Highsmith is poised to combine with Piccarillo, an excellent threat to run from the QB spot, to form a dynamic duo out of the backfield.

Biggest Game: @Trinity, November 11th

Wesleyan has their sights set on the top this season, and on paper they certainly have the talent to get their. Of course, the games aren’t played on paper, but say for the sake of this section of the preview that they and the Bantams run the table leading up to this match-up. Imagine iow exciting that game would be. Even if that hypothetical doesn’t come true, this game could very well serve as a de facto NESCAC championship. And aside from that, it’s a classic offense versus defense matchup, and those are always fun.

Best Tweet:

You Got Records? I’ma Smash ‘Em: Stock Report 11/7

 

Brady has dominated all season, and he is currently the frontrunner for Offensive POY voting (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics).
Brady has dominated all season, and he is currently the frontrunner for Offensive POY voting (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics).

No upsets this weekend, and aside from Amherst and Bowdoin each hanging on through three quarters (until they both threw up goose eggs in the 4th), these games weren’t very close at all. Wesleyan did put up the highest score of the 2016 season in their 59-14 win over Williams, and both Middlebury and Tufts clung onto their title hopes with wins in their respective matchups. Alas, we are in the same position as last week in terms of determining the NESCAC Champion, so it’s all in Trinity’s hands this coming weekend.

There were lots of terrific individual performances on Saturday, so there are definitely some names not on here – Spencer Donahue ‘17 forcing a fumble and returning it for a touchdown, Jared Lebowitz ‘18 throwing for four TDs and running for one, Trinity moving to 7-0, Bates winning the CBB – don’t be mad if you didn’t get a write-up, there were just a lot of guys who had outstanding games this weekend, and who have been consistently having outstanding games throughout the season.

As for the writers’ picks this weekend, everyone went 5-0 except for Colin and I, who both went 4-1. Here’s where everyone stands as we enter the final week of action:

1.) Liam O’Neil (27-3)

2.) Rory Ziomek (25-5)

2.) Nick DiBenedetto (25-5)

4.) Sid Warrenbrand (24-6)

4.) Pete Lindholm (24-6)

6.) Colin Tiernan (23-7)

6.) Colby Morris (23-7)

The last week of action should be a great one, but that’s a long way off as of now. Let’s see who excelled and whose stock dropped this weekend.

 

Stock Up

Tufts RB Chance Brady ‘17

Brady ran for 174 yards and 3 touchdowns on Saturday, but that’s not really the highlight – the senior broke two different school touchdown records this weekend. The first, single season rushing touchdowns, was previously set at 13, but Brady now has a total of 14 rushing TDs on the year. The second record is somehow more impressive than that: career touchdowns. Brady now holds the Tufts record for career touchdowns with 30. I’ve always felt spoiled as a Boston sports fan, but being a Chance Brady fan is arguably more of a treat. He is now just 2 touchdowns away from tying the NESCAC single-season rushing touchdowns record (16), which Fred Storz set in 1998 for Williams. There’s a very real possibility that Brady ties that record on Saturday – go get ‘em Chance.

Wesleyan’s Big Three: QB Mark Piccirillo ‘19, WR Devon Carrillo ‘17, WR Mike Breuler ‘18

Holy cow, Wesleyan really worked the Ephs this weekend…I mean talk about a beatdown. The Cardinals won 59-14 on Saturday, primarily because of the incredible performances of these three guys. Piccirillo threw for 5 touchdowns and 288 yards, and also ran for 66 yards and a TD. Meanwhile, Carrillo ran for 2 touchdowns and caught one, while also racking up 95 yards, and Breuler accumulated 125 receiving yards and 3 receiving touchdowns. The highlight of the day was a 50 yard touchdown pass and catch between Piccirillo and Breuler. Poor Williams. Quite the tune-up game for Wesleyan as they head into a title match against Trinity. Coach DiCenzo is gonna need these three to bring the heat against the Bantams if they want to pull off the upset.

Trinity PK Eric Sachse ‘19

Last year it was Tufts’ Willie Holmquist ‘17 who tied the NESCAC single-season field goals record with 11, but Sachse broke that record on Saturday when he nailed his 12th field goal of the season. The sophomore kicker is still a perfect 12/12 on the year on field goals, and he has also converted every PAT that he has attempted in 2016 (31). Sachse’s consistency has been an unbelievable advantage for Trinity the entire year, and it’s no wonder that he ranks 3rd in overall points in the conference. The only potential knock on Sachse is that his longest field goal of the year is just 40 yards, but that’s not necessarily his fault either. He hasn’t attempted a field goal from outside 40, so it’s not like you can make the argument that 41+ is outside of his range. Unless he has an absolutely dreadful Week 8, Sachse should earn a First Team selection without a doubt. It’s rare you see this type of consistency in the NESCAC, and the golden boot of Sachse has truly been a spectacle week after week.

Tufts CB Tim Preston ‘19

Ya know, I really thought Preston’s league-leading 6 interceptions during his freshman year was a once-in-a-career type of season. I mean, no one is going to keep throwing the ball his way if he is that good, right? I guess I was wrong because once again, Preston is leading the NESCAC in interceptions, and his 5th pick this weekend was definitely the most impressive of his sophomore campaign. Despite the final score, this was a back and forth game early on. Down 7-0, Colby drove 81 yards down the field to set themselves up with a 1st and Goal from the 4 yard line. Quarterback Christian Sparacio dropped back to pass and tried to hit his man in the endzone, but Preston jumped the route and snagged the football at the 1 yard line. He wasn’t content with the interception, however – Preston weaved in and out of Colby’s offensive players and ended up returning the INT 99 yards for a touchdown. Though it’s a long ways off, it’s worth noting that the sophomore is currently on pace to break Tufts’ career interceptions record of 20 that was set by Evan Zupancic (1999-2003). For the NESCAC quarterbacks reading this: STOP THROWING TOWARDS PRESTON (or continue to do so, I do go to Tufts after all).

 

Stock Down

Colby Offense

In the second quarter, the Colby defense forced a punt on two consecutive drives. On each of those two punts, the Mules were able to  storm into the backfield and block the punts off of Willie Holmquist’s foot, giving them the ball on the Tufts 22, and then on the Tufts 16 to start their drives. Unfortunately, Colby couldn’t move the ball at all, and each time they had to resort to kicking a field goal, making the score 16-9 Tufts at the half. Between these two disappointing opportunities and the interception that Colby threw on the goal line in the first quarter, the Mules just simply couldn’t take advantage of the opportunities that Tufts gave them. If they score a touchdown on each of these three drives, the score is 24-9 Colby at halftime and all of a sudden, this is a completely different ballgame. The margin of error is so small in the NESCAC, so failing to convert on three prime touchdown opportunities is not quite a recipe for success.

Bottom Three Ball Control

It might not be the only reason that Hamilton, Williams, and Bowdoin are the three worst teams in the NESCAC, but it is certainly telling that they committed 6, 5 and 4 turnovers respectively on Saturday. Hamilton threw 5 picks and lost a fumble; Williams threw 1 interception and lost 4 fumbles; Bowdoin threw 3 INTs and lost 1 fumble. Unsurprisingly, all three lost their games this weekend. The fact is, you can’t just throw away possessions like this and expect to win football games. Maybe I’m being harsh, but it’s true. Hopefully they can figure out what went wrong on film and then use the knowledge gained to turn it around next weekend.

The Quasi-Championship Game Heads to Hartford: Week 6 Weekend Preview

NT Matt D'Andrea '17 looks to continue getting pressure on the quarterback this weekend against Middlebury (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics).
NT Matt D’Andrea ’17 looks to continue getting pressure on the quarterback this weekend against Middlebury (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics).

Week Six is here, and it is shaping up to be a doozy.  In a largely predictable NESCAC season, three top tier teams have their day of reckoning this Saturday.  Middlebury and Trinity square off in the league championship (barring some wild results in Weeks Seven and Eight), and Amherst faces Tufts in an effort to make 2016 not a total lost cause of a season.  There is also an intriguing matchup at the bottom of the league, as Williams and Hamilton battle for the right to stay out of the cellar.  There is only one probable blowout this weekend, as Wesleyan will most likely take Bowdoin behind the dumpster like Joe Biden would Trump if given the chance. The stresses of being an editor have finally gotten to Rory and he’s laid up in the health center, so cut him some slack when his analysis is inevitably wrong; he took care of the Tufts-Amherst, Bowdoin-Wesleyan, and Williams-Hamilton games this week, while I wrote up on Middlebury-Trinity and Colby-Bates.  We’ve got you covered with the preview of a potentially thrilling weekend down below, as well as our score predictions.

Here are the standings as they are now (keep in mind that Rory compiles all the predictions, so can these numbers even be trusted?)

  1. Rory (18-2)
  2. Pete (17-3)
  3. Nick (17-3)
  4. Liam (17-3)
  5. Colin (17-3)
  6. Colby (16-4)
  7. Sid (15-5)

Middlebury (5-0) @ Trinity (5-0), 12:30 PM, Hartford, Connecticut

Colby tackled this one in depth in the Game of the Week blog that went up this morning, but this would be a difficult one for us to overcover.  This game represents as close as we can get to a NESCAC Super Bowl.  Both teams enter the game undefeated, and have shown themselves this season to be the class of the league.  Middlebury and Trinity both pride themselves on their offenses, as they are 1 and 2 in the league in total yards.  They are both led by stellar quarterbacks in Jared Lebowitz ‘18 and infamous Chicago “sanitation specialist” Sunny Puzzo ‘18.  Trinity may have the edge in the running game, as Max Chipouras ‘19 gives them a deadly ground attack to compliment Puzzo’s passing abilities.  Middlebury will need to put up a considerably better defensive performance than they have in the last couple weeks in order to clinch (for all intents and purposes) the league title.  And if the Panthers are reading, I’d like to point out to them that only Colby and I (the two Middlebury writers) have picked them to win.  Put it on the bulletin board, boys!

Rory: Middlebury 31, Trinity 38

Pete: Middlebury 31, Trinity 28

Liam: Middlebury 18, Trinity 27

Colin: Middlebury 17, Trinity 20

Colby: Middlebury 30, Trinity 28

Sid: Middlebury 26, Trinity 28

Nick: Middlebury 14, Trinity 20

Editor’s Note: I truly apologize for Pete’s 50th joke in a row about Sonny Puzzo’s name being reminiscent of some sort of Chicago racketeer/Godfather character/1970’s gangster. If you’re reading this Sonny, I’m sure it would mean the world to Pete if you could autograph a ball and have one of the Middlebury players deliver it to him when they get back to school.

Colby (2-3) @ Bates (1-4), 1:00 PM, Lewiston, Maine

Call this one “The Battle for the Middle.”  Or call it “The Battle for Maine.”  But DO NOT call me about it during the Middlebury-Trinity game.  Bates and Colby have been going back and forth all year as the top of the lower tier of NESCAC teams, which is not exactly a sexy war to be waging, but it is a war nonetheless.  It’s like if Macbeth was fighting Macduff for the right to be a duke rather than King.  Both have at times looked ready to make a large step forward, and both teams have at times disappointed.  Bates’ inconsistent season can be summed up by quarterback Sandy Plaschkes (it’s 2016 and we have starting NESCAC quarterbacks named Sandy and Sonny.  What a world.)  He has made some very exciting plays, and shown an ability to improvise and keep plays alive with his feet that few QB’s have.  However, he has been far too inconsistent with his accuracy this season.  Colby has two wins this season, and has a real chance to finish .500 or better, which would be a huge victory for the program.  This will be a hard fought game, but I don’t think many people win tune away from Middlebury-Trinity to catch it.

Rory: Colby 21, Bates 17

Pete: Colby 6, Bates 17

Liam: Colby 10, Bates 17

Colin: Colby 17, Bates 15

Colby: Colby 9, Bates 17

Sid: Colby 10, Bates 17

Nick: Colby 12, Bates 13

Tufts (4-1) @ Amherst (3-2), 1:00 PM, Amherst, Massachusetts

This is a must-win game for both schools. Tufts is still in the title hunt technically, but more importantly, they are trying to prove that they know how to beat a top team on the road, a skill they have yet to demonstrate since their resurgence in the past couple years. The squad on the other side of the field is on a slippery slope right now, and though it’s weird for me to write this having grown up in Amherst, the ex-LJs have not yet beat a top half team this season (maybe they need to decide on a new mascot ASAP). So what are we going to see on Saturday? Per usual, I expect a run-heavy attack from the Jumbos, but Amherst has eaten run-first teams for breakfast this year. I know Tufts has Chance Brady, who is fresh off a 165 yard/4 TD week that earned him the honor of receiving the Gold Helmet Award from the New England Writers Association, but Amherst is allowing just 25.2 YPG on the ground – through five weeks of action, that’s a pretty ridiculous stat. When possession changes, I expect Amherst to attack more through the air than on the ground, and as long as Nick Morales takes care of the ball, the Purple and White should have pretty decent success, much like Trinity did against the Jumbos. A potential curveball this weekend is that it snowed in Amherst yesterday. Will the turf be clear by Saturday? Likely. But you never know what’s going to happen in Western Mass, and if there is a light layer of snow on Pratt Field the offenses could be slow moving on Saturday.

Rory: Tufts 13, Amherst 10

Pete: Tufts 10, Amherst 24

Liam: Tufts 19, Amherst 17

Colin: Tufts 22, Amherst 24

Colby: Tufts 21, Amherst 24

Sid: Tufts 14, Amherst 13

Nick: Tufts 21, Amherst 24

Bowdoin (0-5) @ Wesleyan (4-1), 12:30 PM, Wesleyan, Connecticut

I hate to be the bearer of bad news for the Polar Bears, but this game has blowout written all over it. Wesleyan just notched their biggest win of the season against Amherst last week, and in doing so, they have maintained a spot in line to board the champion-ship. Meanwhile, Bowdoin has yet to win, and to date, their best opportunity to do so was just two weeks ago against Hamilton, when they lost on a last minute score by the Continentals. Other than that, Bowdoin has faced a string of bludgeonings, resulting in a league-worst 35.2 OPPG. Compare that to Wesleyan’s league-best 7.2 OPPG and you understand why I say this is an uphill battle for the Polar Bears, especially on the road. Wesleyan has thrived on their home turf, allowing a total of just 6 points in two home games. The Cardinals are led by Devon Carrillo, who has posted 7 rushing touchdowns on the year, and Mark Piccirillo, who ranks first on the team in both passing and rushing yards. Throw in some other big names on Wesleyan’s offense such as Lou Stevens, Dario Highsmith, and Mike Breuler and I frankly just don’t see any way that Bowdoin can slow down this multi-faceted attack.

Rory: Bowdoin 6, Wesleyan 38

Pete: Bowdoin 0, Wesleyan 27

Liam: Bowdoin 7, Wesleyan 34

Colin: Bowdoin 6, Wesleyan 37

Colby: Bowdoin 10, Wesleyan 35

Sid: Bowdoin 0, Wesleyan 38

Nick: Bowdoin 14, Wesleyan 25

Williams (0-5) @ Hamilton (1-4), 1:20 PM, Clinton, New York

This will be a very intriguing matchup in Clinton, NY. A win for the Ephs would be a huge confidence boost as they head into their final two games against Wesleyan and Amherst – in other words, this is the last game in which Williams isn’t a heavy underdog. Hamilton has quite the stake in this game as well, and they are still hoping to put together at least a three win season here with their remaining opponents being Williams, Middlebury, and Bates. For these reasons, I expect another intense tilt out of these two squads, similar to Williams’ opener against Colby or Hamilton’s Week 4 win over Bates, both of which ended in “2-minute drill” winning drives. Though the Ephs lost to Tufts last weekend, they were able to run for 227 yards, primarily through a two-pronged attack of Noah Sorrento and Connor Harris. This should be an encouraging sign for Coach Raymond as his squad faces off with the Continentals, who have a pretty comparable run defense to Tufts statistically. Meanwhile, Hamilton definitely boasts more of a passing attack than a running game, so they are likely to air it out, especially considering the recent success of freshman quarterback Kenny Gray in the past couple weeks. This one could be a fight ‘til the end between two pretty evenly matched football teams.

Rory: Williams 21, Hamilton 14

Pete: Williams 21, Hamilton 14

Liam: Williams 10, Hamilton 24

Colin: Williams 21, Hamilton 17

Colby: Williams 20, Hamilton 18

Sid: Williams 21, Hamilton 17

Nick: Williams 21, Hamilton 0

It’s Not Your Imagination, Passing is Up in the NESCAC: Part Two

If you missed Part One yesterday, here you go. Otherwise, read on.

Tufts

tuftsRanked 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

WesleyanWesleyan 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

colbyColby 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.

Bates

batesI’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.

Final Tally

  • 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.