The Last Football Show: Week 9 Weekend Preview

As always, make sure you check out Matt’s excellent piece on the Game of the Week, Amherst @ Williams. But that is far from the only good game here on the last weekend of the season. Middlebury @ Tufts has major championship implications, as does, of course, Trinity vs Wesleyan. And the other games feature young teams battling it out for pride and confidence, which can often produce the best games. This is how the season ends, not with a whimper, but with a bang.

Middlebury (6-2) @ Tufts (5-3), 12:30 PM, Medford, MA

It would take a good deal of help from Wesleyan and Williams for this game to have championship ramifications but it could. If Wesleyan beats Trinity, Williams beats Amherst, and Middlebury beats Tufts, then the Panthers would be one of four teams (Trinity, Wesleyan, Amherst and them) who finish at 7-2. Additionally, Middlebury would have the head to head tiebreaker over Wesleyan and Amherst. There’s a lot of moving parts to that equation, but all of them are very possible, so Middlebury has quite a bit to play for in this game. Tufts has no championship hopes, but they;d love to play spoiler and grab a win over an elite team.

As has been the case for Middlebury for the last two weeks, the big key is the play of Jack Meservy ‘19. He got knocked around by Trinity (the best secondary in the league) and did some  knocking of his own against Hamilton (arguably the worst.) Against the Continentals he flashed a nice touch on deep balls, throwing two deep touchdowns to speed merchant Jimmy Martinez ‘19. Tufts ranks somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of NESCAC secondaries (with Hamilton and Trinity as the two ends.) Tim Preston ‘18 is a threat, but he hasn’t gotten a ton of help this year, and Tufts defensive numbers are middling at best. A good showing here could cement Meservy’s spot as next year’s starter… or Lebowitz could come back. We shall see.

Ryan McDonald ’19 is made to attack the Middlebury defense.

Middlebury’s defense has been really excellent since Lebowitz went down, allowing the offense many chances to put it together. But they haven’t faced an attack quite like Tufts yet. Ryan McDonald ‘19 challenges defenses with his legs even more than Puzzo and Maimaron, two quarterbacks whom Middlebury often allowed to escape the pocket and move the chains through scrambling. And plus, the Jumbos’ run game is starting to look more like last year’s albeit without one star. In their last three weeks, which feature a win over Williams and an impressive loss to amherst (31-26,) Tufts has used a committee of talented backs to beat teams on the ground and set up play action throws on the run for McDonald. It’s hard to predict which back will be the lead, but Mike Pedrini ‘21 and Andrew Sanders have both played well. Run defense has killed Middlebury in both of their losses, particularly containing quarterbacks. I think it hurts them again this week.

Score Prediction

Tufts 20, Middlebury 15

Wesleyan (6-2) @ Trinity (7-1), 12:00 PM, Hartford, CT

This classic offense-defense matchup features Trinity fighting to keep the solo championship which was all but guaranteed for much of the season. They’ll need help from Williams, of course, but nothing happens unless they win here. And boy do they have their work cut out for them. Wesleyan may well have played the best all-around game of any team this season last week, pasting Williams 35-0. They held the Ephs to just 127 total yards, and phenom QB Bobby Maimaron to just 51, with two interceptions. And on the other side of the ball, QB Mark Piccirillo ‘18 stuck his namely firmly at the front of the POY race. He has now not thrown an interception in three games after throwing seven in the first five, and has five passing touchdowns in the last two. He also has four rushing touchdowns on the year (with no fumbles in the last five games) and is in the top five in the country in completion percentage at over 70%. With Lebowitz possibly done, Piccirillo is the best QB in the conference, and a win over the Bantams would cement his legacy and secure his hardware.

Trinity has to be pretty steamed following a pretty severe beatdown at the hands of the Mammoths. The final score of 28-20 is misleading–Amherst dominated the whole way, and the Bantams scored a touchdown with 24 seconds left to make it more respectable. Much of Trinity’s offense is created by their defense; takeaways set them up in great field position and force opposing defense back onto the field quickly tiring them out and allowing Max Chipouras ‘19 to find the holes. Amherst didn’t turn the ball over once, and as such was able to dominate time of possession 36:22 to 23:07. As I said above, Wesleyan has not been turning the ball over at all lately. Piccirillo has cleaned it up, and they have a pen of sure-handed running backs, like Sean Penney ‘21 and Glenn Smith ‘21, who hold onto the ball and can run out the clock or set up Piccirillo scrambles. Trinity has to force turnovers in this game, and they may have to look outside of Dominique Seagears ‘18, who will have his hands full with Mike Breuler ‘18. The linebacking corps of Dago Picon-Roura ‘19, Liam Kenneally ‘18 and Carty Campbell ‘18 may make the difference. If they can pick of a slant pass or force a fumble from one of those young running backs, Trinity is back in business.

Predicted Score: Trinity 27, Wesleyan 20

Bates (2-6) @ Hamilton (2-6)

The “Best of the Rest” championship could actually be a pretty thrilling game. Both teams are high octane offenses with bad defenses. That’s the recipe for a lot of points, and in a hurry. Bates’ offense is more of a recent development. QB Brendan Costa ‘21 has found the easier half of the schedule to his liking, turning into ‘08 Madden Michael Vick before our eyes. He leads all NESCAC players in rushing yards over the last four weeks, and has made some big throws as well. Bates is inverting the NESCAC offensive trend of the season, by using passes as a change of pace for a run-heavy offense. Mickey Nichol, Brian Daly and Jaason Lopez are all receivers who can make big plays out of short, dump-off passes in between Costa’s electrifying runs. Against bad defenses, this offense is very fun to watch, and tremendously successful.

Jaason Lopez ’21 is a big play threat for the Bobcats due to his incredible speed.

Hamilton is a more traditional offense, but can also light up weak defenses. QB Kenny Gray ‘20 is underrated, and he has legit set of weapons in Joe Schmidt ‘20, Christian Donohoe ‘20, and RB Mitch Bierman ‘21. Gray missed their game against Middlebury last week, and his status for this game is up in the air. If he doesn’t play, Bates should have an easy path to victory. But even if he does, the porous hamilton defense should let Costa do whatever he wants in leading the Bobcats to victory.

Predicted Score: Bates 35, Hamilton 28

Colby (0-8) @ Bowdoin (0-8), 12:30 PM, Brunswick, ME

If you remember Season Four of Friday Night Lights, the “Toilet Bowl” was a huge moment of team bonding for East Dillon Lions. It was their first win, and for a team that had to forfeit their home opener due to injury concerns, the importance of that win could not be overstated. For one of these teams, that will also be the case. Bowdoin has enjoyed some offensive success as of late. Promising first year QB Griff Stalcup played a great game against Wesleyan, but missed last week’s loss to Bates. But Noah Nelson ‘19 was able to step in against Bates and put up a very effective performance, throwing for 302 yards and two touchdowns. Bowdoin has the weapons to be an effective offense with consistent QB play. RB Nate Richam ‘18 is injured, but Gregory Olsen ‘21 looked like his NFL counterpart last week, catching two touchdowns. WR Nick Vailas ‘18 and TE Bryan Porter ‘18 have long been underrated based on playing in Bowdoin. The Polar Bears have the offense to make this a laugher.

Colby doesn’t have nearly the offensive firepower of Bowdoin, but they have real difference-makers on defense. LB Sebastian Philemon ‘19 (69 tackles) and S Don Vivian ‘19 (3 INT)  are legit All-League candidates. Against Bowdoin’s precariously good offense, the two of them should be real difference makers. Add in versatile RB Jake Schwern ‘19, who should get a ton of touches, and this really is anybody’s game. I’ll take the Polar Bears at home.

Predicted Score: Bowdoin 24, Colby 14

That’s (Almost) a Wrap: Week Nine Power Rankings

What a weekend! Here we go, headed into the first ever Week Nine with the NESCAC championship hanging in the balance. After Amherst’s 28-20 victory over the previously undefeated Trinity Bantams, the Mammoths are in first place and in control of their own destiny. However, Amherst has no easy task in their game against Williams, who surprisingly got blown out by Wesleyan 35-0. Middlebury knocked off Hamilton (41-20), and Tufts routed Colby easily (28-14), each showing a bit more fight than expected. Bates was able to defeat Bowdoin 24-17, winning the CBB for the fourth straight year. There is a lot in store for this coming weekend, with lots of potential tiebreakers on the table, but these rankings focus on where teams are now. Heading into the last week with a leapfrog at the top of the standings, this is how things shake out:

1: Amherst
I didn’t expect to see another team other than Trinity in this spot all year, let alone Amherst. When I wrote off Amherst earlier in the season, I considered only their lack of a superstar at QB, making it difficult to win the league. While Ollie Eberth is solid, teetering on elite, he is not as good as Trinity’s Sonny Puzzo. With the NESCAC being a QB centric league, a team at the top of the standings without the best QB is a bit puzzling. With their victory over Trinity, the Mammoths proved that defense can rule all as this team’s ability to stop the run puts them over the top. Andrew Yamin and John Callahan had big games on Saturday, collecting a sack and five tackles for a loss between them, limiting RB Max Chipouras to just 3.5 yards per carry. Amherst has a stellar defense, QB depth, a solid receiving group, and a top back in Jack Hickey. It’s there for the taking; bring it home, Mammoths.

2: Trinity
Let’s be clear—Trinity is not far below Amherst. A one possession loss as their only slip up as the entire season is not exactly a cause for drastic distance in these ranks. Chipouras struggled but is still the best RB in the league and won’t be stopped this weekend. Sonny Puzzo is still one of the top three QBs in the NESCAC despite an INT. Trinity’s defense is still by and large the best in the league, but matched up poorly against the deep Amherst rushing attack. Amherst has a better rush D, but Trinity still has the best secondary and has allowed the fewest points all year—the main goal for defenses. They were bested on Saturday by two Jack Hickey rushing TDs, one Eberth rushing TD, and a Reece Foy passing TD. Trinity could still win it all with a win against a hot Wesleyan team and an Amherst loss, but they are second this week. Let it sink in, folks, the winning streak is over.

3: Wesleyan
I was quite critical of Wesleyan after their poor offensive performance in their 21-10 victory against Bowdoin in week seven. They really proved me wrong. Like really, really did the opposite of what I thought. And that’s one of the reasons why college football is so great and why I don’t get paid. QB Mark Piccirillo flipped the switch in their 35-0 trouncing of a great Williams team, winning NESCAC Offensive Player of the Week and accounting for four TDs (two throwing, two rushing). The Cardinal defense also picked off Bobby Maimaron twice, big steps if they are to have a chance against Trinity this week. Sans Dario Highsmith, their offense proved that it is not to be trifled with, beating a much better defense than that of the Polar Bears who they struggled against. They made adjustments, kept the ball in Piccirillo’s hands more and trusting his decision-making. They should do the same in their finale against Trinity, he’s proven himself.

Mark Piccirillo is making a late push for the POY trophy, and could cement it with a win over Trinity in the finale.

4: Tufts
While Colby (0-8) is not good at football, Tufts (5-3) had some bright spots in their 28-14 win. Ryan McDonald looked a little bit iffy, but still ran the ball well, accumulating 65 yards, giving way to Ryan Hagfeldt later in the game. Mike Pedrini was a work horse in the game, rushing 31 times for 135 yards. His development into a more established and reliable back for the Jumbos should make 2018 very interesting. The Tufts secondary, namely Alex LaPiana (INT), Brett Phillips (INT) , and Tim Preston (two INTs) were on fire against the Mules, giving hope for a final win against Midd this weekend. They have been a bit inconsistent this season, putting up some duds, but also beating Williams—so what they bring to the table is a bit up in the air. They look to have a top tier QB, a true starting RB, decent receivers, and a good secondary—a recipe for success against the current Midd team.

5: Middlebury
You might be thinking how could a three loss team (Tufts) possibly be above a two loss team (Midd is now 6-2 after beating Hamilton)? Well for one, it’s boring to just rank teams off of their overall records—if that’s how it was then you wouldn’t need rankings and could just look at the standings. Secondly, these rankings are about where team are now not where they were earlier in the season and what their aggregate season totals are. Jack Merservy would be in the ‘Stock Up’ category if this was a stock report, but it isn’t. He is still unproven—Hamilton isn’t good—and Tufts’ Ryan McDonald is proven. The run game for the Panthers just isn’t there. Diego Meritus finally had a solid game in an injury hampered season, but they still are comparably weaker to the other top teams. Their receivers are still awesome, but their defense performed weakly against a first time Continental QB and a below average RB in Mitch Bierman. Crazily enough, they still could win a share of the NESCAC title if they beat Tufts, Trinity loses to Wesleyan, and Amherst loses to Williams. Of course, that share of the title would be based on their past successes and not how good they are right now without Jared Lebowitz.

6: Williams
This ranking wasn’t too difficult and it looks as if the Ephs are locked into their sixth place spot for the season. A 35-0 defining loss to Wesleyan surely spells the end of the magic for this young and coming team. They have dropped 2-3 games to teams that they were favorites against (Tufts and Wesleyan) and sit at 5-3 after a blistering start to the season. QB Bobby Maimaron had his first collegiate football hiccups after throwing two picks and for just 51 yards and zero points. It was bad all around for the Ephs and they looked as bad as they did last year in week eight. Let’s hope that they salvage their morale and promise for next season with a solid closing performance against Amherst.

7: Bates
The Bobcats and Hamilton are essentially tied for this seventh spot, but Bates (2-6) takes the cake with the hot hand. They really embodied their offensive style against Bowdoin, totally giving up on throwing and dominating the ground for a 24-17 win. Part of that was surely a factor of the score of the game and weakness of their opponent, but it’s cool to see such dynamic rushers getting high volumes of chances. They attempted five passes and 51 rushes, accumulating 367 yards of offense, 344 from the rush. Brendan Costa ’21, a wildcat, RB in QB form, elusive player, showed the Polar Bears what he’s made of with 170 of those yards. While they didn’t see another up and coming QB in Griff Stalcup—a huge bummer as a 2021 QB matchup would’ve been pretty sweet—they still shut down the more experienced Noah Nelson. The final week will settle this battle with Hamilton in the rankings as it will decide, truly, who is the best of the rest.

Brendan Costa and Bates ran away from the rest of the Maine teams on their way to a fourth CBB title in a row.

8: Hamilton
Another decent offensive performance against a top team and another loss, 41-20. It’s been a tough season for this team (2-6) in that they have looked like they are ready to pull off an upset but can never really get over the hump to win against a team not named Bowdoin or Colby. They were never in the game against Midd, but at least scored some garbage time points. Their defense is their biggest weakness, as 41 straight Panther points spelled a quick doom for the Continentals. Sam Foley made his first start of the year and did alright, finding Joe Schmidt and Connor Cates frequently, collecting a TD and 276 yards in the air. The second and third tiers of their defense—linebackers and DBs—stood no chance against the Midd receivers. While they beat Bowdoin and Colby just like Bates, they haven’t been able to limit opposing offenses and could easily let Costa run all over them.

9: Bowdoin
While I am uncertain about the nature of Griff Stalcup’s absence from their week eight loss, it’s easy to say even without him, the Polar Bears are better than Colby. Finally, one of these teams will get into the win column, and if Stalcup is playing, it will likely be Bowdoin. Bowdoin consistently puts up double digit points regardless of their opponent, and has manageable if not good receivers. In what is Bryan Porter’s and Nick Vailas’ last games, whoever throws the ball will throw to them. They are the playmakers putting Bowdoin over Colby and should take them into the 1-8 promise land.

10: Colby
This has been a season of despair for a team that represented a guaranteed win for all other NESCAC teams in 2017. Jack O’Brien tried to make a push towards a mid-tier QB level, but threw too many picks to do so. Jake Schwern tried to establish himself as a reliable back but lacked the efficiency. LB Sebastien Philemon and DB Don Vivian tried to tackle every single opponent and pick off every pass, but had zero help. They didn’t have depth, consistency, playmakers, or hope. Sorry, Mule fans, start hoping for a good class of 2022 and strong recoveries for the injured offensive linemen in your football futures as this program needs to rebuild.

Seasons on the Line: Week Seven Weekend Preview

Two straight weeks with what I deem to be an upset is monumental in NESCAC football. Things are getting turbulent for a number of top teams heading into the final three weeks (Really?! Only three weeks left?) and Trinity isn’t slowing down. Unfortunately, to have any excitement in the last two weeks, we are going to need to have Midd upset Trinity, otherwise, the Bantams will cruise to Title Town once again. Amherst and Tufts had resurgent weekends, although the Jumbos need a lot of help to realize their championship dreams. With Midd and Amherst tied in second at 5-1, this Midd vs. Trinity game is putting everything on the line for a number of teams. While that analysis will be done by Pete in a special article later on, here is the rest of the weekend breakdown, featuring some elimination do-or-die games for Amherst, Tufts, Wesleyan, and Williams, with an added rivalry game in the CBB series between Bates and Colby.

Griff Stalcup ’21 looks to rebound from a tough game against Trinity

Wesleyan (4-2) @ Bowdoin (0-6), 12:30 PM, Brunswick, ME

Wesleyan had a crushing loss against the Mammoths, basically ending all hopes for glory in 2017. While they still have a chance for a massive tie at 7-2 at the top of the division, unless they see the Bantams lose this week, they will not come out on top. Contrary to 2016 where they were able to overcome an opening week loss to go 6-0 until the final week, they lost all offensive capabilities in week six. Since they need help to win it all, they can only focus on their task at hand—burying the Polar Bears further into the abyss of defeat. Dario Highsmith didn’t play against Amherst and is a question mark heading in to this game, and although Mark Piccirillo has been historically good if not great at QB, he looked ineffective—to say the least—last week in Amherst territory. He threw just for 129 yards, no TDs, and the rest of the offense only gained 88 yards on the ground. They lacked spark and only kept the game close because of a Shayne Kaminski pick-six off of Ollie Eberth. While I pick them to win here, this has trap game (a.k.a. a game within two TDs) written on it if Dario Highsmith is still out.

Griff Stalcup regressed in week seven, losing some playing time to former starter Noah Nelson at QB. I’ll cut the kid some slack; He was a first year QB playing against the best team in the league. Nelson wouldn’t have done too well, either. Nate Richam didn’t play in the game, and as Bowdoin’s only offensive weapon, it he isn’t back, they will have a rough game. Stalcup did have a six yard TD run, and Nelson a four yard TD pass, so this game might just decide which QB starts for the Polar Bears in the final two games of their season against their fellow winless Maine teams. Wesleyan is not nearly as scary as an opponent as Trinity, but the absolute thrashing in week six couldn’t have helped this team’s confidence. They could make it interesting, but won’t have enough juice to overcome the Cardinals.

Predicted Score: Wesleyan 28, Bowdoin 14

Brendan Costa has had rushing success and looks to lead Bates to their first win

Bates (0-6) @ Colby (0-6), 1:00 PM, Waterville, ME

Well, one of the Maine football teams will finally find the win column this weekend. By virtue of Hamilton’s slight edge over the other bottom teams, Bates, Colby, and Bowdoin now all find themselves without wins heading into their CBB Consortium series for the crown of Maine. Bates’ Brendan Costa will be the most dynamic player on the field this Saturday for either team, and has locked himself in to the starting QB job. Despite a blowout loss at the hands of Middlebury—which was totally expected and inevitable—Costa still managed to throw for two scores, run for 131 yards, and only throw one pick. While the Bobcats lost two fumbles, one from Costa, one from WR Mickoy Nichol, they could have definitely played worse. With a little bit of offensive momentum going against a weak Mules team, Bates actually finds themselves as the favorite.

After facing a disappointing loss at the hands of another bottom tier NESCAC team, Colby looks to end their winning drought after an encouraging performance from QB Jack O’Brien. Both teams have developing signal-callers, but each is still winless. The Mules also saw a solid performance from K John Baron, earning the special teams player of the week honors, going 4/4 in total kicks. This fact isn’t overly relevant, but is among the only press coverage the Mules have seen all season, indicative of their lack of success. An aerial attack is the only way to find their first win as Bates’ defense is vulnerable, and Jake Schwern has struggled with efficiency lately. This will be run game against passing game, and the end result will show which rebuilding team has more hope for the future.

Predicted Score: Bates 24, Colby 14

Amherst (5-1) @ Tufts (4-2), 1:30 PM, Medford, MA

Amherst is now back in the title conversation with their win over Wesleyan, beating the Cardinals when the Jumbos could not earlier this season. Their lack of a high ceiling, as I mentioned in accordance with Reece Foy’s limping return from injury, is not as valid as I earlier thought. Rather than centering on a strong QB and stellar offensive attack, RB Jack Hickey and QB Ollie Eberth are now among the supporting cast to their dominant defense. Hasani Figueroa and Hickey didn’t get much going against the strong Wesleyan defense, and while they should have more success this weekend, Tufts QB Ryan McDonald should be worried about the Mammoth pass rush. Andrew Yamin had an unbelievable performance, racking up 5.5 sacks on Piccirillo, and was only half of the total attack on the opposing QB. The Tufts run game should be neutralized and McDonald will lack enough time in the pocket to get a whole lot going.

Tufts had a much needed win against Williams, knocking off their first strong opponent of the season. Given their loss to Wesleyan and the Ephs’ win over Midd the week before, this was a surprising victory, showing the prowess of QB Ryan McDonald who was able to find nine different receivers on the day. Jay Tyler and Mike Pedrini both had success on the ground, but should face much more challenge in the ground game this weekend. The Jumbos hope comes on defense where their pass rush leads the league with 25 sacks, one more than the Mammoths’ total. Who’s D-Line is better? Both teams should revert to a more passing heavy attack, but might lack sufficient time to throw. Defense rules in this game.

Predicted Score: Amherst 21, Tufts 17

Hamilton (2-4) @ Williams (4-2), 1:30 PM, Williamstown, MA

Hamilton has been the beneficiary of two weak opponents these past two weeks, bringing their record to a respectable 2-4. If they win out, they could actually finish with a winning record, and given their 0-4 start, that is a good cause for playing hard. I don’t think they have any chance to do that as they only have one more weak opponent, but this could be the game where they show that their week one game was not total luck. They barely lost to Tufts, and I have looked at this game over and over again due to its shockingly close outcome, and after their loss to Tufts, Williams looks like a beatable opponent. While they barely knocked off Colby, they rallied from a 17-0 deficit, therefore dominating the second half of the game. With Kenny Gray moving up in the NESCAC QB ranks, and with a solid receiving core in Christian Donahoe and Joe Schmidt, they have a formidable enough offense to stick with the Ephs.

A relatively surprising loss to Tufts leaves Williams looking for a win. They have two losses on the year and need even more help than Wesleyan to share the ‘Cac crown. They do not control their own fate in any way even if they win out, and face a sneaky Hamilton team this Saturday. Without any production from rising RB star Rashad Morrison, leaving him as a question for Saturday’s game, Bobby Maimaron and company will need to find other ways to outscore the Continentals. Frank Stola and Adam Regensburg are Maimaron’s best offensive weapons, with Regensburg really coming on strongly as a WR, moving away from his defensive role. Kyle Horihan had a breakout defensive game against Tufts, leading the squad in tackles with 11 and an INT, and he should look to replicate that performance against an inconsistent Hamilton team. Despite their recent loss, Williams hasn’t lost a game by more than one possession and has the offense to outlast Hamilton regardless of how Gray and Donahoe play.

Predicted Score: Williams 31, Hamilton 21

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

(Almost)Taking the Head Off the Jumbo: Week 1 Power Rankings:

1: Trinity (1-0)

Trinity now runs its winning streak to 10 games going back to 2015 following a blow out win over Colby. They were expected crush them and played nearly flawlessly, but still could improve. QB Sonny Puzzo’s INT should’ve come as a shock to the Bantams, but other than that, they played great football. Max Chipouras decimated the Colby defense and this team looks primed to blow out Bates in week two. The secondary looked great following the graduation of many All-NESCAC players, and that was the biggest hole. There’s honestly not a whole lot else to say, the Bantams are rolling.

2: Middlebury (1-0)

Jared Lebowitz and the Panthers couldn’t have started off 2017 in better fashion as they knocked off a top tier team, learned about numerous first year weapons, and didn’t totally screw up on special teams. Without RBs Diego Meritus and Will McKissick, Peter Scibilla ’21 took the reins on the ground and was serviceable, but not great. Once the other running weapons return (Meritus should be back this week), the ground game will drastically improve, making Midd even more dangerous. Their receivers are the best in the league and that isn’t open for debate. Not player by player necessarily, but between Maxim Bochman ’20 who went off on Saturday in his first year shot, 2016 breakout Conrad Banky, athletic freak three sport college athlete Frankie Cosolito, and All-American track runner and special teams player of the week Jimmy Martinez, there are so many options for the already established Lebowitz. Opposing secondaries, watch out.

Middlebury’s Ian Blow downs a punt at Wesleyan’s one yard line last Saturday.

3: Amherst (1-0)

There are still some questions for the Mammoths despite their win over the weak looking Bates team last weak. When will Reece Foy come back and how good will he be when he does? If he isn’t healthy, is Ollie Eberth ’21 the real deal? Why am I so bummed that Mike Odenwaelder didn’t have a bigger role? Granted, not all of these questions are bad, and Amherst has an answer to all of them, resulting in their placement barely below Midd on these rankings. Foy was in uniform last weekend and should be back in week two, but even if he doesn’t start, Eberth looked good and had a real connection with Craig Carmelani in the air. Odenwaelder is still raw as a football player and played on special teams, although I still hope he breaks out as a tight end. Jack Hickey was great in his limited action (5 carries, 9.4 yds/carry) and should see more time against Hamilton. I would like to see a better rush defense from the Mammoths as they allowed two TDs to Bates, but Hamilton’s game isn’t running. They should outlast the Continentals and will only get better from here.

4: Wesleyan (0-1)

Some Jumbo fans might be mad that the Cardinals are in this spot, but they simply played a better team in Middlebury and had a solid game. Mark Piccirillo didn’t get off to a fantastic start with two INTs but still threw for four TDs and 432 yards. Dario Highsmith performed poorly in his limited sample size, but the large deficit in the first quarter leading to a passing offense was not a product of him. The Panther receivers simply dominated the Cardinal secondary and while no team is arguably as deep in their receiving core as Midd, Ben Thaw and Elias Camacho will need to pick up the slack against Tufts. We learned last year not to read too much into Wesleyan’s week on result after they lost to Tufts, so I’m going to stick with them as my favorite against the Jumbos, but they are in a must win scenario.

5: Tufts (1-0)

While they were manage to pull out the win in week one, it seemed pretty flukey. Backup QB Ryan Hagfeldt entered the game on the final drive in a tie game in the fourth quarter after an injury to starter Ryan McDonald and landed on his own fumble to score the game winning touchdown. McDonald had a solid game with 26 completions and two TDs and 92 yards rushing, but his status for week two against Wesleyan is up in the air. Their linebackers and DBs didn’t play well and will need to step it up against what is a better QB in Mark Piccirillo. Their ‘bad’ game was as much a product of their own poor play as it was Hamilton’s breakout game, and the Continentals deserve a lot of credit. Tufts will be fine and still found a way to win which is what good programs do. The Jumbos could still be a top tier team this year, but they still lack a Chance Brady. They simply aren’t the same team as last year simply as a product of not having an all world RB, and Dominic Borelli is not even close. Andrew Sanders will be the X-Factor in week two as he has the biggest play potential. Whether it is Hagfeldt or McDonald, the QB won’t be a big issue as the two were in competition to begin the year anyways.

6: Hamilton (0-1)

At the end of the day Hamilton is still winless, however, they made a big challenge to move towards the top tier of the conference in week one. An OT finish after a furious fourth quarter comeback, led by an incredible performance from QB Kenny Gray (370 yards passing, 4 TDs, 0 INT) would have resulted in glory if not for Tufts QB Ryan Hagfeldt recovering his own fumble in the end zone for a TD on fourth down. The Continentals were on the Jumbo’s seven yard line in OT before turning the ball over to end the game, but should still be epically proud of their performance. As a win/lose game goes, no team is happy with a loss, but Hamilton prove to be the real deal if they can manage a close game or win this weekend against Amherst.

7: Williams (1-0)

I’m sure some Ephs fans are upset that they are so far down the rankings after an undefeated start, they did play a weak opponent. Nobody is awestruck that Williams pulled out a win, especially Pete, who called it. There were a host of positives for this team though as they found their first win in over a year, found a QB in Bobby Maimaron ’21, a top receiver in Frank Stola ’21, and saw a breakout performance from RB Connor Harris who had the best game of his college career. Maimaron even kicked off once and Stola returned the punts, showing that this two headed monster, if they are the real deal, should roll over the Colby Mules on the road this weekend. A 2-0 start for the Williams Ephs? When was the last time we predicted that?

8: Bates (0-1)

I’ve always liked the way Coach Harriman runs and recruits the Bates offense as they are the only team so run oriented and with so many slot players. They have a lot of play action passes to open things up, but showed that too few play making receivers leads to a lack of big play potential. QB Sandy Plashkes is in his second year as the starter and was able to find just nine yards for his biggest completion and just 44 in the air total. While he was able to make a dent in opposing defenses by breaking off some big runs in 2016, he rushed for a total of zero yards on twelve tries last Saturday. Ouch. Sure, not all of them were designed runs, but he’s got to make a big play in one area of the offense. Matt Golden’s one completion of 33 yards nearly matched Plashkes’ total, and that should scare the junior signal caller as he needs to step it up against Trinity or he could lose his job. RB Tyler Baum was one of the lone positives as he was able to break off a 42 yard rush at the end of the first half, and could see more carries this week. The Bobcats did play a tough opponent in Amherst, but without their starting QB, and got roughed up by a first year who found the end zone four times as new DB starters Coy Candelario and Jack Maritz were not able to fill the big holes left by Sam Francis and Mark Upton from 2016’s secondary

.9: Bowdoin (0-1)

Losing to one of the teams that didn’t win in 2016 isn’t the start the Polar Bears were looking for. While the Ephs did look much improved, Bowdoin still allowed 439 yards on defense and flat out were beaten. Noah Nelson tried to salvage his lackluster passing day with his two rushing scores, but was still only able to tally 111 yards in the air, with Nick Vallas’ 46 receiving yards the tops on the team. They weren’t able to score fast enough with their style of play and allowed two Williams’ first year players to smoke them on defense. Ejaaz Jiu, Nick Vallas, and Bo Millet were my favorite offensive playmakers for this team heading into the season and as a result of Nelson’s paltry passing, none were able to make a big impact. Look for Vermont high school legend Griff Stalcup ’21 to see some more snaps this weekend, especially if they get down early, and hopefully he will find the diamonds in the rough in the receiving core. Chris Markisz looks to have successfully lost the starting RB or 1b rushing role as he managed just 1.8 yds/carry, putting the ball in Nate Richam’s hands more this week. The offense might look different this weekend against and they need to find small victories in what is likely to be a blow out against Middlebury.

Williams’ Frank Stola makes a Bowdoin defender miss and heads towards yards after a catch.

10: Colby (0-1)

While the Mules did face the league’s toughest opponent in week one, since they didn’t score a point I didn’t have much choice in this rank. Obviously they have some work to do as their defense was torched on the ground by Max Chipouras. This is as much a credit to Chipouras as it is a lack of credit to Colby’s run D. The top two Bantam backs averaged almost nine yards per carry on Saturday, and the Mules had just four tackles for losses. They had several bright spots though as they managed to recover two fumbles and Patrick Yale ’20 was able to pick off Puzzo. Their offense was no better though as they were just 1/15 on third down conversions, and threw for 119 yards in the losing effort. Their run game was OK as Jake Schwern’s 4.5 yards per carry weren’t a huge issue, but 73 yards passing from the starting QB is. They need to figure out how to find some completions to move the chains on third down and then they will have a better chance against the weaker teams.

New Field, Same Approach, Different Results? 2017 Bowdoin Football Preview

Editor’s Note: Connor is a new writer joining us from Bowdoin College. He is a rising senior, and just wishes that everyone in the world could just get along and have fun.

2016 Record: 0-8

2017 Projected Record: 2-7

Projected Offensive Starters: *Seven Returning

QB: Noah Nelson (‘19)*

RB: Nate Richam (‘20)*

WR: Nick Vailas (‘18)*

WR: Ejaaz Jiu (’19)*

WR: Chandler Gee (‘20)*

TE: Bryan Porter (‘18)*

OL: Elliot Borden (‘18)

OL: TBA

C: AJ Mansolillo (‘19)*

OL: TBA

OL: TBA

Projected Defensive Starters:  *Eight returning

LB: Tyler MacNeil (‘18)*

LB: Latif Armiyaw (*18)*

LB: Joe Gowetski (‘20)*

DL: Robert Caputo (‘19)*

DL: TBA

DL: TBA

DL: Jay Mobley (‘20)*

DB: Ryan Sanborn (‘18)*

DB: Nye Deskus (‘20)*

DB: Cameron Rondeau (‘19)*

DB: Henry Little (‘18)*

Projected Specialists: *Two returning

K: Andrew Sisti (‘18)*

P: Michael Chen (‘20)*

Noah Nelson
Noah Nelson ’19 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

Offensive MVP: QB Noah Nelson ‘19

If the Polar Bears are going to compete for more than a few wins this season, it will largely depend on the play of Nelson. Entering preseason as the undisputed starting quarterback, Nelson will to prove that he is capable of leading this offense in high-scoring affairs. Bowdoin ranked towards the bottom of the NESCAC last year in passing effectiveness and statistical output, but Nelson showed signs of an ability to create offense and move the chains down the field. Equally as important, the Bowdoin offensive line will need to show significant improvement from last year, to allow Nelson to survey the field on offensive drives. A major staple of the receiving corps graduated last Spring (Ford ‘17), but senior Nick Vailas ‘18 figures to handle a hefty portion of the receiving workload. In addition, Chandler Gee ‘20 had some success in the slot last year. The buzz coming from preseason practice has also indicated that some first-year wideouts will figure to contribute significantly this season. The pieces are in place for Nelson to make a major step forward as the Polar Bears’ play caller.

Defensive MVP: Joe Gowetski ‘20

Joe Gowetski
Joe Gowetski ’20 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

Gowetski came in and made an immediate impact for the Bowdoin defense last season. He was a beast from the linebacker position, racking up 52 tackles, as well as 1 sack. Those numbers led the league last year, and Gowetski has showed no signs of the proverbial ‘sophomore slump’ so far in practice. Gowetski figures to be a major stopper in the run defense, and his quickness and instincts make him effective in coverage as well. He has emerged as a team leader, and has put in the necessary work to be a major difference maker this season. Look for Gowetski’s name atop the NESCAC leaderboards again this season.

Biggest Game: @ Williams, September 16th

For the second year in a row, we’ve picked the first game on Bowdoin’s schedule as the most critical. After going winless last year, it is absolutely necessary that the Polar Bears show up for their first game this year. Although Bowdoin Coach JB Wells has an eye toward the future and has moved on from last year, fans of the program may not be so quick to do so. Wells has focused on improving his team day in and day out, and it must show on September 16th if Bowdoin is to rebound from a winless season. Whether or not you believe in sports momentum, the Polar Bears will certainly breathe a sigh of relief if they top Williams in week one.

Best Tweet:

So cute!

Summary:

This offseason and build-up to the first game has an air of ‘new beginnings’ for the Polar Bears. Bowdoin’s historic Whittier field is undergoing the final stages of a major renovation; it is set to open for their home opener (9/23 vs. Middlebury). Coach Wells and the rest of the football program is hopeful that this renovation will spur the team to hit the ground running this year (with the added security of the artificial turf, of course). More broadly, the team has let bygones be bygones, and has emphasized continual improvement and investment in the team’s goals. An 0-8 record last year definitely stings, but the Polar Bears are maintaining a positive outlook on their chances this year.

Bowdoin will benefit from its youth during this year’s elongated season: with a nine game schedule, durability and longevity will be key. Those are areas in which the Polar Bears are well equipped. A nice balance of experience and youth sets Bowdoin up to capitalize on the additional game, whereas some other teams might have trouble adjusting to the change.

Aside from the departure of Liam Ford ‘17 at wide receiver, the entire Bowdoin offense is returning and appear ready to capitalize on some bright spots from last year. Nate Richam ‘20 and CJ Markisz ‘20 figure to once again form a two-headed running attack, and the Bowdoin playcallers will rely on them to carry the workload. Chandler Gee ‘20 impressed with his speed and catching ability in the slot last year, and with the addition of some highly skilled freshman wideouts, the receiving corps looks ready to make a big impact. These new additions will complement consistent offensive presences WR Nick Vailas ‘18 and TE Bryan Porter ‘18.  As previously mentioned, Noah Nelson ‘19 will need to step up in big fashion if Bowdoin is to outscore opponents on a weekly basis.

On the defensive side of the ball, Bowdoin will be anchored by linebackers Latif Armiyaw ‘18 and Joe Gowetski ‘20, who, between them, have some serious athleticism and high football IQ. Similar to previous seasons, one of Bowdoin’s keys to victory will be stopping the run (Bowdoin allowed a league-worst 200.1 rushing yards per game last year). To make matters worse, Bowdoin also allowed the most passing yards per game last year with 242.9. Clearly, the returning defenders (and the incoming players) will need to show improvements if Bowdoin is to even be competitive this season.

All in all, Bowdoin has a long way to go before they are NESCAC title contenders. There were flashes of potential last year, but none of them persisted long enough for the Polar Bears to grab a win. With a brand new facility and positive outlook on the season, it would seem as though Bowdoin is poised to make some noise in the league this year. The team will need to be far more effective on defense, and capitalize on their offensive capabilities, if they are to turn their fortune around. Despite the positivity and experienced roster, Bowdoin is still in rebuilding mode. While I don’t think they go winless for the second straight year, it may be another season of woes for the Polar Bears.

Amherst Goes Back to Back: Stock Report 11/17

Nothing but smiles across the board for Amherst once again. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
Nothing but smiles across the board for Amherst once again. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

The past week was, and excuse my language, a real shitty time. NESCAC campuses in particular have been tumultuous (not all bad, too). I will focus on the games that happened on Saturday, though, and I encourage you to read the student papers like the Amherst Student and the Bowdoin Orient (to name just a few) to learn more about how NESCAC campuses responded to global events. The football games on Saturday couldn’t wash away or solve these issues, but for me at least, watching a football game on Saturday helped me a little to focus on other things. Let this article serve as another piece of escapism if you need it.

The dominant NESCAC story of the weekend was the win by Amherst which clinched back-to-back 8-0 and NESCAC championship seasons. On the one hand, I feel like we’ve written tons about Amherst this fall. On the other, I don’t think the Jeffs have gotten enough credit for what has been a truly dominating season. A weirdly dominant one, but a dominant one all the same. The Jeffs had an average margin of victory of 17.63 points, a number that puts them just above the 2011 Amherst team that Peter Lindholm named the third best in modern NESCAC history.

Perhaps more impressive is that Amherst won every single game by multiple scores meaning that their opponents never had the chance to tie or take the lead on their final offensive possession. They faced deficits in the first half of several games, but by the end of 60 minutes they had stamped their style on the game. In fact, even though the Jeffs did seem to start the game slowly, they were still so good that in their eight games, they only were tied or trailed in the second half in one game: against Wesleyan for just two minutes and forty seconds at the beginning of the third quarter.

The calling card for the Jeffs continues to be their defense, which was not quite the same monster as the 2014 one but was probably closer than you think. Amherst allowed 9.9 points per game in 2015 compared to 8.9 points per game in 2014, and they allowed 20 more yards per game this year, with most of that difference due to an uptick in passing yards given up. This year’s unit was content often to let teams move the ball between the 20’s, giving up plays of four or five yards in order to not allow any big plays. The depth of the unit was exceptional with a different player stepping up every week. From Evan Boynton ’17 to Jimmy Fairfield-Sonn ’16 to even part-time nose tackle Rob Perdoni ’16, everyone on the defense had a specific role that they filled well.

What this defense was great at was improving as the game went along.  The best way of looking at the way that Amherst shut down teams as time progressed is to isolate the statistics of the four games against teams with winning records: Wesleyan, Trinity, Middlebury and Tufts. In those four games they allowed an average of 9.75 points, impressive when you consider the caliber of those offenses. The numbers get even better when you look at just the second half. Amherst allowed six points total in the second halves of those four games. They held Tufts, Trinity and Middlebury completely scoreless in the second half, and Wesleyan was the only team able to score at all.

Still, what for me enabled Amherst to so comfortably go 8-0 was the big play ability in all areas. On offense big plays were predicated on QB Reece Foy ’18 and the receivers on the outside like Jackson McGonagle ’16 and Devin Boehm ’17. Three long touchdowns against Wesleyan were the difference in that one. The defense and special teams came up with massive turnovers that gave the Jeffs’ offense a short field to score critical touchdowns against Trinity and Middlebury. They weren’t the sexiest or most exciting team, but you can’t help but respect the performance of the 2015 Amherst squad.

Stock Up

Home-Field Advantage

For all those words I just wrote about how Amherst is better this year than last year, an argument can be made that what helped Amherst the most was that they played Middlebury, Wesleyan and Trinity all at home. This weekend four home teams won, and two of the results are because of the victor being at home. Hamilton beat Bates 14-0 in what looks like a case of the Bobcats never getting off the bus from that long ride to central New York. The Bobcats barely had more than 100 yards of offense in a lackluster effort. Even more impressive was Tufts outlasting Middlebury 31-28 to get Tufts to 6-2. Home-field advantage in the NESCAC is less about the impact that the crowd can have on the field than the comfort level of players at home. Any athlete prefers to have a set rhythm before a game, and the ability to have that at home has a real effect, even if it is a difficult one to quantify.

QB Tim Drakeley ’17 (Bowdoin)

The starter at the beginning of the year, Drakeley got injured and then saw his job get stolen from him by Noah Nelson ’19. Nelson was hurt this weekend so Drakeley got the start. Things began terribly with Drakeley going 0-5 with an interception in the first quarter. Then the junior shook off the rust and played great the final three quarters, finishing with over 300 yards passing and three touchdowns as Bowdoin rolled over Colby 35-13 in the consolation game of the CBB. The game was a good finish for the Polar Bears, especially after the disastrous 31-0 shutout loss to Bates. Both Drakeley and Nelson will be back next season, and whoever wins the job already has one game on their resume that gives Bowdoin supporters hope.

Trinity

Just putting the whole Bantam team here because it was a complete team win (the defense in particular played well). The win over Wesleyan 17-13 makes Trinity the NESCAC runner-up at 7-1 in what constitutes a rebound season. The Bantams did things the old-fashioned way running the ball 57 times for 216 yards with both Nick Gaynor ’17 and Max Chipouras ’19 carrying the ball a lot. Defensive end Preston Kelly ’16 led the way on defense with nine tackles, three for loss. The Bantams lose Kelly and several other key cogs along the offensive and defensive lines, but they are bringing back a whole raft of talent next year. They continue to be the biggest threat to Amherst in terms of top dog status.

Upward Mobility

Long a pretty staid league, the hierarchy of NESCAC football has changed in recent years, and there is the possibility that even more upheaval is afoot in the future. Wesleyan, long the littlest of the Little Three, has proven this year that their move into the upper reaches of the NESCAC is sustainable and likely to last. Tufts, as noted, has risen like a phoenix from the ashes of their long losing streak. The Jumbos could potentially stay close to the top of the heap because of advantages like the large size of the Tufts undergrad population and the more urban setting of Medford and Boston.

The tendency for schools when they see the ability of some schools to climb up the standings is to say “why not us?” The difference between the top and bottom of the league is not a huge one: a few real impact players are capable of making a difference. However, in many ways NESCAC football is a zero sum game. If someone is up, then someone else is down (Williams is the primary culprit here). Of course, one has to remember the express purpose of the NESCAC.

“The primary mission of the Conference is to organize, facilitate, support, and regulate intercollegiate athletic competition among member institutions in a manner consistent with our commitment to academic excellence and our core values.” (From the NESCAC website)

At a certain point, a metaphorical arms race in pursuit of wins will lead almost inevitably to a violation of academic excellence and core values. For all of the positives that a football program has, those can become negatives when priorities become rearranged and compromises are made. Part of the reason for our affection with the NESCAC is our belief and hope that on balance, though not always, the league does things, for lack of a better terms, the right way.

These worries of compromised values are obviously not at all new ones, and we recognize that. We just wanted to take a moment to sort of step back and recognize that in part because I have spent much of the fall dissecting

Stock Down

We’ve made it a tradition to not put Stock Down for any team or player the final week of a season, mostly because it doesn’t seem completely necessary to point out areas where teams can improve when there are no games to show improvement upon for nine-plus months. We’ve still got a few loose ends in our football coverage to finish up like postseason awards before we move onto basketball. Thanks again to all of our readers and especially to our other writers who have made this an awesome fall for us.

The Amherst Dynasty: Power Ranks 11/12

SS Jimmy Fairfield-Sonn '16 hauls in one of his two INTs of the day as Amherst pulled away in the NESCAC Championship race. (Courtesy of Greg Sullivan)
SS Jimmy Fairfield-Sonn ’16 hauls in one of his two INTs of the day as Amherst pulled away in the NESCAC Championship race. (Courtesy of Greg Sullivan)

The Lord Jeffs enjoyed (proverbial) champagne showers following their victory over the Bantams. It will likely be their sixth NESCAC title since 2000, sharing the reigns with Trinity on the modern-era All-Time Championships list. There was no better way for the 2016 class to go out on Senior Day than by earning their third consecutive ring. Besides Amherst, the rest of the NESCAC has an opportunity to move up the ladder as the final week is filled with exciting rivalry games dating back to the 1800s. Should be a beautiful week of football, and it will be thrilling to see where teams end up.

1. Amherst Lord Jeffs (7-0; Last Week: 1)

Amherst essentially walked away with their third consecutive NESCAC title Saturday as they took down Trinity. The Lord Jeffs took advantage of Trinity’s mistakes, and that seemed to be the biggest difference between these two teams Saturday. They controlled the second half, running all over the Bantams, with Reece Foy ’18, Kenny Adinkra ’16, Nick Kelly ’17, Jack Hickey ’19, and Jackson McGonagle ’16 all averaging at least 3.6 yards per carry. Amherst SS Jimmy Fairfield-Sonn ’16 went out with a bang with two interceptions and a crucial blocked field goal to end the first half. Amherst will wrap up their season against the Ephs in Williamstown, Mass for the Biggest Little Game In America — a game that dates back to 1884, and is the most-played Division-III game in the country.

Trinity Bantams (6-1; Last Week: 2)

Despite analyst Joe MacDonald’s bold prediction of a Bantam victory, Trinity was unable to get it done down the stretch. Amherst did a good job depriving kick and punt returner Darrien Myers ’17 in the forms of pooching and squibbing, which put a lot of pressure on the offense to move the ball up the field. The Trinity faithful felt some home cooking involved between a questionable touchdown catch and the Bantams racking up 12 penalties resulting in 98 yards opposed to Amherst’s three penalties.

WR Jackson McGonagle '16 incredibly hauled in this twisting grab to help dispatch the Bantams. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
WR Jackson McGonagle ’16 incredibly hauled in this twisting grab to help dispatch the Bantams. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

Despite edging Amherst’s 247 offensive yards with 314 of their own and possessing the ball for 38 minutes of the game, Trinity had too many blunders. A fatal sideline pass intercepted at the Trinity 37 yardline resulted in Amherst taking the lead and never looking back. Trinity’s Max Chipouras ’19, Sonny Puzzo ’18, and Myers averaged 3.8 yards per rush, but the Amherst running game was even more efficient. Trinity still has life to live as they take on long-time rivals Wesleyan in the homecoming game that will be featured on CPTV Sports.

3. Middlebury (5-2; Last Week: 3)

Middlebury took care of business Saturday against Hamilton, but their stock dropped with such a tight game. They were able to keep their spot at No. 3 for Week 7, but that could change as they take on the Jumbos this weekend.

Middlebury trailed late in the first half, when QB Matt Milano ’16 and WR Matt Minno ’16 connected to even the score pending a QB Jared Lebowitz ’18 two-point conversion rush. Milano threw for 273 yards and three touchdowns with one pick, while Diego Meritus ’19 picked up 75 of the Panthers’ 89 rushing yards. Minno leaped out of the water catching a season-high three touchdowns on six catches for 171 yards. Naples native and CB Nate Leedy ’17 picked off Hamilton’s Cole Freeman ’19 twice. S Kevin Hopsticker ’18 also added an interception and 10 tackles in what was probably his best game as a Panther.

4. Tufts (5-2; Last Week: 5)

Tufts outscored Colby 28-10, and QB Alex Snyder ’17 only passed 13 times for one touchdown caught by WR Mike Miller ’18. Chance Brady ’17 averaged 7.9 yards on 27 attempts scoring two touchdowns. His longest run was 49 yards. Brady also was the Jumbos’ leading receiver, with two catches for 49 yards, en route to being named NESCAC Offensive POTW and the second NESCAC player this season to be dubbed the New England Football Writers’ Gold Helmet winner. Colby was able to move the ball on Tufts, nearly gaining more offensive yards than the Jumbos. Tufts return man Mike Rando ’17 ran one kick back 85 yards for a touchdown, and he took a second one back for 37 yards. The Jumbos’ Zach Thomas ’18 racked up 3.5 sacks. It is tough to say how Tufts will fair with Middlebury next week; I could see either team taking that game. A Tufts upset could stir up rival tensions between the two foes.

5. Wesleyan (5-2; Last Week: 4)

Wesleyan will have a chance to move up the ranks next week when they take on Trinity for the rivalry game that dates back to 1885. The Cardinals took on Williams Saturday in a convincing win. QB Mark Piccirillo ’19 stepped up and completed 11-14 passes with one touchdown for 105 yards, and he continues to show off his accurate arm. It was just the freshman’s second game playing a pivotal role, as Gernald Hawkins ’18 threw just 12 times and only completing six. They will likely continue to keep with their dual quarterback threat to keep the Bantams off balance, so it will be interesting to see how Trinity is able to respond. S Justin Sanchez ’17 picked a ball off and forced a fumble with six tackles. K Ike Fuchs’17 missed a short field goal wide right, and also missed an extra-point that was pushed back five yards due to a penalty, and things have just not been right with the formerly reliable Fuchs. If Wesleyan is going to win next week, they will probably need Fuchs at his best.

6. Hamilton (1-6; Last Week: 8)

The Continentals gave Middlebury a run for their money, something they have done to every team besides Trinity this year. They proved they can hang with the big dogs which has pushed them up to the No. 6 spot, a big jump from where they began the season. Yes, QB Cole Freeman threw four interceptions, but none of them resulted in a Panther score, and it seems like Coach Dave Murray is fine with Freeman taking shots down field as part of his learning process. The Continental defense did a good job containing the run game, keeping Middlebury to 2.6 yards per rush, but Matt Milano’s 14 completions were too deadly. RB LaShawn Ware ’18 played well – especially in the first quarter – picking up 77 yards on 21 carries, and WR Charles Ensley ’17 caught a 78-yard touchdown pass. Hamilton did not lay down easy as they posted a safety in the fourth quarter on Sean Tolton’s ’19 blocked punt. The whole league has been impressed with the Continentals this year, and is excited as it raises the competition. Hamilton has a chance to earn their second win of the season as they take on a rolling Bates.

7. Bates (2-5; Last Week: 6)

Slotback Tyler Janssen '17 lays a tender kiss on the CBB trophy. (Courtesy of Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)
Slotback Tyler Janssen ’17 lays a tender kiss on the CBB trophy. (Courtesy of Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

CBB Champions. Bates shellacked Bowdoin, shutting them out 31-0, waltzing their way to a killer recruiting tool in the CBB —Bates has won three of the last four CBB Titles. The Bobcats are on the cusp of – in the words of the great Lou Brown – a winning streak.

They have a chance to end on a high note at Hamilton and make up for all those closes losses earlier this year. The Bobcats outplayed Bowdoin last week in all facets, tackling the Polar Bears for a loss five times for 29 yards including three sacks. CB Trevor Lyons ’17 had a pick-six that he took 50 yards all the way back. QB Pat Dugan ’16 put on a show, running and throwing for a touchdown as he piled up 252 of Bates’ total 380 offensive yards. Another big win will vault the Bobcats back over the Continentals in the ranks.

8. Williams (2-5; Last Week: 9)

After a scoreless first 23 minutes, the Ephs let up a 21-yard touchdown pass to Wesleyan’s Eric Meyreles ’18. Williams’ lone touchdown came on a last minute, three-yard pass by Austin Lommen ’16, who threw for 150 yards including an interception. RB Noah Sorrento ’19 got his first crack as the starter and ran for 105 yards on 21 carries, including one for 45 yards. This weekend’s rivalry game will not have as much hype as most years due to the fact that Amherst is a heavy, heavy favorite. Williams moves up from last week, like Colby, more by virtue of the lackluster performance that Bowdoin put on last weekend.

9. Colby (1-6; Last Week: 10)

Colby lost to the better team Saturday when they hosted Tufts. Colby’s QB Gabe Harrington ’17 continued to struggle, throwing two interceptions while completing 53 percent of his passes. RB Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17 got his touches and scored a touchdown on 21 attempts, though only averaging 2.1 yards per carry. John Baron ’18 kicked a 37-yard field goal and an extra point. Despite a crooked score, Colby compiled 320 yards compared to Tufts’ 325.

The consolation game of the CBB will happen this week, and it is a chance for each Colby and Bowdoin to rid themselves of the shame of being part of a one-win program.

10. Bowdoin (1-6; Last Week: 7)

Not to take away from Bates, but that game shouldn’t have gotten out of hand like it did. It was a sad sight to see for Polar Bear fans Saturday as they rushed for negative six yards. Negative six. When they did have the ball in their hands, they fumbled three times, only making it into Bobcat territory four times. The Polar Bears were closest to a score when QB Noah Nelson ’19 threw an interception from the Bates 25-yardline. Bowdoin let Bates run right over them, as they let up 12 rushing first downs. Bowdoin will take on Colby for the runner-up of the CBB this weekend.

 

Marginal Movements: Power Rankings 11/4

The Hamilton Continentals were able to drag down the Ephs in Williamstown for the first time in nearly four decades. (Courtesy of Williams College Athletics)
The Hamilton Continentals were able to drag down the Ephs in Williamstown for the first time in nearly four decades. (Courtesy of Williams College Athletics)

Saturday’s games were fuming with excitement across the NESCAC, from the Hamilton Continentals earning their first win in over three years to Bates getting their first win of the season in triumphant fashion. With just two games left to play the standings are wide open throughout most of the league. Bates, Bowdoin, Colby, and Hamilton are all tied for last place with one win a piece, then there is Williams with two wins trailing Middlebury, Tufts, and Wesleyan, who share third place with four wins each. It will be a Championship atmosphere (and literally, the de facto championship) this weekend for the Lord Jeffs and the Bantams as Amherst hosts Trinity. That’s where they are in the official standings, but where are they in the all important Power Rankings?

1. Amherst Lord Jeffs (6-0; Last Week: 1)

Coming off a strong win against Tufts, the Amherst team looked good as a whole. The defense compiled eight points with a pick six and a safety; Charlie Wall ’17 connected on his only field goal attempt, making him 7-8 on the year and 21-23 on extra points; and they ran for three touchdowns going on to beat the Jumbos 32-7. The one man who seemed to struggle was Reece Foy ’18, who threw for 170 yards while connecting on 18 of 27 passes including an interception. The past two games he has been inconsistent, and don’t expect the Trinity defense to be any easier a task for him. With that being said the Amherst defense was stellar holding Tufts to 161 offensive yards, and just 19 rushing yards. An Amherst win this weekend would crown them NESCAC Champions and they would tie Trinity for the modern era NESCAC Championships record with six.

2. Trinity Bantams (6-0; Last Week: 2)

Still undefeated, the Bantams have survived two scares against top ranked teams. This Halloween, the Trinity defense was Superman and picked up Sonny Puzzo ’18 and a struggling running game as they took down Middlebury in a late game comeback. Trailing by a point with just over four minutes to go, Trinity’s Paul McCarthy ’16 recovered a fumble forced by Lyle Baker ’16, which led to a Max Chipouras ’19 touchdown with under three minutes to play. Then interceptions in Trinity territory by Spencer Donahue ’17 and a picks-six from Archi Jerome ’17 put the nail in the Panthers’ coffin. Trinity has their biggest test of the season on Saturday, and Puzzo and the running game must be efficient. With the way things looked against Middlebury, the Bantams are in rough shape, but if Trinity can find their mojo, there is no reason they can’t take down the Lord Jeffs.

3. Middlebury Panthers (4-2; Last Week: 3)

Though they earned their second loss of the season, they are not far behind Trinity. They completely outplayed the Bantams, but crumbled at the end of the game when they fumbled the ball and threw two interceptions. The Panthers offense racked up 449 yards, and nearly doubled Trinity in first downs with 27. The Middlebury defense sacked Puzzo five times, with Gil Araujo ’16 getting 2.5 sacks for 20 yards; Araujo also had 3.5 tackles for a loss  of 23 yards. Middlebury lost its chance at a NESCAC Championship, but they are still playing for runner-up as they take on Hamilton this Saturday and then Tufts the following week.

4. Wesleyan Cardinals (4-2; Last Week: 5)

Though it was a close win against Bowdoin last Saturday, Wesleyan outplayed the Polar Bears, outweighing their total offense by 429 yards to 223 yards. Lou Stevens ’16 did a good job punching the ball through for two touchdowns on 12 carries. Cornerback Zac Cuzner ’17 had Noah Nelson’s ’19 number all day picking him off three times and breaking up three passes. One thing to keep an eye on is the starting quarterback position. Starter Gernald Hawkins ’18 is less than 100 percent right now, and back-up Mark Piccirillo ’19, who was already too talented to keep off the field completely, was 16-21 when he took over for Hawkins against Wesleyan. The Cardinals look to improve to five wins as they take on Williams this weekend.

5. Tufts Jumbos (4-2; Last Week: 4)

Tufts suffered a disappointing loss to Amherst where they were outscored 32-7. The Jumbos could only compile 161 offensive yards with little success in their rushing game. QB Alex Snyder ’17 was shut down by the LJ’s as he threw a pick and was sacked three times losing a total of 36 yards. The Tufts lone touchdown came on a one-yard run by Chance Brady ’17. We would have hoped this game was much closer, but Amherst was too dominant. Tufts can end the season on a high note though if they are able to take it to Colby and Middlebury. Beating one of them would secure an above .500 season and show improvement from last season.

6. Bates Bobcats (1-5; Last Week: 7)

Though the Bobcats avoid Trinity in their schedule, they have looked good against the rest of the league, losing some close games. Saturday Bates pulled off a 10-9 win against Colby for the first leg of the CBB. Colby had a chance to tie the game with an extra point, but Collin Richardson ’18 stepped up and blocked the kick to preserve the one-point lead. With Patrick Dugan ’16 passing for just 43 yards on four completions, Bates was able to grind out a win. Bates can win the CBB title with a win vs. Bowdoin this weekend.

7. Bowdoin (1-5; Last Week: 8)

While being outmatched by 206 total yards of offense by Wesleyan, Bowdoin was able to keep it close and lose this game by just six points. Nelson had a tough game where he threw three interceptions and one touchdown on 36 pass attempts. The Polar Bears will wash this loss because they have the CBB to play in their final two games. All three teams seem equal, and it would be no surprise to see a three-way tie for the title.

8. Hamilton (1-5; Last Week: 10)

They finally did it. Hamilton beat the Ephs at Williams for the first time in 19 years and the first time in Williamstown in 29 years, and it was Hamilton’s first win in over three years. They competed well and took advantage of Williams’ penalties and mistakes. Hamilton’s Cole Freeman ’19 tossed two touchdowns while compiling 180 yards completing 13 of 27 attempts. Charles Ensley ’17 was on the receiving end bringing in two touchdowns on four catches for 84 yards. Hamilton takes on Middlebury this weekend in Vermont, which will likely send the Continentals back down to earth.

9. Williams (2-4; Last Week: 6)

Losing at home against Hamilton for the first time in 29 years was a low point for Williams this season. They committed 11 penalties that tallied 104 yards, and five of the penalties granted Hamilton a first down. It is hard to win playing like that. Williams will face Wesleyan and Amherst in the final two games of the season. Darrias Sime ’16 was able to add a pair of touchdowns on seven catches. The Eph win column will likely stay at two the remainder of the season.

10. Colby (1-5; Last Week: 9)

Colby will hold down the No. 10 spot for this week. A disappointing loss to Bates leaves them bitter. They can redeem themselves in the final game when they travel to Bowdoin and have a shot at tying up the CBB. The Mules gained just under 100 more yards than Bates, but Gabe Harrington ’17 was less than spectacular throwing an interception and just 82 yards on 11 passes. The bottom of the table has a lot of opportunity for movement with four of the five teams with just one win.

No Tricks Here: Weekend Preview 10/31

The Trinity O-line hopes to enforce its will against Middlebury on Halloween Saturday. (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
The Trinity O-line hopes to enforce its will against Middlebury on Halloween Saturday. (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

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.

Game Previews

Wesleyan at Bowdoin, 12:30 PM, Brunswick, ME

Live Stats  Video

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.

Prediction: Wesleyan 35 – Bowdoin 14

Trinity at Middlebury, 12:30 PM, Middlebury, VT

Live Stats  Video

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.

Prediction: Middlebury 28 – Trinity 21

Bates at Colby, 1:00 PM, Waterville, ME

Video

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.

Prediction: Colby 21 – Bates 17

Hamilton at Williams, 1:30 PM, Williamstown, MA

Live Stats  Video

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.

Prediction: Williams 21 – Hamilton 14