Amherst, MA, Title Town: Week 7 Game of the Week

Amherst has done nothing but celebrate this season. (Photo by Joe MacDonald)
Amherst has done nothing but celebrate this season. (Photo by Joe MacDonald)

Game Info: Trinity (6-0) at Amherst (6-0): 1:00 PM, Amherst, MA

There’s no doubt about it. The NESCAC Championship will be determined this Saturday when two undefeated powerhouses clash in Amherst. Technically, we could get a shared title if the winner this weekend loses in Week 8 and vice versa, the loser this weekend wins in Week 8 … but we think that’s a silly rule and so we’re going to go ahead and say that this weekend’s winner will be the NESCAC champion.

This matchup dates back to 1886 (a game which Amherst won 20-4), and the LJ’s hold the all-time advantage 58-43-9 over Trinity. But that’s all ancient history. Sports is a “What have you done for me lately” kind of business, and lately Amherst has edged out a couple of victories by the slimmest of margins. In 2013, Amherst Head Coach EJ Mills got his 100th victory as the LJ’s slipped by Trinity, 17-16. The difference in that one was a mixed extra point by former Trinity kicker Ben Rosenblatt ’17 late in the fourth quarter. Tragically for the former kicker, a missed extra point was the only difference in the 2014 matchup, as well. The Bantams offense had been suffering greatly by that point in the season. Phenomenal RB Chudi Iregbulem ’15 was banged up for most of the second half of the year. Current QB Sonny Puzzo ’18 was out for the year, and starter Henry Foye ’16 down with an injury, so fill-in Hayden Jardine ’16 was only able to manufacture one scoring drive in the first quarter. Despite multiple takeaways, Amherst was still scoreless into the fourth quarter. Finally, LB Chris Tamasi ’15 recovered a game-changing fumble that led to a 39-yard TD drive and an Amherst victory.

What does all of this mean for this year’s game? Not much more than we know it won’t come easy to either team. The Trinity offense is much improved from the one that battled with the LJ’s last year, but otherwise a lot of the same characters are back. Trinity has a brand new linebacking corps, but this year’s rendition is as good as ever. The same is true for a couple of the Amherst linebackers, but the biggest change for the Lord Jeffs is Reece Foy ’18 at quarterback.

Things have been a little off recently for Foy, who has four interceptions in his last two games and had his lowest yardage total and yards per attempt a week ago against Tufts. Foy hasn’t been able to use his legs effectively much, either, even though he has the athleticism to do so. He’s become a pass-first QB, which is commendable, especially in a day and age where we glorify “dual-threats” and love to watch QBs scramble and make plays, but maybe what he needs now is a chance to use his legs a little bit. A QB draw here, a roll out scramble there, and suddenly the linebackers start drawing in, allowing Foy to hit some of his talented wideouts over the top.

Trinity X-factor: OLB Shane Libby ’19

It didn’t really strike me that Libby was a freshman until I sat down to write this article. Yeah I knew the kid was good, but holy crap I didn’t know he was this good and this young. The Bantams run a 3-4 with three down lineman and the fourth linebacker on the line of scrimmage. As the stand-up D-end in Trinity’s base defense, his job is to get after the passer. In any game, the two keys for defenses are 1) turnovers and 2), and this is the one I’m concerned about, shutting down one phase of the opponent’s game. Pundits always focus on shutting down the run, but it can be just as effective to shut down a team’s passing game which subsequently allows a defense to bottle up the run. That’s a long way of saying that if Libby can put pressure on Foy – and improve on his team-leading 3.5 sacks – then everything else will fall into place for the Trinity defense.

Amherst X-factor: K Charlie Wall ’18

Hey! A kicker shout out!

It’s been a one-point game the last two years, and the difference has been the kicking game. Phillip Nwosu ’15 was a great kicker, but Wall has stepped in superbly. The man is 7-8 on field goals for the best percentage in the league and 21-23 on extra points – most of anyone in the NESCAC. He doesn’t have as big of a leg as Nwosu, but he’s very consistent. Whether it’s a field goal or an extra point, I’m feeling that there will be an influential kick at some point on Saturday.

The Trinity special teams will try its best to interrupt K Charlie Wall '18 and Co. (Courtesy of Michael O'Hara/Middlebury Campus)
The Trinity special teams will try its best to interrupt K Charlie Wall ’18 and Co. (Courtesy of Michael O’Hara/Middlebury Campus)


Everything Else

So who has the advantage? Let’s break it down.

Let’s start with the Amherst offense and the Trinity defense. Furthermore, let’s start with the passing game. Foy has been a little inconsistent, but if you look at the season as a whole, he’s actually taken remarkably good care of the ball. Here’s a fun little chart that may or may not be useful:

Quarterback Attempts Interceptions Attempts/Interception
Gabe Harrington 167 9 18.55555556
Pat Dugan 119 5 23.8
Noah Nelson 132 5 26.4
Tim Drakeley 107 4 26.75
Chase Rosenberg 82 3 27.33333333
Matt Milano 258 9 28.66666667
Gernald Hawkins 149 5 29.8
Austin Lommen 237 7 33.85714286
Sonny Puzzo 171 5 34.2
Reece Foy 171 5 34.2
Alex Snyder 173 5 34.6
Cole Freeman 124 1 124

Foy is among the league’s best in attempts/interception. However, Trinity is great at making opposing QBs pay with 11 interceptions on the season, most in the league. The Bantams are going to be focused on stopping the Amherst rushing attack, though, so I don’t see Foy making many mistakes.

In terms of the ground game, Amherst’s biggest strength is the ability to cycle backs through. Kenny Adinkra ’16 is as tough as they come, Nick Kelly ’17 was the team’s best back a year ago but has dealt with injuries this season, and Jack Hickey ’19 might be the most talented of all, combining size and speed to average 6.8 yards per carry. The Amherst O-line is elite, and while the Trinity D-line is definitely good, I give the edge to Amherst.

On the flip side, I was shocked by the sheer size of the Trinity offensive line when I saw them in person. Of course, size isn’t necessarily the only thing that matters when it comes to O-line play, but it definitely helps. RT Chris Simmons ’18 is a tank, and all Max Chipouras ’19 needs to do is follow Simmons and Co. to the promised land. But – and there’s always a “but” – Amherst’s ability to rotate six defensive linemen keeps the LJs fresh. After watching the Middlebury defensive line handle the Trinity rushing attack a week ago, I have faith that Amherst can do the same.

It’s going to be imperative for Puzzo to find some targets downfield if Trinity is going to move the football. Too often the offense relies on a big play from the defense or special teams to spark a drive. While I never count out Darrien Myers ’17 in the return game, I’ve already talked about my faith in Amherst to hold onto the football and not turn it over. Much like Foy, Puzzo hasn’t been using his legs much recently. I don’t think he’s necessarily as inclined as Foy to run anyway. But maybe this would be a good time for Puzzo to run a little bit, too. After all, Wesleyan QB Gernald Hawkins ’18 gashed the Amherst D for 85 yards on 21 attempts earlier this season.


If it were a simple numbers game, the analysis above would suggest that Amherst will come out on top. The Jeffs seem to have the advantage in almost every phase discussed above. I give them the edge both rushing and passing against the Trinity defense, and in their ability to stop the Trinity running attack. Where Trinity closes the gap, I believe, is in the passing game – something that might be surprising for a team that is pretty run-first – but that’s where I think they can exploit the Jeffs.

It’s going to be a low-scoring game, much like the last two seasons. And special teams could be the difference, which of course favors the Bantams. Amherst is looking for its 18th straight win, and Trinity is looking to return to the pinnacle, a place they long remained. This is one for the history books, boys and girls. One that will see Trinity end up victorious.

Trinity 17 – Amherst 14

Underestimate the Champions at Your Own Risk: Amherst Season Preview

Nick Kelly ’17 is back along with a lot of other friends in the backfield. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

Projected Record: 7-1

Projected Offensive Starters (*Five Returning)

QB: Alex Berluti ’17
RB: Nick Kelly ’17*
WR: Jackson McGonagle ’16*
WR: Brian Ragone ’17*
WR: Nick Widen ’17
TE: Rob Thoma ’17
LT: Sam Hart ’16*
LG: Elijah Zabludoff ’18
C: Jim Daniels ’16*
RG: Cole Boehmer ’16
RT: Mitch Arthur ’18

Projected Defensive Starters: (*Eight Returning)

DE: Niyi Odewade ’17*
DT: Paul Johnson ’17*
DE: Sam Caldwell ’16*
OLB: Jack Drew ’16
ILB: Thomas Kleyn ’16*
ILB: Taylor Dean ’16
OLB: Parker Chapman ’17*
CB: Jaymie Spears ’16*
SS: Jimmy Fairfield-Sonn ’16*
FS: Chris Gow ’16*
CB: Stefan Soucy ’17

Offensive MVP: Running Back Nick Kelly ’17

Kelly had a great sophomore season, and we covered much of that already in our Player of the Year Preview, and so I wanted to talk about another skill player for Amherst who will also be a huge part of the offense. The wide receiving group is deep and is led by senior captain Jackson McGonagle ’16. The senior, who also is a great punter, was the primary deep threat for Amherst a year ago and will receive even more targets this year. Yet, a lot of his total yards came on one long touchdown against Bowdoin. He had twelve of his eighteen catches in the first three games of the season and saw his production take a major hit after that. Much of that can be traced to the change at quarterback to Max Lippe ’15, who sometimes threw to Gene Garay ’15 even if the entire defense was covering him. McGonagle has a good connection with whomever ends up as the QB this season, and that should help him have a banner senior year.

Defensive MVP: Cornerback Jaymie Spears ’16

We already talked about Spears, and not to give anything away but we will have more about him and the rest of the Amherst secondary later this week. Instead, focus on the man in the middle, inside linebacker Thomas Kleyn ’16. Last year Kleyn was the third leading tackler for Amherst, and he benefited from playing aside the departed Ned Deane ’15 in the middle of the defense. Kleyn got stronger and stronger as the year went along, with 37 of his 60 tackles coming in the final four games of the year. At 5’11” and 208 pounds (though that weight is from last year, and he has most likely gained a few pounds of muscle in the offseason), he can be described as that most desirable of linebacker traits: rugged. With the big defensive line taking up blockers in front of him, Kleyn has to be aggressive and fill gaps on run defense all season as his linebacking fellows get up to speed.

Biggest Surprise of Camp So Far: Guard Elijah Zabludoff ’18

Right off the bat, Zabludoff’s high school, John Bosco Prep in California (not to be confused with Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey) should catch your eye. In his senior season, John Bosco Prep went 16-0 and won the California state title. Zabludoff was a multi-year starter there, and even wrote about his senior year for the LA Times. Now in his sophomore year  at Amherst he has seized control of the right guard position with a great camp so far. At 300 pounds, he has a size advantage over almost every NESCAC defensive lineman. He isn’t some stiff either, and he will be an important part of making sure that the Jeffs can run the ball inside.

Biggest Game: Home vs. Trinity, November 7, 1:00 PM

Amherst has beaten Trinity in back-to-back years by one point, and the difference both years has been a missed extra point. Not that you can boil down the two games to simply that, but the kicking game has been a big advantage for Amherst. The Bantams will put in a little extra for this game given the recent history. The Jeffs have other huge games, but this will be their final big test of the season, and if they come in undefeated, a win would mean that they would most likely go perfect in back-to-back seasons. The game last season was dominated by the defenses. The Jeffs managed only 156 yards and nine first downs. The one touchdown for Amherst came courtesy of a short field after a Chris Tamasi ’15 forced fumble and recovery. Kelly was stonewalled all day and averaged 2.4 yards per carry. The Bantams were playing with their backup QB and could do nothing through the air. The game this year will in all likelihood follow a similarly lo- scoring script.

Best Tweet: Amherst never misses a chance to remind you that they have won a lot recently (rightfully so).


I’m going to start with the negative stuff and get all of that out of the way early. First, the Jeffs had an amazing run last year, but didn’t they get just a little bit lucky? In the very first game of the year at home against Bates, the Lord Jeffs allowed a touchdown with 1:16 left to make the score 7-6. The Bobcats, sensing this was their best opportunity to win and also maybe not trusting their freshman kicker in a big situation, went for two and the win. Amherst knocked down the pass attempt, and Kelly sealed the win with a long run after the Jeffs recovered the onside kick. And that’s the game you don’t even remember that was close!

Then there was the rainstorm against Middlebury, Phillip Nwosu ’15 making a 41-yard field goal to tie the game against Wesleyan, and the Trinity missed field goal from 24 yards away that would have won the game in the final seconds. The Jeffs had to go 5-0 in single digit games to win the title. No team can flirt with a loss so many times and not eventually lose one. There is definitely skill involved in winning close games, but if you play a lot of close games and win them all, luck has to be a factor.

If the Jeffs play that many close games again, they will not go 8-0. I would bet my firstborn on it.

Then you have to look at the personnel losses. The starting quarterback, leading wide receiver (who had twice as many catches as anyone else), three longtime offensive line starters, an All-League kicker, and the two leading tacklers are all gone. That is a lot. Amherst has traditionally been able to withstand those types of losses, and they do have possible replacements or ways to replace them somehow. Yet, those players are still very much question marks.

The best place to start is at the quarterback spot, a position that has been unsettled for the past four seasons. Lippe was the starter essentially for three years, but he never completely won over the coaching staff and they were constantly tinkering with who played. The Jeffs once again have a quarterback battle going on. Coach EJ Mills was unwilling to commit to either Reece Foy ’18 or Alex Berluti ’17 when I talked to him last week. That might have changed after the scrimmage this weekend, but we won’t know until the opening kickoff who is going to be playing most of the time. What makes the decision so hard for Mills is that Foy and Berluti are very similar players. Both are short, can run, and have strong yet inaccurate arms. Foy is a slightly better runner, and Berluti is a little taller and better at standing in the pocket, but Mills is not choosing between a clash of styles. That similarity means he will likely play both guys and wait for one of them to grab the job in the first week or two of the season.

So I’ve spent a lot of time bashing the Jeffs, but there is a lot to love about this team. The defense is going to be special, and it is probably more talented than it was last year. The strength is the secondary where Spears, Chris Gow ’16, and Jimmy Fairfield-Sonn ’16 are all potential All-NESCAC talents this year. Up front Paul Johnson ’17 is a legitimate 300-pounder, something rarely seen on the defensive line in the NESCAC. The Jeffs also still have a lot of depth in the front seven meaning they can keep all of their defensive starters fresh.

At several spots where talented players graduated there won’t be much of a drop off. Charlie Wall ’18 replaces Nwosu, and even if he can’t quite fill Nwosu’s shoes, he should be a more than competent kicker. Linebackers Jack Drew ’16 and Parker Chapman ’17 both have to take on slightly bigger roles this year, but they produced a lot already last year and make that position as strong as ever. Sam Hart ’16 and Jim Daniels ’16 will ensure that the offensive line continues to create holes and give time for the quarterback. That running attack will be a good one. Besides Kelly, Amherst can rely on Kenny Adinkra ’16 and Raheem Jackson ’17 to carry the ball. All three of those backs have slightly different skill sets that the offense will be able to use.

The talent is still there for Amherst, but the margin for error is thin. The Jeffs first big test is that third game against Middlebury, and they will have to have figured out their quarterback situation by then. If one of Foy and Berluti emerges as an above-average starter, then a repeat 8-0 season is more than feasible. However, I don’t see that happening in time and think the Jeffs fall just short against the Panthers.


Top 10 Games of 2015

Bates vs. Bowdoin is always a battle to the end. (Courtesy of
Bates vs. Bowdoin is always a battle to the end. (Courtesy of

Every game matters in the NESCAC, but at the end of the day, some games matter just a little bit more. Here are the games that you have to pay attention to if you are a NESCAC fan.

10. November 11: Bowdoin at Bates

When these teams meet in Week 7, it is likely that NESCAC title hopes for both teams will be out the window, but the CBB title will likely be on the line. Bowdoin could be worn down by the previous two weeks vs. NESCAC heavyweights Trinity and Wesleyan while Bates will be coming off another Maine rivalry match-up vs. Colby. The CBB rivalry games always provide quality football and this game is likely to be the same.

9. October 24: Tufts at Williams

Last year, this game came down to the wire in Medford with the Jumbos stealing a huge win for the program, 27-20, but this year the game flips across the state to western Mass. and Williamstown. This is a pivotal game in the Ephs’ schedule if they want to get back to being an above .500 team. Tufts returns a strong nucleus of players and is likely to make noise yet again in the league.

8. October 17: Trinity at Tufts

Tufts finished last season at 4-4 but got blown out by every team they faced that finished ahead of them (Trinity, Amherst, and Middlebury). This is Tufts’ first shot in 2015 at one of the NESCAC heavyweights and will likely prove if Tufts can join the NESCAC title conversation. Luckily for the ‘Bos they don’t have to travel to the daunting Coop at Trinity this year.

7. September 26: Middlebury at Wesleyan

The 2015 season starts off with a bang as we get two major title contenders squaring off Week 1. Wesleyan appears to be hit hard by graduation losses but they do get RB LaDarius Drew ’15 back who was out with a foot injury all of 2014. Whichever team can come out victorious will have made their path to the NESCAC title significantly easier.

6. November 14: Middlebury at Tufts

It’s hard to say right now how this game will look in Week 8 but clearly this should be a tremendous game provided Tufts can build on the success it had last season. This is one of three huge games the final weekend that will most likely have a big impact on determining the league champion. Tufts looks to avenge an absolute slaughtering in last year’s finale that ended the great season for the Jumbos.

5. October 10: Middlebury at Amherst

This will be Amherst’s first real test of the 2015 season. We will already have seen the Panthers in a big time game Week 1 versus Wesleyan so we should know a lot about the team. A lot of questions about how the 2015 season should unfold will be revealed in this match-up, more so on the Amherst side. Gunslinger Matt Milano ’16 was completely shut down last year by the Lord Jeffs defense, but a torrential downpour didn’t help the Panthers’ aerial attack. Look for Midd to flip the script this year.

4. November 7: Trinity at Amherst

The difference in last year’s game was a missed PAT by the Bantams which allowed the Lord Jeffs to escape the Coop with a 7-6 win. This win last year clinched the NESCAC title for the Jeffs, and it could possibly again this year. But with the Bants reloading from what was a down year for them this game should be even better this year. Both teams have a very realistic shot at being 6-0 coming into this game so this could end up being a pseudo-NESCAC title game. Homefield advantage should play a crucial role for the Jeffs in this one.

3. November 14: Amherst at Williams

Doesn’t matter what the records of both these teams are, The Biggest Little in America game is always circled on the calendars. Per usual, the game will be televised on NESN, but this year it is scheduled for a 1 PM start unlike last year’s game under the lights. Anything can happen in a rivalry game like this, and no matter how good or bad either team has been all season up until this game, it will usually be a toss up. Amherst has won the last four games in the series and if this game wasn’t already big enough, it will be one of the Week 8 games that has a big impact on crowning a league champ. Both run games will be heavily relied on in this one with temps dropping fast at this point in the year in the Berkshires.

2. November 14: Wesleyan at Trinity

The Connecticut rivalry game has been very strong the past few years with both teams in the upper echelon of the NESCAC. Last year’s game came down to the wire with a failed two-point conversion by Trinity being the difference in the game allowing the Cards to hold onto the win, 20-19. Look for this year’s Week 8 match-up to provide the same excitement added by the possibility of this game being for the NESCAC title with Trinity looking to be stronger than last year. This game might not have the same hype as Williams-Amherst, but it looks to be just as good.

1. October 24: Wesleyan at Amherst

Last year this was the deciding game of the NESCAC Championship, and the Wesleyan Cardinals were 23 seconds away from being the champs had it not been for a game-tying 41-yd field goal by the Lord Jeffs. As we’ve said above, the Cards are going to be hit hard by graduation losses, but they still appear on paper to be one of the top teams in the league. In addition, Amherst loses their kicker, Phillip Nwosu ’14, which will be a tremendous loss as their special teams game will likely be weaker than in years past. If the game is close, the Amherst offense is going to have to drive deeper into Wesleyan territory to put points on the board. Whoever wins this game will likely be in the driver seat to win the championship.

NbN 2014-15 Year-End Wrap Up

We’ve come to that time of the year folks, the time when the weather turns and NESCAC students are shifting their concerns from final exams to brand new internships or careers – an exciting time for most students – but one that is bitter sweet for college seniors who must say good bye to the comforts of their college dorm rooms and face the cruel, hard world out there. This time is especially difficult for the droves of college athletes (and let’s face it, this pertains to 99 percent of NESCAC athletes) who are regretfully retiring from competitive athletics.

In honor of the great efforts and performances that happened around the league almost every day this academic year, we’ve compiled our five (plus one bonus) favorite moments from the NESCAC football, men’s basketball and baseball seasons. And before we jump in, we just want to say a GIGANTIC thank you to all of the student-athletes for their hard work, and to all of you, our readers, be you students, parents, classmates, coaches, distant relatives or New England D-III athletic celebrity stalkers, for loyally coming back to Nothing but NESCAC. As most of you know, Adam and I started this blog a little over a year ago, and we’ve had some great writers contribute to the page over that time. We’re not making any money – trust me – and we we don’t do this because it will pad our resumes (though it’s not a bad bullet point). We’re just huge sports fans, and we love talking and writing about sports. We love it when we hear that Nothing but NESCAC is being read around the league. Personally, one of the moments from this past year that sticks out greatest for me – and this includes everything I did while on a semester abroad, in the classroom or on the baseball field – was when Jake Brown ’17 told me, face-to-face, that I made a mistake in leaving him out of my NESCAC Point Guard Power Rankings back in February. I loved that. And as Jake knows, and hopefully the rest of the kids we write about understand, we’re not professionals. We’re just doing the best we can. But most of all, we hope you get some enjoyment out of reading what we post here, because we sure have a good time putting it up.

Here are our favorite moments of the past year, in no particular order:

1. FOOT: Middlebury 27, Trinity 7, October 25 at Trinity

Middlebury brought Trinity's streak to a crashing end. Courtesy of Greg Sullivan (
Middlebury brought Trinity’s streak to a crashing end. Courtesy of Greg Sullivan (

In case you hadn’t heard, Trinity was supposed to be unbeatable in Hartford. The Bants had not lost at home since September 29, 2001 – 53 straight games – and Trinity came into the matchup at 5-0 while Middlebury was 3-2. At that point in the season fans were just starting to believe that Matt Milano ’16 was a bona fide star in this league. With his four touchdown performance in a rout of the favored Bantams, Milano convinced any remaining doubters.

2. BASK: Wesleyan Wins Its First NESCAC Basketball Championship as the Sixth Seed, March 1 in Hartford, CT

Joe Reilly and the Cardinals celebrated their NESCAC title in classic fashion - but they're not done yet. (Courtesy of Wesleyan Connection)
Joe Reilly and the Cardinals celebrated their NESCAC title in classic fashion. (Courtesy of Wesleyan Connection)

The Cardinals squeaked into the playoffs by winning their final two NESCAC regular season games and finishing at 5-5 in the conference. Next, all that Wesleyan had to do was go on the road to Bates, into the toughest home gym in the NESCAC, and beat an NCAA Tournament team in the Bobcats, then go to the home of in-state rival Trinity and hang onto a three-point victory to topple the hosts – also an NCAA Tournament team – and THEN go to OT against three-time defending champion Amherst. There, an inexperienced Wesleyan team took down the heralded Lord Jeffs. Quite a turnaround for a program that was sub-.500 the past two years.

3. BASE: Wesleyan 4, Amherst 3 in the 12-Inning, Winner-Takes-All NESCAC Championship Game, May 10 in Nashua, NH

Wesleyan baseball celebrated its second-straight NESCAC title this season. (Courtesy of NESCAC Athletics)
Wesleyan baseball celebrated its second-straight NESCAC title this season. (Courtesy of NESCAC Athletics)

After losing four straight to the Cardinals, Amherst finally beat Wesleyan 3-1 in the first game of the day to set up the climactic final game. At this point, both teams were on their last legs in terms of pitching. Through 6.1 innings Wesleyan was up 2-0 behind great pitching from Peter Rantz ’16. Then two homers from Mike Odenwaelder ’16 and Sam Ellinwood ’18 put Amherst up 3-2, but Andrew Yin’s ’15 third double of the day brought around Ellis Schaefer ’17 for the tying run in the 9th. Nick Cooney ’15 worked around two straight bases loaded jams in the 9th and 10th inning. That set the stage for Guy Davidson ’16 to recognize that Odenwaelder was pitching for the first time all year. Davidson sat on a first pitch fastball, drove it out to left, and the Ethan Rode ’17 closed things out to give Wesleyan their second straight NESCAC title.

4. BASK: Trinity 79, Bates 62 in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament, March 13 in Babson Park, MA

Ed Ogundeko '17 and Mike Newton '16 left everything they had on the court on this night, but Trinity prevailed over the Bobcats. (Courtesy of Mark Box/Babson College)
Shay Ajayi ’16 and Mike Newton ’16 left everything they had on the court on this night, but Trinity prevailed over the Bobcats. (Courtesy of Mark Box/Babson College)

For contemporary fans of NESCAC men’s basketball, it’s not totally unusual to see a couple of NESCAC squads duke it out in the NCAA tournament (read: Amherst vs. Williams), but Trinity hadn’t been to the Big Dance since 2008, and Bates had never played in the D-III NCAA Tournament. And for those two to meet as late as the Elite Eight? Wow. The game was everything we hoped for for about 13 minutes – then Trinity went on an 11-3 run before the half and extended their lead after the break to finish off the Bobcats fairly easily. Nevertheless, a special moment for all NESCAC men’s basketball fans.

5. FOOT: Amherst 33, Wesleyan 30 in OT in the de facto NESCAC Championship Game, October 18 at Wesleyan

Phillip Nwosu '15 has been one of the NESCAC's best over the past four years, and he cemented his legacy with a game-winner against Wesleyan. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
Phillip Nwosu ’15 has been one of the NESCAC’s best over the past four years, and he cemented his legacy with a game-winner against Wesleyan. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

We didn’t realize it then, but this game decided the NESCAC championship, and it was a game more than worthy of its weight. In very wet conditions, these two teams went back and forth with neither team ever leading by more than a touchdown. The kicking game ended up being the difference. With Wesleyan up by three and under two minutes remaining, QB/P Jesse Warren ’15 botched a punt that went only 12 yards and set up Amherst at the Cardinal 49. Max Lippe ’15 completed a crucial 4th and 3 to Gene Garay ’15 to get the Jeffs in range for Phillip Nwosu ’15 to hit the game-tying field goal from 41 yards out. In overtime, the Amherst defense stuffed Wesleyan on 4th and 1, and Nwosu nailed the game winner from 35 yards out to give Amherst the stunning win. The Jeffs needed a missed Trinity 23 yard field goal to hold on and win two weeks later to keep their undefeated season alive. As the venerable Lee Corso always says, “this one is gonna come down to special teams.”

Caution, highlights below are not in the correct order.

BONUS. BASE: Tufts 3, Middlebury 2 on a Blown Call, May 3 at Tufts

Before you roll your eyes and close the tab, I’m not complaining about this loss, I just wanted to call attention to what might have been the most dramatic baseball game of the NESCAC regular season that went totally unnoticed.

Full disclosure, in case you didn’t know, I play for the Middlebury baseball team, so of course this is a bit of self-interest involved here, but hear me out. This game went to show that anyone can beat anyone in the game of baseball on any given day (even though Middlebury didn’t actually win), and that is especially true in the NESCAC, which is what makes this league so great. Tufts threw Tim Superko ’17, the team’s de facto ace after Kyle Slinger ’15 suffered the unluckiest season in NESCAC history, who did a very nice job, but Eric Truss ’15 matched him pitch-for-pitch.

Obviously, Tufts was the better ball club this year. Just look at the records. But it felt like a scene from a movie all day as the underdog Panthers clawed back from a first-inning deficit to go up 2-1 in the fifth, and for the Middlebury team there was hope of ending an abysmal season on the highest note possible. The drama mounted over six and a half innings and finally climaxed in the bottom of the seventh. Leading up to this game, Truss, a typical workhorse, started three games in an eight-day span from April 21-28, throwing 18.0 innings – and 245 pitches – before heading back to the bump on May 3 against Tufts. Truss struck out Tom Petry ’17 to get the first out of the seventh inning, but on that pitch, Truss’ 93rd of the game and 338th in the past two weeks, Truss partially tore the UCL in his pitching elbow, unbeknownst to all but the hurler. Miraculously, Will Glazier ’15 flew out to left field for the second out of the inning, but then the magic came to an end for Middlebury. A HBP, two roped singles and an IBB loaded the bases with the score tied and two outs.

The next at-bat was truly Hollywood-worthy. On a 1-0 count, Tufts SS Matt Moser ’16 hit a sharp two-hopper to the left of the Middlebury third baseman – yours truly. With the the subsequent throw apparently beating Moser to first, the Middlebury team took one step back towards the dugout to prepare for extra innings. Then the first base umpire signalled safe, and the ensuing scene was truly chaotic. Some choice words were used, tempers flared, and a stunned Tufts squad mauled Moser in celebration. Win or lose, it was an incredibly-played ball game. However, to describe just how wild of an ending it was, take a look at this still frame from the Tufts broadcast, on the play where Moser was called safe:

The final play of Tufts' 3-2 victory over the Panthers on May 3.
The final play of Tufts’ 3-2 victory over the Panthers on May 3.

I’m not including this to whine about losing. Who knows what would have happened if the game went to extra innings. I just wanted to include what was for me, personally, the most exciting game that I was a part of all season, and among the most exciting games of my long baseball career, one that truly had one of those You-Couldn’t-Script-This-Any-Better endings. These are the types of games that make us love sports, and especially sports in the NESCAC.


That does it for our 2014-15 NESCAC coverage. Articles may be sparing over the summer months, as we focus our efforts on rebuilding our site a little bit, but stay tuned on Twitter (@CACSportsBlog) and on Facebook for news about NESCAC athletes and Nothing but NESCAC itself. Thanks again to all of our loyal readers, and good luck to all NESCAC athletes this summer!

Football End-of-Year Awards: The Definitive Edition

The committee of two has met and after much deliberation has made their decisions. All decisions on awards are final and complaints should be addressed to 472 Smith Union, Bowdoin College. Or the comments section works, too. If you want, take a look at our Mid-Season Awards to see what’s changed. Lastly, these are our own personal opinions of who should win each award. They are not predictions on what we think the NESCAC coaches will decide.

Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics
Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics

Offensive Player of the Year: Quarterback Matt Milano ’16 (Middlebury)

“Another Middlebury quarterback? Really original pick there guys.” Well, Milano didn’t really leave us with much of a choice given how he performed in the month of the year. In fact here are Mac Foote’s stats from last year and Milano’s from 2014.

Player A: 179-289 (61.9 percent), 2004 yards, 6.9 yards per attempt, 24 touchdowns, 3 interceptions.

Player B: 259-421 (61.5 percent), 2766 yards, 6.6 yards per attempt, 26 touchdowns, 12 interceptions.

Player B has a huge lead in yards overall and a slight lead in touchdowns, but Player A was better in yards per attempt and threw a quarter of the interceptions. You could probably tell, but Player A is Foote and Player B is Milano. We don’t put the comparison there to argue that Milano had a better year than Foote did last year, but we just want to put the numbers there so people don’t say Milano was merely a product of the Middlebury system.

The junior took a little time to get settled, but once he did, Middlebury morphed into the hottest team in the NESCAC. Milano put up 18 touchdowns over the last four weeks to go with just one interception, and his yards per attempt rose every week from Week 3 until the end of the season. His play is made even more impressive by the fact that the Panthers averaged only 2.6 yards per rush, worst in the NESCAC, putting even more pressure on the gunslinger. Milano should be even better next year when he and most of his receivers return.

Also considered: Tyler Grant ’17 (Bowdoin), Chudi Iregbulem ’15 (Trinity), Jesse Warren ’15 (Wesleyan) and Mark Riley ’16 (Bates)

Jake Bussani '14 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)
Jake Bussani ’14 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

Defensive Player of the Year: Safety Jake Bussani ’14 (Wesleyan)

The NESCAC website only lists the top 50 tacklers, and Bussani falls well short of making that with only 30 tackles on the year. So how does a player who was only sixth on his own team in tackles win DPOY?

Well, first of all, Bussani won by the narrowest of margins over a host of other worthy players. Then it is important to understand Bussani’s role in the Wesleyan defense; a role that requires him to patrol the deep part of the field. He did that to near perfection with seven interceptions and five pass breakups. Bussani also returned two of his interceptions all the way back for touchdowns. Also, he was part of a secondary that was a good rung or two above everyone else and allowed a minuscule 124.0 yards per game through the air.

Bussani and teammate Justin Sanchez '17 smother Alex Way '16 in the Cardinals' Week 8 shutout. (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)
Bussani and teammate Justin Sanchez ’17 smother Alex Way ’16 in the Cardinals’ Week 8 shutout. (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Conference coaches know how good of a player he is considering he has made the All-NESCAC team three times already. Last year his stats were even less impressive with 27 tackles and four interceptions. Given how he has been even better this year, the coaches should recognize him once again.

Also considered: Chris Tamasi ’15 (Amherst), Jaymie Spears ’16 (Amherst), Dan Pierce ’16 (Middlebury) Mark Upton ’17 (Bates)

Coach of the Year: EJ Mills (Amherst)

Head Coach EJ Mills (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
Head Coach EJ Mills (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

Below is the conversation that we had when talking about Coach of the Year. We weren’t planning on publishing it at the time, but it’s just so juicy that we could not resist.

Adam: Alright, Coach of the Year is another interesting one. Ritter has a strong argument because of how well Middlebury did, but I think Mills deserves it.

Joe: Amherst was expected to be near the top again and Middlebury was supposed to be much worse this year.

Adam: Maybe so, but Amherst went through a lot to be undefeated. They played three QBs and switched their lead running back as the season went along. In close games they went 5-0 which is a testament, too, to Mills’ coaching. When I look at Amherst’s season it seemed like they always played a little better than I was expecting or somehow managed to win games when they got outplayed. The coach deserves credit for that.

Joe: I guess. I just feel like the Coach of the Year award is almost equivalent to a team overall achievement award, because we can’t quantify from the outside how much of a team’s success is due to the coach. I expected Amherst to beat everyone but Trinity and Wesleyan at the beginning of the year. As the year went on I got to realizing that Amherst was the best team, but I was always skeptical of Middlebury. I had them middle of the pack but they clearly overachieved. I don’t want Mills to win just because he coached the best team.

Adam: My argument would be that it wasn’t necessarily clear that Amherst really was the best team. Middlebury got better as the year went along and I think mostly because Milano got more comfortable. I didn’t expect he would get so good so fast and that is why I think Middlebury finished with six straight wins. Obviously coaching matters there, but just seems like the player still has a lot of agency, also.

Joe: True….splitting hairs here at this point. I think both are great coaches and just like talking about it.

Drew Jacobs (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)
Drew Jacobs (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

Rookie of the Year: Running Back Drew Jacobs ’18 (Middlebury)

There wasn’t an absolute standout first year this season that burst onto the scene like QB Sonny Puzzo last year or LB Tim Patricia ’16 the year before, but Jacobs was productive for the pass-heavy Panthers, and among first-year players he was first in rushing yards and third in receiving yards. His production was all over the map, as his total yards went 113, 55, 43, 154, 62, 82 and 8, as he left the game early in Week 7 and sat out all of Week 8. With another year under his belt, though, Jacobs could turn into one of the league’s best backs, but he will still have to fight off the presence of teammate Jonathan Hurvitz ’17 and classmate John Jackson ’18 for playing time.

Also considered: Slotback Frank Williams ’18 (Bates), K Zach Altneu ’18 (Hamilton), RB/KR Amman Weaver ’18 (Hamilton), WR  Mbasa Mayikana ’18 (Colby)

Zach Trause (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
Zach Trause (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

Special Teams Player of the Year: KR/PR/RB Zack Trause ’15

Ike Fuchs ’17 made a push for this award in Week 7 when he broke a Wesleyan record with five field goals in one game (and by going 7-7 FG and 8-8 XP in the last three weeks), but Trause’s body of work is enough for him to get the nod. Though most of the fireworks came in Week 2 when Trause followed up his third quarter kick return TD with a punt return TD early in the fourth quarter to seal the Jumbos’ victory, he was an explosive returner all year. His 32.1 yards per kickoff return were tops in the NESCAC and seventh in all of Division-III. Players need 1.2 attempts per game to qualify for leaderboards, so Trause failed to qualify with only eight punt returns, but if he had qualified, his 19.6 yards per punt return would have placed him fifth in the nation.

Trause taking back a punt 49 yards to the house against Bates in Week 2. (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
Trause taking back a punt 49 yards to the house against Bates in Week 2. (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

Also considered: Ike Fuchs ’17 (Wesleyan), WR/KR/PR Ryan Rizzo ’17 (Middlebury) and K Phillip Nwosu’ 15 (Amherst)

Feel free to tell us how wrong we are in the comments section.

The Lord Jeffs Reign Over 2014: Stock Report 11/10

Courtesy of Amherst Athletics
Courtesy of Amherst Athletics

Maybe it was the game being played under the lights or the NESN TV camera crew, but the NESCAC season ended on a high note with Amherst claiming the undisputed NESCAC championship and Little Three championship by beating their archrival Williams.

Like so many other games, the Jeffs did not look great winning the game, but that does not really matter when you go 8-0. An early miscue put Williams up 3-0, but Amherst scored the next 17 points to gain a comfortable 17-3 lead. The Ephs managed to fight back and score a touchdown with under three minutes left to make things interesting, but Jaymie Spears ’16 recovered the onside kick to ensure the victory for the Jeffs.

In a lot of ways the game was a microcosm of the season for Amherst. They leaned heavily on their defense to come up with stops, and while Austin Lommen ’16 was able to throw for 197 yards, his two interceptions were costly for Williams. Amherst finishes the season with 17 interceptions with Jaymie Spears ’16 leading the way with six on the season and one Saturday. Max Lippe ’15 was efficient but not explosive in the passing game with Gene Garay ’15 his favorite target. Williams slowed down their running game enough which was a major reason for why the game remained close.

Looking back across the season, the Lord Jeffs were not a dominant juggernaut that ran through their schedule, but they remained perfect week after week in different ways. The one constant for Amherst was their defense. The Jeffs were the only team allow less than 10 points per game, and they were able to suffocate teams like Middlebury and Williams. But even the defense faltered a little in the biggest game of the year against Wesleyan. The Cardinals scored 30 points and had 433 total yards in the game, meaning that the offense and special teams needed to come through. And they did just that with the kicking game playing a major role in the victory

The Jeffs were a team that did just enough. They didn’t necessarily control games and finished eighth in the NESCAC in time of possession, but that defense was so good that it didn’t matter most of the time. Against Williams, Amherst only held the ball for 23:54 (less than 40% of the game). The key for the Jeffs was their 5-0 record in games decided by less than 10 points. Amherst never made a mistake that cost them the game, something that is easy to take for granted until you see things like Trinity missing a game winning field goal in the final minute. The Jeffs maintained a mentality that they would never beat themselves, and won games because their opponents struggled to do the same.

That mentality starts with no-nonsense Head Coach EJ Mills and trickles down to the senior leaders on the team Max Lippe ’15 did not play in the first three and a half games, but when called upon he showed no rust and helped to steady the offense in the second half of the year. Phillip Nwosu ’15 struggled at the beginning of the year (Check out our Stock Down section from October 6) but then was carried off the field by his teammates two weeks later after hitting four field goals including the game winner. Chris Tamasi ’15 was a terror off the edge all season tying for the league lead in sacks with five. And Ned Deane ’15, although often overshadowed by Tamasi, played equally well in the middle of the Amherst defense

Almost under the radar, Mills has created a dynasty at Amherst. Before the season we spilled a lot of ink concentrating on how Wesleyan and Trinity appeared to be close to separating themselves from the rest of the NESCAC. Amherst made that look silly. Since 2009, Amherst has collected four of the last six NESCAC titles, three of them undisputed. In 2009, 2011, and now 2014 they finished with a perfect 8-0 record. Since 2009, the Jeffs’ record is 43-5 (89.6%), and the class of 2015 goes out with a 29-3 record and three NESCAC championships.

At a time when Williams has gone through one of its worst downswings in decades, the Jeffs are riding as high as ever. Mills deserves much of the credit for that. He has built a program that is built to contend year after year. Despite playing three different quarterbacks and playing the third string running back for most of the Williams game, the depth of the Amherst program made sure the Jeffs could survive those problems. Mills has done an incredible job recruiting and 2014 was another representation of what a special coach he is.

Stock Up

Courtesy of Greg Sullivan (
Linebacker Joe Diaz ’15 breaks up a Wesleyan pass Saturday. Courtesy of Greg Sullivan (

These will be short because of time constraints, but we do want to mention some of the stars from this week.

Wesleyan Seniors: The most exciting game of the day came between Wesleyan and Trinity with the fourth quarter offering more than enough excitement to go around. Go ahead and read about the whole thing here. The ending was a sweet one for the best senior class at Wesleyan in a really long time. This class coincided with Coach Mike Whalen taking over, and he has a special connection with them. The accomplishments of Wesleyan over the past two years are numerous. Some of the most impressive are in 2013 the first Little Three title in 43 years and beating Trinity for the first time in 14 tries this season. The Cardinals were never able to complete an undefeated season, but that should not diminish their legacy.

Quarterback Matt Milano ’16 (Middlebury): The junior completed his first season as a starter in style by finding open receivers all day long. He finished with an insane 6 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, and 442 yards through the air. Milano came into his own as the season went along despite some early season struggles. He has more than confirmed that he is the next in line to be remembered as a great Middlebury QB. Is it enough for him to take home NESCAC Player of the Year honors? We will release our awards and All-NESCAC team tomorrow while the official announcement will come later this week.

 Linebacker Mark Upton ’17 (Bates): Upton has been a rising star for much of the season on a really good Bates defense, and he played his best game of the season Saturday. He had 11 total tackles, a sack, two pass breakups, and a fumble recovery and return for 34 yards. The fumble recovery was his first of the season after he forced four fumbles over the course of the season. His production was incredibly steady throughout the year as he never finished a game with fewer than 8 tackles. Bates will lose a good amount of players off their defense so Upton will take on even more importance next year.

Stock Down

NESCAC Seniors: Go ahead and call us saps for doing this, but we don’t see any real reason to break down who had a tough game in the final weekend of the season. The only reason that we put NESCAC seniors here is because they unfortunately have played their last game of college football. They all played for varying reasons, but for most of them it came down to loving the game too much not to play it. We would just like to thank them for everything they have given to us over the past four years.

Power Rankings: 10/23

The rankings shuffle around a little this week with Amherst moving up a spot by virtue of their win Saturday, but the Bantams retain the top spot. Meanwhile the biggest movers were Colby and Bowdoin up two spots each.

1. Trinity (5-0) – The Bantams got into a dogfight last week at Bowdoin with Chudi Iregbulem ’15 sidelined due to an injury. They were able to squeak out a victory despite his absence, and the Bantams stayed true to form and pounded the ball on the ground with 54 rushing attempts. This team is still the most talented team in the league but it will be interesting to see if Iregbulem suits up this week versus Middlebury. If he’s out, the streak could be in trouble.

2. Amherst (5-0) – The Lord Jeffs pulled out the most impressive victory of the season so far in a battle of unbeaten teams. Thankfully for them, Phillip Nwosu ’15 stepped up kicking the football, accounting for 15 of their 33 points including hitting the tying field goal in regulation and the winning field goal in overtime. Nick Kelly ’17 had his third straight 100-yd rushing effort in the OT win. Bottom line: impressive win for the Jeffs.

3. Wesleyan (4-1) – Extremely tough loss at home for the Cardinals that puts them virtually out of the NESCAC title race. A strong effort by veteran signal caller Jesse Warren ’15 who went 19-26 for 305 yards and two touchdowns was not enough. Interesting to see the team morale next week versus Bowdoin after last week.

4. Middlebury (3-2) – The defense showed up big time last week limiting the struggling Bates offense to 185 total yards, and 74 of those came on just one play in the first quarter. Matt Milano ’16 threw for a career high four touchdowns with 29-43 pass attempts going for 287 yards. As mentioned above, if Trinity is without Iregbulem again, the Panthers have a real good shot at pulling the monumental upset and shaking up the NESCAC standings.

5. Tufts (3-2) – What’s going on in Medford is very special. Coming into the year, the Jumbos were riding a 31-game losing streak and now have already put together three wins after defeating Williams this past weekend. They are a different team at home where they are 3-0. This team can put up a fight with almost every team in the NESCAC now and shouldn’t be taken lightly by anyone.

Phillip Nwosu '15 helped Amherst move into the number two position in the power rankings.
Phillip Nwosu ’15 helped Amherst move into the number two position in the power rankings.

6. Bowdoin (2-3) – Despite losing last weekend, the Polar Bears jump two spots this week due to everyone else’s results. The Polar Bears did play surprisingly well versus Trinity but Iregbulem was inactive so not sure how indicative that was of their play overall. Nonetheless, they can prove how far they have come as a team with a strong performance against Wesleyan Saturday.

7. Williams (1-4) – Another tough loss for the Ephs for what has been a disappointing season so far after the big opening week blowout versus Bowdoin. One of the few bright spots this week was Austin Lommen ’16 going 24-38 on passing attempts for three TD’s: two of them going to his high school teammate Steven Kiesel ’15. The Ephs look to break the four game losing streak at a winless Hamilton this weekend.

8. Colby (1-4) – The Mules put up an impressive performance versus Hamilton this weekend by putting up 40 points by halftime. Very surprising offensive performance considering they had only been averaging 7.8 ppg coming into the weekend. Look for them to ride the momentum into this weekend’s rivalry game with Bates.

9. Bates (1-4) – The Bobcats’ offense struggled mightily again this weekend putting up only six points and only gaining 185 yards of total offense. By most offensive metrics, this team ranks last in the NESCAC. This has been the big problem for them all year and don’t look for it to change anytime soon.

10. Hamilton (0-5) – In what we thought was going to be a good matchup of 0-4 teams coming into the weekend turned into a lopsided affair in which the Continentals got blown out. The game was shockingly over by halftime when it was 40-0 in favor of the Mules. Hamilton still has two good chances to get their first win of the season.

Now the Fun Has Started: The Stock Report 10/21

For NESCAC watchers, this weekend lived up to its promise and then some. Amherst at Wesleyan featured two of the top-three teams trading punches the entire game until Phillip Nwosu ’15 decided it. Then up in Maine, Trinity was without Chudi Iregbulem ’15 and needed a fourth quarter comeback to knock off a resilient Bowdoin team. Middlebury got to above .500 for the first time this year. Finally, Colby got into the winning column in a huge way. There is a lot to cover, so let’s get to the stock report.

Stock Up

Kicker Phillip Nwosu ’15 (Amherst): Back in the preseason when we made Nwosu our team MVP for the Jeffs, many probably found it unusual to see a kicker get so much love. Then the senior went 1-4 on field goals entering the game Saturday with the three misses all coming from 33 yards or fewer. He was still forcing plenty of touchbacks, but something was off. Well Nwosu could not have picked a better time to get his form right than Saturday. He finished 4-4 on field goals and 3-3 on extra points to account for 15 of Amherst’s 33 points. His most important kick was also his best: a 41-yarder in unsure footing with under a minute left to force the game into overtime. The win for Amherst was of course a complete team effort with big games from Gene Garay ’15 and Chris Tamasi ’15 in particular, but at the end of the game after Nwosu had hit the game winner, it was the kicker who was hoisted onto the soldiers of his teammates in celebration.

Colby Leadership: We have made note several times of the brutal schedule that Colby had to face to begin the year, and Saturday saw the Mules take all their frustration out on the Continentals. The Mules came out on a mission from the first snap of the game. The Continentals were the poor team that had all that aggression taken out on them, and they are a better team than they showed on Saturday. Still, this game was over even before halftime with Colby up 40-0. Hats off to the Colby seniors for keeping the team together and working hard in the lead up to this game. Jason Buco ’15 was the star for the defense with two interceptions, and Luke Duncklee ’15 had his best game of the season recording three total touchdowns. Gabe Harrington ’17 looked comfortable in the pocket spreading out his throws to a wealth of receivers. The Mules go to Bates on Saturday in the opener of the CBB (Colby-Bowdoin-Bates). After Saturday, Colby sees no reason why they can’t close the season on a torrid streak.

Bowdoin Linebackers: The trio of Brendan Lawler ’16, Branden Morin ’16, and Bjorn Halvorsen ’17 combined for 34 tackles with 5.5 tackles for loss. Lawler recovered a fumble while Morin accounted for Bowdoin’s only touchdown with a 45-yard interception return for a touchdown. We mentioned on Friday how Bowdoin had the worst rush defense in terms of yards per rush allowed, but on Saturday Trinity gained only 2.8 yards per rush without Iregbulem. The play of the Bowdoin linebackers and the front seven in general forced the Bantams to turn to the air in order to claw their way back for the 17-10 victory. After a slow start to the season, all three linebackers have started to make plays all over the field for the Bowdoin defense.

Stock Down

Bates’ Triple Option: At this point the Bates offense has essentially come to a grinding halt. The Bobcats are averaging a league worst 13.0 points per game. They are also averaging only 231.2 yards per game, the worst mark by any NESCAC team since Tufts averaged 219.5 yards in 2011. Bates usually tries to run the ball all over teams with the triple option, but the running game has had no consistency. Their 2.2 yards per rush average is by far the worst in the NESCAC, with Middlebury the next worse at 2.6. Quarterback Matt Cannone ’15 is the most talented player on the offensive side and he was the player most capable of breathing life into the offense when the running game struggled. However, injuries have slowed him in recent weeks and he has been far from 100 percent. Without him healthy, a once promising season is near the precipice.

Running Back Kyle Gibson ’15 (Wesleyan): After the injury to LaDarius Drew ’15, this was supposed to be the year when Gibson shined as the lead back in Wesleyan’s run heavy attack, but for whatever reason it just has not materialized. Gibson averaged 6.5 yards per carry last year but only 3.4 yards this year. It is entirely possible that Gibson has been struggling with injuries or something else is up because he averaged only 27.5 yards in his past two games. Wesleyan’s running issues do not end with Gibson though. After leading the NESCAC in yards per rush last year with 4.7, the Cardinals are seventh in the NESCAC at 2.9 yards per rush. The Cardinals are so lost for how to get it moving that Donnie Cimino ’15 and Jake Bussani ’14 each got carries on Saturday in an attempt to inject some life into the offense. Jesse Warren ’15 has raised his play almost enough to offset those issues, but a passing offense is not what Wesleyan wants its identity to be.

Week 1 Results: It has now been a month and a day since the first results of the season came back, and at this point it is very important to remember what has changed. Williams was the team of the week with their 36-0 beatdown of Bowdoin. They were riding high until Trinity came in and returned the favor with a 38-0 win. Williams has now lost four games in a row and it looks like they are in disarray. The Polar Bears turned their season around and came close to pulling the upset of the season on Saturday.

Look, Week 1 did tell us a lot. It told us Wesleyan would not be the juggernaut we thought they could be without Drew running the ball, that the Amherst defense was going to be really good, and that something really cool was going on in Medford. Yet you can’t trust everything that happens in the first week of the season. Teams in the NESCAC are closer talent-wise than they might appear from week to week. One injury or a weird bounce can put an “elite” team into a dogfight like Trinity found themselves in this weekend. Teams mature and change over the course of the season so that at times it seems that what we saw in the first week was a mirage.

Bounce Back Time: Stock Report October 6

We know last week we took a drop in production. Much of that was because of a decidedly upsetting uptick in classwork, but excuses won’t cut it. Without a doubt our stock was down last week, but we promise that this week will be different. We went back over the tape, saw some places we could improve on (it involves less procrastinating), and are ready for whatever.

Week three didn’t spring any big upsets on us, but Bates and Bowdoin registered their first wins of the season. Scoring was down around the league in part because of the weather with the Amherst-Middlebury game a slog that ended up hinging on one long Nick Kelly ’17 run.

Stock Report:

Amherst Defense- The Jeffs defense on Saturday stifled the Middlebury attack completely holding them to only 2 yards per play. Defensive lineman Paul Johnson ’17 recorded 2.5 sacks and now leads the NESCAC with 4 on the season. A different player has led Amherst in tackles in each of the first three games. If you still have any doubt about how good Amherst is, consider these statistics. Through three games they have let up two plays of more than 20 yards. One was a 28 yard completion by Bowdoin in the final minute of the fourth quarter when Amherst’s backups were in. The other was a 21 completion by Matt Cannone ’16 to Mark Riley ’16. So essentially only play over 20 yards. The longest running play against Amherst is 14 yards. If the Jeffs can get their offense sorted out, they can beat Wesleyan and Trinity.

Quarterback Mac Caputi ’15 (Bowdoin)- Running back Tyler Grant deservedly took home NESCAC Offensive Player of the Week accolades for his 43 carries, 208 yards, and 4 touchdown performance, but that should not overshadow the play of Caputi. Many had called for his benching after week one and those calls were even stronger after backup Tim Drakeley ’17 gave the offense a shot of energy against Amherst. Head Coach Dave Caputi (Yes, they are father and son) gave the younger Caputi one more chance, and he responded brilliantly. He went 20-25 for 209 yards averaging 8.4 yards per attempt without a touchdown or interception.  That was after he went 33-57 and averaged only 4.1 yards per attempt in his first two games combined. He made the play that the Jumbo defense gave him and also managed to make a couple of plays with his feet that helped extend drives. Another good performance against Hamilton Saturday could lift the Polar Bears to .500.

Head Coach Dave Murray (Hamilton)- The Continentals have lost the first three games under Murray, but he has been getting rave reviews for his handling of the Hamilton team so far. After a tumultuous few years for the Hamilton program, Murray demands respect and hard work, and the Hamilton has responded positively. On Saturday against Trinity the score was only 3-0 at halftime. For the game Trinity only recorded 12 first downs, and the Bantams are an offense that tends to wear teams down and get a lot of those. Chase Rosenberg ’17 has emerged as a quality QB for Hamilton and the receiving corps has done a great job after losing Joe Jensen ’15. It has been a long time since such positivity has been coming from Clinton, but Murray seems to be the real deal.

Stock Down:

Williams- Now it seems long ago, but in the days leading up to the Williams-Trinity game last week, people really believed the Ephs had a chance to score the upset. They followed up that blowout with another loss on the road to a previously winless Bates team. The offense sputtered especially in the second half which was a major reason for why Bates was able to seal the game with a 14 play, 95 yard drive in the fourth quarter. The Bobcats keyed on the running game for Williams holding them to 2.1 yards per attempt. Austin Lommen ’16 has proven to be an upgrade in the passing game but not the massive one that some expected him to be. With Middlebury coming to Williamstown on Saturday, the Ephs have to get back on track.

Quarterback Gabe Harrington ’17 (Colby)- The sophomore had Colby fans excited before the season as he stepped in to lead the Mule offense. He performed admirably in his first game but has seen his statistics regress in the last two weeks. Saturday he completed only 40.5% of his passes and threw two interceptions. The Colby offense has now scored seven points in each of the last three weeks in part because the passing game has stalled. Some of his struggles can be attributed to the strength of the defenses he has faced. Middlebury, Wesleyan, and Trinity are all very good against the pass. And things don’t get any easier when the Mules go on the road to face the hottest defense in the NESCAC- Amherst.

Kicker Phillip Nwosu ’15 (Amherst)- In the preseason one of the All-NESCAC picks we felt most confident about was Nwosu because of the strength of his leg and accuracy. So far he has struggled going 1-3 on field goals with both misses coming within 35 yards. On the opening drive for Amherst he missed a 30 yard field goal that helped keep the game tied for a long time. Last season kicking was the difference in the Trinity-Amherst game with the advantage going to the Jeffs. Nwosu has to find his kicking stroke again in order to help an Amherst offense that has done very little so far.

Amherst Team Preview – The Jeffs Look to Keep Rolling

2013 Record: 7-1

Returning Starters: 16 (six offense, eight defense, two specialists)

Offensive Overview:

2013 was a down year for the Amherst offense. Though they still finished fourth in points per game with 21.1, Middlebury was third with 29.8 points per game. That meant Amherst came exactly as close to finishing ninth in points per game as they came to finishing third. The main problems were at the quarterback position where Head Coach EJ Mills could not settle between Alex Berluti ’17 and Max Lippe ’15. Lippe started the season as the starter and saw the vast majority of the snaps, but his occasional struggles led to Berluti seeing some significant playing time as well. Lippe brings size and experience to the position and should once again have a chance to be the undisputed starter. Running back is a strength with Kenny Adinkra ’16 and Nick Kelly ’17 possessing a good complement of skills. Adinkra is stronger and can run over defenders while Kelly is a very tall 6’2″ for a running back.

Receivers Jake O’Malley ’14 and Wade McNamara ’14 will have to be replaced with Brian Ragone ’16 inheriting the top outside position. Jackson McGonagle ’16 will see an uptick in playing time and is a big target at 6’3″. In the slot Gene Garay ’15 will give teams fits with his quick pivot routes while also returning kickoffs. Henry Falter ’15 will be the primary tight end. The offensive line lacks depth with only sixth upperclassmen so sophomores and freshman might have to play earlier than Mills would like. Scott Mergner ’15, Colman Duggan ’15, and Jonathan Woodrow ’15 have a lot of experience and will be invaluable breaking in the two new starters. Lippe and Berluti were only sacked eight times combined, and the line should be able to replicate that type of protection.

Defensive Overview:

The top four tacklers from 2013 are all back to lead a unit that should once again be one of the very best. Like so many other teams in the NESCAC, the strength of the defense is in the front seven. Amherst runs a 3-4 scheme that can shut down run attacks. Max Lehrman ’15, Robert Perdoni ’16, and Sam Caldwell ’16 all return as starters on the line that has several other upperclassmen returning for depth. In the middle Chris Tamasi ’15 enjoyed a first team All-NESCAC season in 2013, and an argument could be made that other inside linebacker Ned Deane ’15 had as good a season even though he did not earn All-NESCAC honors. Tyler Mordas ’16 returns after stepping into a starting role because of injury, and Tomas Kleyn ’16 looks to fill the other outside position after injury cut his 2013 short. Many other talented linebackers are on the roster like Parker Chapman ’17, so Mills will have the luxury of rolling out different packages for passing and running downs.

The secondary has more questions in it after the graduation of Landrus Lewis ’14 and Max Dietz ’14. Talent is still plentiful with Jaymie Spears ’16, Jimmy Fairfield-Sonn ’16, and Chris Gow ’16 combining for 8 interceptions last season. The other corner spot across from Spears is wide open with Stefan Soucy ’17 possibly capable of making a huge jump of playing time. The secondary has to tighten up some of the holes it had despite all the interceptions they had as a group.


Three Big Questions:

1. How good can the junior class be?

Because of the depth of talent Amherst brings in every season, each class takes time to gain playing time, but the 2016 group has already stepped into major roles especially on defense. In total 11 starters could come from the junior class with many of them already having starting experience. There are plenty of senior stars like Tamasi and Garay, but the success of Amherst will come down to their juniors.

2. Can a QB step up?

The one thing that can hold back great programs is mediocre quarterback play. And make no mistake that Amherst is a great program with the most wins of any team in the last five seasons. Berluti has great physical tools, but Lippe is the QB who Amherst will ultimately depend on because of his experience. If he can play better then the Jeffs will be right there once again in the title mix.

3. Can they continue to force turnovers?

Amherst led the NESCAC with 23 defensive turnovers with a whopping 20 of those coming as interceptions. Expecting that same number of interceptions is foolish, but an uptick in fumble recoveries could offset that. Turnovers is a statistic that can see a lot of variation year to year, and a steep drop could cause more yards and points to be scored against the Jeffs.

Team MVP: Kicker Phillip Nwosu ’15 is an unusual choice for MVP, but consider the type of team Amherst was last season. They thrived behind a strong defense and offense that didn’t mess up too often. The importance of kickers is increased in low scoring games, and Nwosu is as good as they come in the NESCAC. He is a threat from anywhere within 50 yards and will force touchbacks on most of his kickoffs.

Biggest Game: Oct. 18 at Wesleyan

Amherst needs to avenge their only loss of 2013. Last season Wesleyan came in and ruined homecoming for the senior Jeffs, and in the process the Cardinals announced they had arrived. Both Wesleyan touchdowns came after they started the drive in Amherst territory, so field position will be a point of concentration this time around. Ultimately it was losing the turnover battle by four that doomed the Jeffs last time. This time around could be a different story.

Best Tweet of the Offseason: No word on who ended up winning the Open.

This is a team with a lot of pride and talent that is more than capable of running the table.