MEDFORD - The Jumbos return to Ellis Oval / Zimman Field for Homecoming Day on Saturday afternoon as the Bowdoin College Polar Bears visit for the 112th game in this New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) rivalry.
Since opening the season with a 35-28 overtime victory against Hamilton on September 16, the Jumbos (2-1) have split a pair of games at Wesleyan and at Bates. In the third installment of NESCAC night football between Tufts and Wesleyan on September 23, the Cardinals came from behind in the fourth quarter and defeated the Jumbos 24-17 in overtime. Tufts returned to the winning column last weekend with a 37-17 victory over the Bobcats.
|Junior Nmesoma Nwafor and the Jumbo defense held Bates to 3 for 17 on third down|
Saturday's visitors come in looking for their first win of the season. The Polar Bears (0-3) have lost 11 games in a row overall following last week's 31-14 setback at Amherst. Bowdoin hasn't won since defeating Colby 35-13 in the final week of the 2015 season.
Last week at Bates, Tufts junior QB Ryan McDonald threw four touchdown passes in the game, including a school-record tying three to junior WR Jack Dolan. All three TD connections came in the first half as the Jumbos built a 30-10 lead. Tufts scored 23 points in the second quarter, including 20 in a 1:47 span after a 33-yard pick-six by sophomore LB Tylor Scales made it 27-3 Jumbos.
McDonald, NESCAC's Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts at Bates, finished the game with 326 yards of total offense (245 passing, 81 yards rushing). He added a 27-yard touchdown pass to junior WR Daniel de Leon on the first play of the fourth quarter to put Tufts up 37-17. McDonald is averaging 320.7 yards of total offense per game so far, ranking among the national top 30. He's completed 64.9 percent of his passes (61 of 94) for 667 yards and six touchdowns, and his 295 yards rushing are second in the NESCAC. He gained 122 yards on 17 carries (7.2 avg) at Wesleyan.
Dolan became the fourth Jumbo to score three receiving touchdowns in a game last week, and the first since Greg Lanzillo had three in Tufts' 28-7 win at Colby in 2014. Dolan has emerged as an all-purpose threat for Tufts. He returned a punt 85 yards for a touchdown at Wesleyan, the longest punt return touchdown by a Jumbo since 2001. He leads NESCAC in all-purpose yards with 178 per game, including 22 receptions for 232 yards and four TDs.
The Tufts defense held Bates to three for 17 on third down last week (18 percent). Scales added an eight-yard sack to his interception return for a touchdown, while senior LB Steve DiCienzo topped the tackles chart with nine. DiCienzo had the first interception of his collegiate career at Wesleyan. Junior Alex LaPiana, handling the punting role for the Jumbos this year, averaged 43.2 yards per kick including a 58-yarder and a 51-yarder. He was named NESCAC's Special Teams Player of the Week.
Tufts, averaging 410.7 yards and 29.7 points per game offensively, faces a Bowdoin squad allowing the most yards in the league thus far at 477 per contest. The Polar Bears, giving up 33.3 points per game, come in scoring at a 14 points per game clip. The Jumbo D has allowed 23 points and 370 yards per game.
Bowdoin was within 17-7 at the half against Amherst, scoring on a 36-yard pass from freshman QB Griff Stalcup to senior WR Nick Vailas late in the first quarter. The Mammoths took control by scoring 14 points in the third quarter. The Polar Bears added a late touchdown pass of 24 yards from Stalcup to Bryan Porter.
The touchdown passes were the first two of Stalcup's career as the developing QB played the entire game for the first time. Vailas and Porter are a veteran pair of targets for Stalcup to throw to. The Polar Bears have one of NESCAC's top returning rushers in sophomore Nate Richam, who is sixth in the league at 177 yards so far. He carried nine times for 62 yards (6.2 avg) last week.
The Bowdoin defense is led by senior linebacker Latif Armiyaw with 19 tackles including four for losses. Ryan Sanborn led the Polar Bears with eight tackles last week at Amherst and Cameron Rondeau intercepted a pass.
In last year's game between the teams, Tufts rolled up 505 yards of total offense on its way to a 41-21 victory. McDonald rushed for 146 yards on just 11 carries, including scoring runs of 14 and 75 yards. He also threw a touchdown pass. Tufts' Mike Miller had a 77-yard touchdown reception in the game, while Chuck Calabrese led the defense with seven stops and a sack.
Bowdoin's Vailas had a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown and caught six passes for 94 yards in last year's game. Richam scored on an 11-yard run and Porter had a 13-yard touchdown catch as well.
The Jumbos are home again next Saturday on Parents and Family Weekend against defending league champion Trinity, the only team to beat Tufts last year. The Polar Bears return home to face Hamilton next Saturday.
TUFTS VS. BOWDOIN SERIES
Series Record: 60-49-2 Tufts
First Game: 1889, Tufts 8-4
Last Tufts Win: 2016, 41-21
Last Bowdoin Win: 2014, 33-20
Current Streak: Tufts, 2 games
Large Margins: Tufts 60-7 in 1914; Bowdoin 47-7 in 1951