Tufts and Trinity meet at the middle point of the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) football season on Saturday afternoon at Ellis Oval / Zimman Field. Both teams are part of a logjam at the top of the conference standings that will be sorted out in the upcoming weeks.
|Junior Dan de Leon has emerged this fall, including his second TD reception last week versus Bowdoin|
The Bantams come into the game as one of two unbeaten (4-0) teams in NESCAC, along with Middlebury. The Jumbos are one of four conference teams that stand at 3-1 including Amherst, Wesleyan and Williams. That makes for six teams who have a taste for the league title in their mouths entering week five.
The Jumbos returned home last week and defeated Bowdoin 31-3 in front of a huge Homecoming Day crowd at the Oval. The defense did not allow a touchdown and limited Bowdoin to 216 yards, while the Jumbos ran for 227 yards and three scores.
Trinity churned out 594 yards of total offense in last week's 41-13 win over Hamilton. The defending league champions bring a 13-game winning streak into Saturday's contest and have outscored their opponents 144-22 thus far.
Tufts' defense was dominant last week, holding their opponent without a touchdown for the first time since a 17-0 win over Hamilton on September 23, 2006. The Jumbos limited Bowdoin to 88 passing yards and sacked Polar Bear quarterback Griff Stalcup five times. Doug Harrison, Zach Thomas, Steve DiCienzo, Tylor Scales and Chuck Calabrese all got to the quarterback. The Jumbos are second in NESCAC with 15 sacks this fall.
Harrison, the 6'3", 285-pound monster in the middle of the Jumbo D-line, also had the first interception of his career by grabbing the rebound of a pass that was batted at the line. Sophomore Greg Holt posted a game-high 12 tackles with a pass break-up for Tufts. Last year's tackles leader in the league, Holt is fourth this season averaging 10 stops per game.
The Jumbo offense continues to be balanced while averaging 423 yards per game. Junior QB Ryan McDonald led four runners who totaled more than 50 yards last week. He gained 72 yards on 13 carries and scored the first touchdown of the game on a 14-yard run in the second quarter giving the hosts a 10-3 lead. McDonald is second among NESCAC rushers with 367 yards (91.8 per game). With starter Dom Borelli unable to play, Jay Tyler (8 carries-55yards-TD), Mike Pedrini (7-55-1) and Andrew Sanders (7-53) all bolstered a strong ground game last week.
More surprising has been Tufts' air attack, which is averaging 238.3 yards per game. With 953 passing yards in four games, the team is already approaching last season's 1,078 passing yards in eight contests. McDonald continues to throw the ball accurately, completing 18 of 25 passes for 215 yards and a touchdown last week. He's at 66.4 percent (79-119) for the year. He threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to junior Dan de Leon last week that gave the Jumbos a 17-3 lead heading into the half. Eight different Jumbos caught passes last week led by de Leon (5-86) and 13 have caught balls overall in 2017.
The Jumbos have their work cut out for them this week against Trinity. The Bantams are ranked #1 in NESCAC allowing just 5.5 points and 224.5 yards per game defensively. They score at the highest clip in the conference with their 36 points per game, while ranking second in yards per game (442.5). In the high-flying NESCAC of 2017, Tufts' 30 points per game is ranked fifth and their 423.5 yards per game is fourth. Defensively, the Jumbos are tied for fourth allowing 18 points per game and rank sixth giving up 331.5 yards per contest.
The Bantams are directed by senior quarterback Sonny Puzzo, NESCAC's All-Conference first team pick at the position last year. He passed for 378 yards and three touchdowns last week against Hamilton and has 10 touchdown passes in the first four games. Today's guests also feature the league's leading rusher in junior Max Chipouras, who's at nearly 100 yards per game with 394 total and six scores. Sophomore Koby Schofer is Puzzo's top target. They connected 10 times for 202 yards last week, including a 90-yard touchdown. To top it off Trinity also features one of the nation' best kickers in junior Eric Sachse, who was perfect on 50 kicks last season (37 extra points, 13 field goals).
Trinity has a depth of talent on defense. Their leading tackler – junior Dago Picon-Roura – is tied for 22nd in NESCAC with his 5.8 stops per game. Junior linebacker Shane Libby is a playmaker (3.5 TFLs, two sacks) and sophomore Matt Patry leads the conference with six pass break-ups. Senior linebacker Liam Kenneally was a first-team All-Conference selection in 2016.
The Jumbos scored twice within 14 seconds late in the game to pull within 36-28 at Trinity last year, but the Bantams recovered an onside kick and ran out the clock. Puzzo totaled 332 yards of total offense with two touchdown passes and Sachse set a school record with five field goals in the game. Holt had 16 tackles for Tufts and Mike Miller caught a 67-yard touchdown pass from McDonald.
The Jumbos head back out on the road to play at much-improved Williams College next week. The Bantams host Bowdoin College next Saturday.
TUFTS VS. TRINITY SERIES
Series Record: Trinity 41-18-1
First Game: 1894, Tufts 8-4
Last Tufts Win: 2007, 16-10
Last Trinity Win: 2016, 36-28
Current Streak: Trinity, 9 games
Large Margins: Tufts 42-8 in 1962; Trinity 48-6 in 1950