Amherst Football Improves to 6-1 by Holding Off Jumbos 31-26 at the Oval

SOMERVILLE - Sophomore QB Ollie Eberth rushed for two touchdowns and passed for 236 yards as the Amherst College Football team remained in the thick of the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) championship race with a 31-26 conference win at Tufts on Saturday at Ellis Oval / Zimman Field.

Jack Dolan caught a pair of TD passes and has eight total touchdowns this fall

Eberth had a pair of touchdown runs in the first quarter as the guests took a 14-0 lead after 15 minutes of play. Amherst (6-1) led 31-13 in the third quarter before the Jumbos (4-3) rallied. After junior QB Ryan McDonald threw a four-yard touchdown pass to junior Jack Dolan with 1:11 remaining in the fourth to pull the Jumbos within 31-26, Tufts recovered an on-side kick. However, Mammoth sophomore John Ballard intercepted a pass to seal the win.

Amherst's 471 yards of total offense was a season-high as sophomore WR James O'Regan caught six passes for 132 yards and a touchdown. Junior Jack Hickey rushed for 75 yards and a score. Junior Bo Berluti came up big for the Mammoths on third down helping the visitors convert eight of 14. He finished with five catches for 99 yards.

Tufts' 367 yards of total offense was the most Amherst has allowed this fall. Sophomore RB Andrew Sanders rushed eight times for 88 yards and two touchdowns, including a 62-yard score early in the second quarter. Dolan finished with a pair of touchdown receptions while grabbing four passes for 58 yards.

The Mammoths intercepted McDonald twice, including one by freshman Matt Durborow on the third play of the game. Taking over at the Jumbo 41, Amherst covered most of the yardage on the ground and took a 7-0 lead on a one-yard rush by Eberth.

During Amherst's second scoring drive later in the first, Eberth ran 10 yards on a third and seven to get a first down. Two plays later he passed 33 yards to Berluti setting up first and 10 at the Tufts 25. In all, the Mammoths went 75 yards in eight plays and took a 14-0 lead on a 14-yard run by Eberth with 13 seconds remaining in the quarter.

Sanders brought the Jumbos to life by breaking through the Amherst defensive line on the left side and dashing 62 yards for a touchdown on the second play of the second quarter to make the score 14-7.

Later in the quarter on second and nine from the Jumbo 40, Eberth passed for 36 yards to senior Craig Carmilani giving Amherst a first and goal from the Jumbo four. On the next play, Hickey rushed for a touchdown and the Mammoths led 21-7.

An Amherst unsportsmanlike conduct penalty assessed on the kickoff and a 25-yard return by Tufts sophomore Robert Jones gave Tufts the ball at their own 46 on the next possession. Dolan caught a 24-yard pass from McDonald on the first play of the drive, and then McDonald found junior Dan de Leon for 19 yards on a second and 16 play giving the Jumbos first and 10 from the Amherst 17. On a third and 10 play from the same spot, McDonald and Dolan connected on a 17-yard touchdown. However, Tufts went for two and did not make it leaving the Amherst lead at 21-13 with 1:43 remaining on the second-quarter clock.

With senior QB Reece Foy taking over for a series, Amherst scored within 45 seconds to lead 28-13 with just under a minute remaining until halftime. They went 79 yards in just four plays, scoring on a 56-yard pass from Foy to O'Regan. The Mammoths took that lead into intermission.

The visitors would increase their margin to 18 points (31-13) with a 26-yard field goal by junior John Rak at 5:48 of the third quarter. Eberth and O'Regan connected on a 39-yard pass early in the drive. Berluti caught a 14-yard gain from Eberth on third and 10 from the Tufts 29 giving the Mammoths a first down on the Jumbo 15. The Jumbo defense kept Amherst out of the end zone, but the visitors were in command.

The Jumbos responded with their longest touchdown drive of the day, going 77 yards in eight plays. McDonald and de Leon combined on a 29-yard pass play into Amherst territory and then McDonald and Dolan converted a third and 13 with a 15-yard reception. McDonald then scrambled for 40 yards down to the Amherst 4, from where Sanders took it in as the Jumbos pulled within 31-20 at 2:17 of the third.

Into the fourth quarter, Amherst was going for it on fourth and one from the Jumbo 4, but a bad snap on the play turned the ball over on downs to Tufts after a 21-yard loss. Both teams punted following short possessions before the Jumbos mounted a 12-play, 81-yard scoring drive culminated with a four-yard pass from McDonald to Dolan. A 30-yard McDonald completion to junior Frank Roche put Tufts first and 10 at the Mammoth 11. An Amherst penalty on a third and eight play gave Tufts a first down, then the touchdown pass came at 1:11. The Jumbos again failed on a two-point conversion and trailed by five.

Senior co-captain Steve DiCienzo recovered the ensuing on-side kick for Tufts, giving the Jumbos the ball near midfield. On the first play of the drive, McDonald was intercepted by Ballard at the Mammoth 43. Amherst ran out the clock and celebrated their fifth straight win over the Jumbos at the Oval.

Junior Andrew Sommer led Amherst defensively with 10 tackles including two sacks totaling 18 yards in losses. Ballard had five stops and a pass break-up to go with his game-ending interception. 

Jumbo sophomore Greg Holt finished with a game-high 11 tackles, while sophomore Tylor Scales made nine. Senior Micah Adickes added a sack to bring his season-total to 7.5 overall.

Eberth finished with 301 yard of total offense, including 65 on 14 rushes. He completed 14 of 21 passes. Carmilani added 82 receiving yards on four receptions.

McDonald was 14 for 31 for Tufts, totaling 179 yards through the air. He rushed 17 times for 75 yards. 

With just two weeks remaining in the NESCAC season, Amherst hosts undefeated Trinity next Saturday in a game that could ultimately decide the conference champion. Tufts hits the road for the final time next Saturday at 0-7 Colby.