MEDFORD, Mass. – The Tufts University football team will travel to Waterville, Maine this Saturday to take on the Colby College Mules in the Jumbos' final road game of the 2017 season.
Both teams are coming off a loss from last week. Tufts fell at home, 31-26, to Amherst and Colby also lost at home to Bates in a close one, 27-24. The Jumbos fell to 4-3 on the year as Colby remained winless, now 0-7.
|Tylor Scales is third on the Jumbos with 42 tackles in 2017|
While the Jumbos are no longer in contention for the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) crown, they can still finish the season with a winning record for the third year in a row with a win this week or next week in the final game of the season against Middlebury. If they pull it off, it'll be the first time the Tufts program has seen three consecutive winning seasons since 1989-91.
Last week at home against Amherst, the Jumbos nearly came back after they were down 28-13 at the half. The Mammoths would strike first in the second half when they hit a field goal to bring their lead to 31-13. On the very next drive, Tufts marched 77 yards in eight plays and finished it off with a four-yard touchdown run by Andrew Sanders to bring the score to 31-20. On their next drive, Amherst got the ball down to the Jumbo four-yard line, but the Tufts defense was able to come up with the stop. Later in the fourth, Jumbo junior QB Ryan McDonald connected with junior WR Jack Dolan on a four-yard touchdown pass. The two-point conversion attempt failed so the score stayed at 31-26. The Jumbos then attempted an onside kick and senior Steve DiCienzo recovered the ball to give the offense another chance. However, on the first play of the possession, Amherst intercepted a pass and was able to run out the clock.
Tufts' 367 yards of total offense was the most Amherst has allowed this fall. Sanders rushed for 88 yards and two touchdowns to lead Tufts offensively. With the Jumbos trailing 14-0 after the first quarter, his 62-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter got Tufts back into the game. He's now one of three Jumbos with three rushing touchdowns this season, joining McDonald and freshman RB Mike Pedrini. Dolan caught a pair of touchdown passes against Amherst giving him eight total scores on the year (seven receiving, one return). He also went over 1,000 all-purpose yards for the season. His 1,146 all-purpose yards lead NESCAC and are 172 more than anyone else in the league. Dolan's 163.7 all-purpose yards per game rank 24th in the NCAA Division III national statistics.
In addition to Dolan leading Tufts' strong return teams, the Jumbos also have one of the better return defenses in the nation this fall. On kickoff returns, they are allowing just 16.10 yards per return for the #32 ranking in the country. Their punt return defense is allowing just 4.06 yards to rank 36th nationally. Junior Jack Duffy on kickoff returns and senior co-captain Brett Phillips on punt returns have been the leading tacklers, while freshman placekicker Matthew Alswanger and punters Alex LaPiana and Joe Nault have done an excellent job locating kicks.
The Jumbo defense was led last week by DiCienzo and Greg Holt who had 11 tackles each. Holt was the conference's Rookie of the Year last season when he led Tufts and NESCAC with 98 tackles. This season he again leads the Jumbos and is fourth in the league with 68 stops.
Colby never led in their game against Bates, but they did tie it on three occasions. Early in the fourth quarter Mules QB Jack O'Brien scored on a 30-yard run to tie the game at 17. Bates then scored a touchdown and a field goal to increase their lead to 27-17. Colby would get one back on a two-yard run by Jake Schwern to cut the lead to three. They forced Bates to go three-and-out on the next drive to get the ball back. After one first down, they were unable to move it any further, failing to convert on fourth down from their own 49. Bates got the ball back with just 38 seconds left on the clock and successfully ran out the remaining time.
Colby gained 289 yards of total offense while they allowed 444. Sebastien Philemon had 19 tackles to lead the Mules and quarterback Jack O'Brien was responsible for the majority of their offense, totaling 192 yards in the air and 83 on the ground. He had a five-yard touchdown pass to Mark Snyder in the second quarter. Veteran place kicker John Baron also had a 31-yard field goal for the Mules.
Scwern is a multi-threat for the Mules with 748 all-purpose yards to rank sixth in NESCAC. He leads Colby in both rushing yards (331) and receiving yards (234). Similar to Tufts' McDonald, O'Brien can accumulate yards through the air or on the ground. He enters with 1,092 yards of total offense. Sophomore Jibri Woods is second in NESCAC averaging 26.8 yards on 13 kickoff returns. Philemon's 51 tackles overall lead the Mules.
Last time these two teams faced off was last season when Tufts came out on top, 44-12, in a game in which they never trailed. The Jumbos did most of their damage on the ground, totaling 347 of their 437 yards rushing. Senior Chance Brady ran for 174 yards and three touchdowns. McDonald added 84 yards rushing. The Tufts defense collected five sacks on the day, two by Quinn Metoyer, and one each by Tucker Mathers, Doug Harrison, and Ryan Bohlin. Alex LaPiana led the team with 10 tackles. Colby only had 213 yards of offense on the day. Quarterback Christian Sparacio had 147 of those yards, 125 in the air and 22 on the ground. The Mules had three players tied for the team lead with 11 tackles, while sophomore LB Patrick Sopko has 6.5 tackles for losses and junior Don Vivian is tied for the conference lead with three interceptions.
Tufts is also vying for four straight non-losing seasons for the first time since 1988-91. They went 7-1 last year after going 6-2 in 2015. In 2014 they were 4-4. A 6-3 mark is still in reach for this year's team if they are able to come away with wins in their final two games. In addition to playing at winless Colby on Saturday, Tufts hosts 5-2 Middlebury on Seniors Day at Ellis Oval / Zimman Field on November 11.
TUFTS VS. COLBY SERIES
Series Record: 43-23-1 Tufts
First Game: 1909, Colby 10-0
Last Tufts Win: 2016, 44-12
Last Colby Win: 2013, 37-0
Current Streak: Tufts 3 games
Large Margins: Tufts 41-0 in 1985; Colby 45-7 in 1994
Written by Curtis Stoychoff, Athletic Communications Intern