WATERVILLE, Maine – Freshman running back Mike Pedrini rushed for 135 yards and three touchdowns as the Tufts University football team secured a winning record for the third straight season with a 28-14 victory at Colby College on Saturday.
|Tim Preston had the second pick-six of his career in the fourth quarter|
Tufts, which also had five take-aways defensively, is 5-3 heading into its season-finale next week at home versus Middlebury. Including last year's 7-1 finish and a 6-2 mark in 2015, the Jumbos have three consecutive winning records for the first time since 1989-91.
Colby, led by 270 yards of total offense from sophomore QB Jack O'Brien, fell to 0-8. The Mules finish their season next week at Bowdoin.
Pedrini had 96 yards and two scores at halftime as the Jumbos led 14-0. However, the host Mules pulled within 14-7 early in the fourth quarter as O'Brien passed for a 37-yard score to sophomore WR Andrew DeFranco. With Jumbo starting QB Ryan McDonald out of the game, junior Ryan Hagfeldt led Tufts on a 16-play drive that resulted in Pedrini's third touchdown from one yard out at 5:41 of the fourth. Junior cornerback Tim Preston then gave Tufts a 28-7 lead with a 32-yard interception return for a touchdown with 4:50 remaining in regulation.
The Jumbos committed to the run in a big way, carrying the ball 66 times for 240 yards overall. Among the five turnovers earned by the defense were four interceptions, including two by Preston and one each from senior Brett Phillips and junior Alex LaPiana. It's the most interceptions in a game for Tufts since the 2006 team had five in a win against Hamilton.
The defense helped set up Tufts' first score. A long Colby pass completion from O'Brien to senior Christian Sparacio ended in a fumble that was caused by Phillips recovered by LaPiana at the Jumbo 33. The offense went the 67 yards on nine plays – all rushes – to score on a five-yard run by Pedrini at 8:49 of the first quarter. He carried the ball seven times for 59 yards on the drive.
Colby was in Tufts territory again when the defense earned its second take-away in the first eight minutes of the game. Phillips came up with the first interception of his career at the Jumbo eight-yard line.
LaPiana then intercepted O'Brien on a third and 10 play from the Tufts 24-yard line in the middle of the second. It was Tufts' third take-away in Colby's first five possessions. The Jumbos turned that into seven points with a 92-yard touchdown drive that culminated in Pedrini's one-yard run at 3:28 of the frame. Early in the possession, the Jumbos had a pair of consecutive completions from McDonald to junior WR Dan de Leon for 28 and 12 yards. On the 13-play drive, Tufts got to third down only once while building its lead to 14-0.
The Jumbo D also got a turnover on downs when Colby went for it on fourth and three from the Tufts 29 late in the first half and threw an incomplete pass. Tufts then tried to get into scoring position, but McDonald was intercepted by Colby's Sean Godin.
Colby remained within striking distance in the middle of the third quarter as senior DL Craig Strand sacked McDonald when Tufts went for it on fourth and eight from the Mules 25. Meanwhile, the Jumbo D allowed Colby just nine total yards on its first three possessions of the second half.
That led into a crazy fourth quarter, during which both teams scored a pair of touchdowns. On a drive that started in the last minute of the third, Colby went 81 yards in nine plays to pull within 14-7. Junior running back Jake Schwern converted a third and two with an eight-yard run before O'Brien's 37-yard TD pass to DeFranco at 12:04 of the fourth.
With Tufts suddenly leading only by a score, Hagfeldt entered and directed an immediate response by the Jumbos. He converted a fourth and eight with a nine-yard pass to Pedrini. Then on a fourth and goal play from the one, Pedrini scored his third touchdown of the day with 5:41 remaining to put Tufts up 21-7. In all, the drive encompassed 16 plays and 6:23 of clock time.
Preston's second career pick-six on Colby's third play of the ensuing drive put the visitors up 28-7. Last season he returned an interception 99 yards for a touchdown against the Mules.
Colby added an 11-yard O'Brien to senior WR Mark Snyder touchdown connection at 1:41 of the fourth making it 28-14. The Mules attempted an on-side kick that was recovered by de Leon. Tufts punted, but then Preston sealed the win by intercepting his second pass of the game and the team's fourth with 1:03 remaining.
Senior linebacker Steve DiCienzo and sophomore LB Greg Holt led Tufts with nine tackles each. DiCienzo included two for losses. Senior Micah Adickes had a sack among his five stops, while Preston added two pass break-ups.
The Mules had three players finish with double-digits in tackles. Junior LB Sebastien Philemon had 18, senior LB Bryan McAdams recorded 14 and Craig Strand made 13. Colby had three sacks, with Philemon, Craig Strand and Nick Strand all getting one.
McDonald completed nine of 17 passes for 94 yards and rushed for 65 yards on 17 carries. O'Brien finished 21 for 38 for 204 yards and ran 15 times for 66 yards. DeFranco caught eight passes for 86 yards and a touchdown. Tufts had 356 yards of total offense and Colby finished with 316.
Colby did not commit a penalty in the game.