With a third consecutive winning season in the books, the Jumbos will look for a strong finish to the 2017 season in Saturday's finale against Middlebury College.
Last week's 28-14 victory at Colby College improved Tufts to 5-3. Including last year's 7-1 record and a 6-2 finish in 2015, head coach Jay Civetti's Jumbos have earned three straight winning seasons for the first time since 1989-91.
|Senior Chuck Calabrese and 16 classmates will be recognized in a pre-game ceremony|
It's Seniors Day at Ellis Oval / Zimman Field, and the Tufts program will be looking to add one more victory to the total amassed by the 17-member Class of 2017-18. This year's seniors have helped the program win 22 of 32 games over the past four seasons. That's the highest total by a Tufts senior class since the 1982 group won 25 games. Even more impressive than that accomplishment is the fact that each of the seniors committed to the program while it was mired in a long losing streak.
Honored in a pre-game ceremony along with their parents tomorrow will be seniors Micah Adickes, Joe Byrnes, Chuck Calabrese, Gian Calise, Steve DiCienzo, J.P. Garcia, Doug Harrison, Bryce Joyner, Matt Kramich, Sean McCarthy, Mike Miller, Connor Moriarty, Joe Nault, Brett Phillips, Blake Potter, Liam Thau and Zach Thomas.
A Middlebury team that is looking to finish at 7-2 will attempt to spoil the party. In a convoluted scenario, the Panthers are playing with a chance to win their fourth conference title. They are the only team who have defeated first-place Amherst College this season and also have a win versus 6-2 Wesleyan. The Middlebury losses have been against 7-1 Trinity and 5-3 Williams.
Today's visitors had won 13 straight games (2002-14) in the series against the Jumbos prior to Tufts winning in each of the past two seasons. Regardless of Saturday's result, the Jumbo seniors have left their mark on a program which has seen a remarkable turn-around during their tenures.
A Tufts pass defense which had four interceptions at Colby last weekend will be put to the test. Middlebury's air attack leads NESCAC at 308.6 yards per game. Tufts' four interceptions last week – two by Tim Preston and one each by Brett Phillips and Alex LaPiana – were the most by a Tufts team since September 23, 2006 when the Jumbos picked off five Hamilton passes in a 17-0 victory. Preston had his second career pick-six last week to give the Jumbos a 28-7 lead late in the fourth quarter. He had a 99-yard interception return for a touchdown versus the Mules last year. The Jumbo D had five take-aways overall at Colby last week with Phillips also forcing a fumble and LaPiana recovering to set up an early touchdown.
Freshman running back Mike Pedrini was a workhorse in the Jumbo victory with 31 carries for 135 yards and three touchdowns. His five- and one-yard touchdown runs put Tufts up 14-0 at halftime. He carried the ball seven times for 59 yards on the first scoring drive. After Colby closed to 14-7 early in the fourth quarter, Pedrini scored on a one-yard run at 5:41 of the fourth to give Tufts a 21-7 advantage. During that possession he carried 11 times and caught a nine-yard pass that converted a fourth and eight from the Colby 23. Tufts finished the game with 240 yards rushing on 66 carries overall.
The Jumbos have run the ball successfully this fall with a committee of backs. Sophomore Andrew Sanders had 88 yards and two touchdowns against Amherst here two weeks ago, including a 62-yard score. Sophomore Jay Tyler had 50 yards and a 26-yard touchdown on eight carries at Williams College on October 21. Junior quarterback Ryan McDonald is the team's top rusher with 577 yards and junior Dom Borelli was the starting back before he was injured in week three. All of these players who have helped Tufts average 177.1 yards per game on the ground with 15 touchdowns this season are due back next year.
Middlebury's success through the air has continued despite losing starting quarterback Jared Lebowitz. He had 1,732 yards and 18 touchdowns before getting injured against Bates on October 21. Junior Jack Meservy has stepped in and threw for 212 yards and four touchdowns in the Panthers' 41-20 win over Hamilton last week. They scored all 41 points in the first half including Meservy's 65-yard and 22-yard scoring tosses to junior WR Jimmy Martinez. The Panthers have four receivers with more than 300 yards this fall and another who's close. Freshman Peter Scibilia is the leading back with 315 rushing yards.
The Panthers have scored three defensive touchdowns this season, including an interception return and a fumble return by senior LB Wesley Becton. Senior linebacker Aaron Slodowitz leads the team with 56 tackles and senior LB John Jackson has recorded four sacks and 6.5 TFL's overall.
The Panthers lead NESCAC offensively with 426.1 yards per game, while their 32.3 points per contest are third. Tufts ranks fourth in yardage (408.5) and fifth in scoring (26.4). Defensively, both teams are in the middle of the NESCAC pack with the Jumbos fifth in scoring defense (19.1) and sixth in yardage allowed (351.8). Middlebury is fifth in yardage allowed (343.9) and sixth in scoring defense (20.8).
Chance Brady capped his career as arguably the best back in Tufts football history by scoring five touchdowns in last season's 48-35 Jumbo win at Middlebury. Tufts seeks their third consecutive win over the Panthers tomorrow to honor their successful senior class.
TUFTS VS. MIDDLEBURY SERIES
Series Record: Middlebury 30-29
First Game: 1915, Tufts 34-0
Last Tufts Win: 2016, 48-35
Last Middlebury Win: 2014, 48-13
Current Streak: Tufts, 2 games
Large Margins: Tufts 47-6 in 1953; Middlebury College 52-10 in 2013