Defense Holds the Fort as Football Defeats Wesleyan Under the Lights

SOMERVILLE – Led by a gritty performance from its defense, the Tufts University football team hung on for a 16-13 victory over Wesleyan University in a NESCAC game under the lights Saturday night at Ellis Oval / Zimman Field.

Kevin Quisumbing was a defensive leader with nine tackles

The Jumbos (2-0) scored all of their points in the second quarter, including touchdown passes of 11 yards to junior TE Jack Donohue and 28-yards to senior RB Dom Borelli by senior QB Ryan McDonald.

Wesleyan (1-1) missed two field goal attempts in the fourth quarter that would have tied the game.

The Cardinals had pulled within 16-13 at 10:48 of the fourth quarter when sophomore RB Glenn Smith scooted around the left end and scored from nine yards out.

Wesleyan then took possession right back when junior Will Kearney intercepted McDonald setting the visitors up at the Tufts 45. However, the Jumbo defense forced a three and out with senior Tim Preston making a tackle and breaking up a pass during the series.

Meanwhile, the Cardinal defense wasn't giving the Jumbos anything in the second half. Tufts did not move the ball into Wesleyan territory at any point in the third or fourth quarters, and twice had to punt from within their own 20-yard line.

At 7:27 of the third quarter, the Cardinals started a drive at the Jumbo 48-yard line. They moved down to the six, but on a fourth and one play Tufts junior DT Kevin Quisumbing made a stop for no gain to turn the ball over on downs.

The Jumbo D would hold again when Wesleyan moved down inside the five on their next possession. Quisumbing and junior LB Greg Holt had two half-tackles apiece as Tufts forced a 27-yard field goal attempt that was wide left keeping the score 16-13.

Late in the fourth, a beautiful 45-yard completion from Wesleyan senior QB Mark Piccirillo to junior Hallvard Lundevall put the ball at the Tufts 40. The Jumbo defense stiffened, including a huge nine-yard sack of Piccirillo by sophomore safety Michael Mughetto. Wesleyan's Patrick Wolff would come on for a potential game-tying 46-yard field goal attempt, but with the breeze in his face it was well short. The Jumbos then ran out the clock in the victory formation.

After a scoreless first quarter, Wesleyan had taken a 3-0 lead on Wolff's 31-yard field goal at 14:55 of the second quarter. The Jumbos answered just a few minutes later with a 41-yard boot from sophomore kicker Matt Alswanger.

Wesleyan fumbled the ensuing kickoff with Tufts sophomore John DeLuca recovering at the Cardinal 11. On the first play from scrimmage, McDonald hit Donohue for the 11-yard score and a 10-3 lead at 10:21 of the second quarter.

The Jumbos would extend the lead to 16-3 at 5:52 of the second on the McDonald-to-Borelli connection. A 20-yard pass and catch from McDonald to sophomore OJ Armstrong had converted a third and 16 earlier in the drive. McDonald then dumped a pass off to Borelli and the senior back handled the rest.

After not allowing an offensive score in their season-opener at Hamilton last week, the Jumbos would surrender only six first-half points on two field goals to a Wesleyan team that scored 52 on Middlebury last Saturday. Wolff's 39-yard field goal at 3:30 of the second was good and the teams went to the half with the Jumbos leading 16-6. Piccirillo had a 39-yard rush during the drive.

The Cardinals would pull within a field goal on their only touchdown of the game early in the third, but the Jumbo defense would not allow another score.

Holt led Tufts with 12 tackles, while Quisumbing added nine and junior LB Tylor Scales had eight. Junior LB Stephen Timmins registered three quarterback hurries. Mughetto had two tackles for losses totaling 13 yards among his seven stops, to go with a pass break-up.

The Jumbos only had 217 yards of total offense. Senior receiver Dan de Leon, making his season debut, caught five passes for 59 yards. McDonald finished 15 for 28 for 167 yards and the two scores. The Cardinals limited him to 23 yards rushing on 16 carries.

Piccirillo threw for 189 yards (18 for 33) and ran for 78 to lead Wesleyan. Lundevall averaged 22.8 yards per catch with 91 yards on four receptions. Junior Dario Highsmith caught a game-high seven passes for 57 yards.

Kearney was the top defender for the visitors with eight tackles, the interception, a pass break-up and a QB hurry. Senior Brandon Morris finished with seven tackles including one for a loss and a PBU.

This was the fourth night game played between the Jumbos and the Cardinals. Tufts has now won both played in Somerville (2016 & 2018), while Wesleyan has won those in Middletown, Conn. (2013 and 2017).


Coach Civetti Post-Game Comments ...