Two previously unbeaten teams smarting from their first losses of the season last Saturday meet Saturday looking to get back on track at the Oval as Tufts celebrates Parents and Family Weekend.
The Jumbos lost 38-24 at Trinity and Williams was defeated at home by Middlebury College 21-10. That left both squads tied for second place in the conference with 4-1 records along with Trinity. Amherst College is the lone undefeated team (5-0) in first place as the NESCAC season hits week six.
|Sophomore Matt Alswanger has kicked five field goals this season|
These are two of the top teams in New England as Williams was at #4 and Tufts was #7 in last week's Grinold Chapter New England Division III weekly poll. Though those rankings are likely to drop, both teams are still in the thick of the NESCAC race with Saturday's game playing a big part in the battle for conference supremacy.
The Jumbos scored the first 14 points at Trinity and looked poised to defeat the Bantams for the first time since 2007. They were also attempting to win in Hartford for the first time since 1998. For added measure, they wanted to present head coach Jay Civetti with the team's first victory against his alma mater in his eight seasons as the Jumbo leader.
Junior Robert Jones started the game with a 33-yard kickoff return. Senior QB Ryan McDonald and senior WR Jack Dolan connected on a 30-yard completion to convert a third down and 10 play. McDonald would score his sixth rushing touchdown of the season from one yard out and barely five minutes into the game Tufts led 7-0.
The momentum continued in Tufts' favor when senior tri-captain Alexander LaPiana intercepted a pass on Trinity's first drive and returned it 64 yards into Bantam territory. McDonald and Dolan had a 19-yard completion and then a 10-yard scoring pass giving the Jumbos a 14-0 advantage.
However, Trinity turned the game around with a 20-point second quarter. The Bantams did miss their first extra point in 22 attempts this fall as Jumbo senior Tim Preston broke through and blocked the kick. The hosts would score the first 10 points of the second half as well though, and had 30 unanswered points to put them in control.
Tufts' McDonald and Dolan would end up completing eight passes together for 104 yards and two scores (including a two-yard TD in the fourth quarter). Tufts passed for 307 yards overall, including 293 by McDonald who completed 25 of his 40 passes. Senior Frank Roche made seven catches for 116 yards as the Jumbos had two receivers top 100 yards. Tufts also later had a 23-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Matt Alswanger, who is five for six on field goals this fall.
After holding Trinity scoreless in the first quarter, the Jumbo defense had a scoreless streak of seven consecutive quarters dating back to the Bates game on September 29. They pitched the Tufts program's first shutout since 2006 at Bowdoin on October 6 (28-0). However, that all caved in at Trinity as the Jumbos allowed 470 total yards in addition to surrendering more points than they had in the previous four weeks of the season combined (29).
The Jumbo defense will look to redeem itself this Saturday against a Williams team that will be hoping to restart its offense. After scoring 129 points in their first four games (32.3 per game) – which included a 21-16 victory over Trinity on September 29 - the Ephs were limited to 10 last week by a Middlebury team that had been surrendering almost 28 per contest entering the game.
Saturday will feature two dynamic quarterbacks in Tufts' McDonald and Williams sophomore Bobby Maimaron. McDonald is second in NESCAC passing yards with 200.4 per game and has been responsible for 14 touchdowns in five games with eight through the air adding to his six on the ground. Like McDonald, Maimaron is great on the ground and has seven rushing touchdowns to lead the league in scoring with 42 points.
NESCAC's Rookie of the Year and an All-Conference second teamer last season, Maimaron was a key reason why the Ephs turned around from a 0-8 season in 2016 to a 6-3 record last year. Fellow sophomore T.J. Dozier adds to a rushing attack that is gaining 214 yards per game this fall. He's second in the league with 496 yards. Williams ranks towards the bottom of the conference in passing yards per game, but sophomore Frank Stola is a top target with his 95 yards receiving per game ranking second in NESCAC. Sophomore tight end Justin Burke was an All-Conference player as a freshman last year.
Sophomore leading tackler TJ Rothmann, a second team All-NESCAC linebacker in '17, leads a Williams defense that has asserted itself among the league's best. They have NESCAC's second-best mark allowing 12.8 points per game and are fifth at 327.8 yards allowed per contest. Rothmann's 42 stops are fourth in the league, while sophomore Jarrett Wesner is right there with him at 42. Junior Luke Apuzzi is among the league leaders statistically with two interceptions and three pass break-ups.
In one of the better games on Tufts' schedule last season, the Jumbos gained 484 yards of total offense, including a career-high 336 passing yards by McDonald, in a 21-13 win at Williams. McDonald received NESCAC Offensive Player of the Week honors for his role in the win, which was the fourth in a row for the Jumbos over the Ephs. Maimaron accounted for 229 total yards (208 passing and 21 rushing).
The Jumbos continue down the October gauntlet of their schedule when they travel to play at Amherst next Saturday. The Ephs remain on the road to play at Hamilton College next week.
TUFTS VS. WILLIAMS SERIES
Series Record: 53-26-7 Williams
First Game: 1885, Williams 49-0
Last Tufts Win: 2017, 21-13
Last Williams Win: 2013, 49-35
Current Streak: Tufts, 4 games
Large Margins: Tufts 30-0 in 1979, 33-3 in 1986; Williams 61-0 in 1886