The Jumbos play their Homecoming Game against the Bates College Bobcats Saturday afternoon at Ellis Oval / Zimman Field. Kickoff is 1:30 pm.
Tufts hopes to match the excitement of their home opener here last Saturday night. The Jumbos improved to 2-0 with a 16-13 victory over Wesleyan. The game was played under the lights and the atmosphere was electric as a gritty performance by the Jumbo defense guided the hosts to victory.
|Senior QB Ryan McDonald and the Jumbos toughed out a 16-13 win over Wesleyan under the lights last Saturday|
Bates comes in at 0-2 following a 59-16 loss at two-time defending conference champion Trinity College last Saturday. The Bobcat program, which was very competitive against Amherst in a 19-7 season-opening loss on September 15, is under new leadership with first-year head coach Malik Hall.
The Tufts defense is off to a terrific start thus far. They did not allow an offensive score at Hamilton in the season-opener, a 29-2 victory. The Jumbos then held a Wesleyan team that scored 52 points against Middlebury in the opening week to just one touchdown and 13 points last Saturday.
A unit that has six new starters, the defense has already answered any questions about how long it might take them to gel. The Jumbos lead the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) after two weeks allowing just 7.5 points per game. In fact, two of the 15 points the team has surrendered weren't even given up by the defense. Hamilton's safety recorded against the Jumbo offense goes into the defense's points allowed total officially.
Tufts is third in total defense at 248.5 yards per game so far, including just 67 yards per contest against the run. Their eight sacks lead the conference and they have five take-aways with three interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
Junior linebacker Greg Holt is third in NESCAC with 20 tackles including a second-best in the league 3.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage. Junior defensive end Kevin Quisumbing, one of those six new starters, is also in the conference top 10 with 14 tackles (2.5 for losses).
Both of those guys played vital roles as the defense backed down Wesleyan last weekend. Tufts protected its lead as the Jumbos twice prevented the Cardinals from scoring when they had the ball inside the 10-yard line. Quisumbing stuffed the run on a fourth and one play from the Tufts six late in the third quarter. Holt was in on a pair of stops when Wesleyan tried to push it into the end zone early in the fourth. Then in Wesleyan's climactic final drive, Jumbo sophomore Michael Mughetto – another new starter – sacked Wesleyan quarterback Mark Piccirillo for a nine-yard loss. That pushed the Cardinals back and they missed a 46-yard field goal attempt that would have tied the game.
Though Tufts was limited to 217 yards of offense in the game, they were opportunistic. After a 41-yard field goal by Jumbo sophomore Matt Alswanger tied the game at 3-3 in the second quarter, Tufts sophomore John DeLuca recovered a Cardinal fumble on the ensuing kickoff. On the very next play, senior QB Ryan McDonald hit junior TE Jack Donohue with an 11-yard touchdown pass. Later in the quarter, senior RB Dom Borelli took a short pass from McDonald and went 28 yards for a score that put Tufts up 16-3. Senior Dan de Leon returned to action after missing the first week and was effective with a team-high five catches for 59 yards.
Bates was within 14-9 late in the second quarter at Trinity last week following a 25-yard interception return for a touchdown by Anthony Costa. However, the Bantam juggernaut would score the next 45 points before the Bobcats finished the scoring on a four-yard run by Caleb Bolden. Bates was held to just 102 yards of total offense in the game.
Costa finished with seven solo tackles, the pick-six and two pass break-ups for Bates. Jon Lindgren, who leads NESCAC with 24 tackles, had 12 against the Bantams (10 solo). Nine defensive starters from 2017 returned, but Bates has allowed 450.5 yards and 39 points per game versus two of the league's top teams in the opening weeks.
The Bobcat offense will try to get going against the Jumbos after averaging 126 total yards in the first two weeks. The triple-option offense of the past eight seasons has given way to the new air raid offense under Coach Hall. Sophomore QB Brendan Costa emerged last year and is the Bobcat leader on offense. He had a 26-yard run for a touchdown against Amherst in week one. Junior Zach Doyon will get some carries, while freshman Jackson Hayes is a threat in the pass and return games.
The Jumbos have won four straight games in the series, including 37-17 a year ago. McDonald threw four touchdown passes, including a school-record tying three TD receptions by Jack Dolan. McDonald completed 21 of 36 passes for 245 yards and also ran for 81 yards on 21 carries to total 326 yards for the Jumbos. Dolan caught eight passes for 118 yards and the three scores while also averaging 22.3 yards on three kickoff returns. Tufts' leading receiver in 2017, as well as one of the top return men in NESCAC, Dolan is expected to return to the field this week after missing the first two games.
Jumbo Tylor Scales returned his first career interception for a touchdown in last year's game. Bates was paced by 134 yards passing and 97 yards rushing by Costa. Lindgren finished with eight tackles and two pass break-ups in the game.
The Jumbos will enter October next week, where they will have to do work on the road. They are at Bowdoin next Saturday, followed by a trip to Trinity on October 13. The Jumbos play their only home game of the month on October 20 versus Williams. The Bobcats return home to host Williams College next week.
TUFTS VS. BATES SERIES
Series Record: 61-17-3 Tufts
First Game: 1875, Tufts 1-0
Last Tufts Win: 2017, 37-17
Last Bates Win: 2013, 20-16
Current Streak: Tufts, 4 games
Large Margins: Tufts 61-7 in 1914; Bates 23-0 in 1904