Tufts travels to Amherst College for a New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) showdown on Saturday at 1 pm. The Jumbos are 5-1 tied with Trinity for second place in the conference behind the undefeated Mammoths (6-0).
The Jumbos secured their fourth consecutive winning season with a 28-21 victory over Williams College at Ellis Oval / Zimman Field last Saturday. It's the first time since 1988-91 that the Jumbos have posted four straight winning records.
|Junior TE Jack Donohue made a juggling catch for his third touchdown of the season last week|
Amherst handled Wesleyan University easily last week 33-3 to remain unbeaten. However, they close the season against Tufts (5-1), Trinity (5-1) and Williams (4-2) who enter this week with a combined 14-4 record.
Though Saturday's game between the two pachyderm-nicknamed teams will clear up the battle for the conference championship a bit, there will still be plenty left to sort out over the final two weeks.
Not since 1977-81 have the Jumbos defeated Williams for five straight seasons, which they accomplished with last week's victory. The teams went back and forth in the first half, combining to score touchdowns on six consecutive possessions. Ironically, the defenses took over in the second half with only one score by Tufts making the difference in the game.
Jumbo senior running back Dom Borelli, who the Jumbos frequently used in a Wildcat formation against Williams, took a screen pass from senior QB Ryan McDonald and then fired it 13 yards to senior WR Jack Dolan in the end zone for the game-winning touchdown at 9:51 of the third quarter.
The Jumbo defense set up the touchdown when senior linebacker Greg Holt caused a fumble that sophomore DB Nolan Ostmo recovered on the Williams 13. The Jumbos scored on the next play. The D would then need to put in work to help secure the victory. They had a goal line stand after the Ephs earned a first down at the Jumbo 4 yard-line. Tufts kept Williams from scoring, including three straight plays from the 1. Holt made two of the tackles during the stand and Jack Walton and Ostmo had others.
Holt, who led Tufts with 13 tackles in the game, was selected as NESCAC's Defensive Player of the Week and also received the New England Football Writers Association Gold Helmet Award as the region's Division II-III Player of the Week.
Borelli also had a three-yard touchdown run that tied the game 7-7 late in the first quarter. He finished with a touchdown pass, 31 yards and a TD rushing and 40 receiving yards on three catches. McDonald threw a pair of touchdown passes to Jack Donohue (six yards) and Dan de Leon (eight yards) and now has 10 for the season, tied for third in the league.
The Jumbos enter Saturday's game averaging 28.7 points per contest this fall, second-most in the league. They are just half a point ahead of the Mammoths, who are third at 28.2 per game. Amherst has an advantage in total yards at 409.5 per game (second) compared to Tufts' 378.8 per game (third). The Mammoths are the stingiest team in the league defensively allowing 7.8 points and 223.2 yards per game. Tufts is third in NESCAC for points allowed (14.7) and yards allowed (279.7).
Tufts ended an eight-game losing streak to Amherst with a 27-10 win on the road in 2016. Last year the Mammoths led 31-13 before the Jumbos scored twice late to pull within 31-26 and then recovered an on-side kick. However, Amherst intercepted a pass to secure the victory.
The Jumbos certainly expect it to be competitive again on Saturday, but they will have their work cut out for them. The Mammoths are ranked first in NESCAC for both rushing offense (234.7 yards per game) and rushing defense (43.3), a formula that has worked for head coach EJ Mills and his team for years.
NESCAC Offensive Player of the Week Biafra Okoronkwo scored two first-half touchdowns last week against Wesleyan and finished the game with 119 rushing yards on 18 carries, an average of 6.6 yards per attempt. He's second in the league with 501 yards overall. Amherst also has 2017 All-Conference first team back Jack Hickey (63 yards per game) and quarterback Ollie Eberth (60.8 ypg, 6 touchdowns) in the conference rushing top 10. A Tufts rushing defense which is fourth in NESCAC giving up 110 yards per game will be put to the test.
No one in NESCAC has passed less than Amherst with their 134 attempts, but they are efficient when they do. Eberth leads the league in quarterback rating with a 148.9 mark. He has not thrown an interception yet this season while averaging 174.8 yards through the air with eight TDs. Bo Berluti is the top receiver with 29 catches for 374 yards and four scores. All-Conference second teamer James O'Regan (24-363-2) is effective as well.
Returning NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year Andrew Yamin leads the Mammoth defense. He's one of five All-Conference players that Amherst has back this year including first team defensive backs Avery Saffold and Nate Tyrell, second team lineman Greg Franklin and second team linebacker Andrew Sommer. Yamin leads the league with 7.5 sacks totaling 47 yards and with 12.5 tackles for losses amounting to 63 yards. Sommer has two interceptions in addition to 31 tackles. Senior John Callahan is their leading tackler overall this fall with 39 stops.
Tufts will play its final home game next Saturday against Colby College (1-5). They will salute their 27-member senior class prior to the game. The Jumbo seniors have a 23-8 record in their careers entering the Amherst game, making them one of the most successful classes in Tufts history. The Jumbos wrap up the 2018 campaign at Middlebury College on November 10. The Mammoths travel to Trinity for another conference showdown next week.
TUFTS VS. AMHERST SERIES
Series Record: Amherst 55-28-4
First Game: 1877, Amherst 8-4
Last Tufts Win: 2016, 27-10
Last Amherst Win: 2017, 31-26
Current Streak: Amherst, 1 game
Large Margins: Tufts 42-7 in 1958; Amherst 49-0 in 1973