Week 1 Preview: Amherst @ Hamilton
Amherst College (0-0) vs. Hamilton College (0-0)
September 26, 2009 * Baron von Steuben Field
Clinton, NY * 1 p.m.
Head coach E.J. Mills is a perfect 6-0 against Hamilton since arriving at Amherst.
THIS WEEK IN THE NESCAC
Tufts @ Wesleyan (12:30 p.m.)
Middlebury @ Bowdoin (1 p.m.)
Trinity @ Bates (1 p.m.)
Williams @ Colby (1 p.m.)
Amherst @ Hamilton (1 p.m.)
Amherst holds a commanding 22-1 advantage over Hamilton in the all-time series and has come out on top in each of the past eight meetings. The Lord Jeffs have outscored the Continentals 567-114 in 23 games, with 41 of Hamilton’s points coming during a convincing shutout in 1992. After meeting 10 times in a 14-year span, the teams took a 46-year hiatus before reviving the series in 1980 and have since squared off 13 times. Since Coach Mills took the helm at Amherst in 1997, the Lord Jeffs are a perfect 6-0 against Hamilton, earning three shutouts while outscoring the Continentals by a 194-16 margin. During their current eight-game winning streak over the Continentals, the Jeffs have not allowed more than seven points in any contest.
Amherst held Hamilton to six points thanks to four interceptions and a solid defensive effort, as the Lord Jeffs cruised to a 30-6 victory in the 2008 season opener at Pratt Field. Even though the two teams’ stats looked similar on paper, it was the big plays by the Lord Jeffs on both sides of the ball that made the difference in the game.
The Hamilton secondary could not seem to stop the passing efforts of the Jeffs, who completed 24 of 32 attempts for 225 yards, with Alex Vetras ’11 throwing for three touchdowns in his collegiate debut. A.J. Scola ’09 sparked the defensive initiative by intercepting a pass on the Continentals’ opening drive, with Chris Govey ’10 picking off a pass on Hamilton’s second drive. Fran Florio ’10 saw the first interception of his career come midway through the third quarter before he added a second early in the final period.
The Lord Jeffs ran for 114 yards on 32 carries, while the Continentals gained 101 yards on only 27 carries, with 59 of those yards going to Mark Snickenberger ’11. Govey, Guy Matisis ’09 and Edwin Urey ’10 each had seven tackles for the Lord Jeffs, while Hamilton’s John Lawrence ’10 led all players with 10 tackles. Jon Higginbotham ’11 had an interception for Hamilton early in the third quarter to give his team a big momentum swing by stopping the Lord Jeffs on third-and-goal.
Alex Vetras '11 threw for three touchdowns last year against Hamilton during his collegiate debut.
AMHERST LAST TIME OUT
The 123rd meeting between Amherst and Williams was one for the books, as the visiting Ephs spoiled the Lord Jeffs’ Homecoming festivities with a 24-23 victory on Pratt Field. Despite overcast skies, rain and a sloppy playing field, both teams took to the air and combined for 419 passing yards on the day, with Amherst holding a slim 212-207 edge. The Ephs out-gained the Jeffs on the ground, 94-76, racking up 301 yards of total offense compared to Amherst’s 288.
The archrivals were similar in several other statistical categories as well, with each team picking up 16 first downs, intercepting two passes, sacking the opposing quarterback once, scoring three touchdowns and kicking one field goal. Williams held possession for 30 minutes and 30 seconds, with Amherst possessing the ball for 29:30.
With the teams so identical on paper, it was no surprise that the game came down to something as minor as an extra point. With just 1:08 remaining in the third quarter, after the Jeffs took a 23-17 lead on a six-yard rushing touchdown, the ensuing kick was blocked by the Williams defense at the line of scrimmage. The Ephs capitalized with a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, and their converted extra point attempt proved to be the game-winning score.
HAMILTON LAST TIME OUT
A 20-yard touchdown reception with less than two minutes remaining in regulation gave Bates a 21-20 lead over Hamilton, and the Bobcats held on for a 23-22 victory over Hamilton College in both teams' season finales. It was Bates' fifth win in a row over Hamilton, all coming in the last game of the season.
Bates converted a crucial 38-yard field goal with no time left on the clock in the second quarter to send the Bobcats into the locker room with a 9-7 lead at halftime. Bates picked off five passes by Hamilton quarterback Jordan Eck '12, including two in the fourth quarter. Dylan Isenberg '12 rushed for a game-high 88 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries for the Continentals, who outgained the Bobcats 294 yards to 206.
Bates' late touchdown was followed by a 2-point conversion. Hamilton took the ball over from the Bates 43, but the Continentals were picked off at the Bates 19 on the next play. Bates couldn't quite run out the clock the rest of the way, and on fourth down and 13 at the Bates 16, the Bobcats ran the ball into the back of the end zone, conceding Hamilton a safety with three seconds left on the clock. The Continentals were unable to return the ensuing kickoff, ending the game at 23-22.
The 2008 Amherst squad featured Division III’s third best rush defense (60.9 ypg) and allowed a nation-low five sacks on the year. The Jeffs led the NESCAC in both categories, as well as in total defense (260.4 ypg) and sacks (26), but the Class of 2009 left enormous shoes to fill as one of the program’s most gifted groups of the past decade. Notably, the defense will need to replace two-time All-NESCAC First Team linebacker Guy Matisis ’09, 2007 All-NESCAC lineman Greg Smith ’09 and two-time All-NESCAC defensive back A.J. Scola ’09.
The offense takes just as big a hit with the loss of linemen Tim Rose ’09, Sam Rudman ’09 and Justin Wiley ’09, who last year formed the best offensive line in the NESCAC. Rose and Wiley were each named to the All-NESCAC First Team and D3football All-Region Team, as the o-line allowed only one sack through the first five games of the season.
Coach Mills is confident in this year’s group’s ability to step up and fill the void left by last year’s seniors. If the o-line can get into a rhythm early on, the Jeffs have the firepower to boast one of the best offensive games in the NESCAC. Alex Vetras ’11 is a proven quarterback with an endless supply of talented receivers and an outstanding one-two running back punch, ingredients that could lead to big points for Amherst this year. The defense will be just as impressive with a pair of All-NESCAC First Team linemen in Eric Pender ’10 and Edwin Urey ’10, with an exceptional group of defensive backs also helping to lead the way.
The Jeffs outscored opponents 30-7 in the first quarter in 2008, but they will need to work on closing out games after letting too many slip away late last year. Amherst will also need to decrease its turnover rate from a year ago, as the Jeffs turned the ball over 21 times compared to only 13 by their opponents. If they stay healthy, the Jeffs could make a legitimate run at their first NESCAC title since they shared the crown in 2000.
Last year Hamilton found out that there is a thin line between wins and losses, as five of its six setbacks were by seven points or fewer. In three of those losses, the Continentals held a lead with two minutes left in the fourth quarter, and they were tied late in the fourth during another heartbreaking defeat. A number of starters and letter winners return, including captains Max Foster '10, John Lawrence '10, Brian O'Malley '10 and Burke St. John '11.
Lawrence—a linebacker—was named the conference's rookie of the year in 2006, and this year has been named a preseason Division III All-American by Lindy's Sports magazine. Last year he led the NESCAC with seven interceptions and ranked third in the nation in interceptions per game. The tailback tandem of Mark Snickenberger '11 and Dylan Isenberg '12 returns to boost the running game. Snickenberger ran for 479 yards and Isenberg added 260 yards and two scores last year, with Snickenberger tying a team record with four rushing touchdowns in a win against Bowdoin last year.
Last year's starting quarterback, Jordan Eck '12, will not play in 2009. The leading candidates to replace Eck are Steve Mello '11, who completed 13 passes for 216 yards a year ago, and Dan Peters '13. Whoever lines up behind center, Foster, Ryan Cray '12 and Ben Tomaszewski '10 will be excellent targets. Foster finished last season with 424 yards receiving on 32 catches, including five touchdowns. He ranked seventh in the NESCAC with 60.6 receiving yards per game. Cray caught 17 passes and Tomaszewski grabbed 13 more.
The Continentals have consistently featured an impressive defense, and last year was no exception. Hamilton allowed only 19.8 points per game in 2008 and ranked third in the NESCAC in total defense, allowing a mere 71.4 rushing yards per contest for the conference’s second best average. If Hamilton can figure out how to win those close games and find a quarterback to step into a leading role, the Continentals could have a breakout season.
|AMHERST OFFENSE |
WR - Andre Gary - 2
WR - Sean Legister - 89
WR - Brandon Bullock - 21
TE - Dan Savage - 80
RB - Aaron Rauh - 11
LT - Wyatt Moss - 57
LG - Rick Morgan - 62
C - John Ceccio - 54
RG - Marcus Richtel - 76
RT - Ian Mahoney - 70
QB - Alex Vetras - 12
P/K - Matt Eberhart - 43
WR - Max Foster - 81
WR - Ryan Cray - 19
WR - Ben Tomaszewski - 6
RB - Dylan Isenberg - 20
RB - Donovan Flint - 15
QB - Dan Peters - 14
LT - Linus Walton - 52
LG - Randall Lee - 64
C - Jon Michel - 57
RG - Sam Peabody - 77
RT - Ted Mimnaugh - 74
P/K - George Taylor - 18
DE - Landrey Mack - 56
DT - Burke St. John - 44
DT - James Gillan - 89
DE - Harry Jung - 55
OLB - Brian O'Malley - 39
ILB - Marc Pitarresi - 41
ILB - Mike MacDonald - 58
OLB - John Lawrence - 42
C - Ted Finan - 28
FS - Will Finan - 4
C - Jon Higginbotham - 11
P/K - George Taylor - 18
2008 TEAM STATISTICAL COMPARISONS
A: 125.8 ypg, 10 TD
H: 96.5 ypg, 6 TD
A: 233.6 ypg, 13 TD
H: 186.0 ypg, 11 TD
A: 359.4 ypg, 23 TD
H: 282.5 ypg, 17 TD
A: 21.9 ppg
H: 17.0 ppg
|Rushing Defense |
A: 60.9 ypg, 6 TD
H: 71.4 ypg, 6 TD
A: 199.5 ypg, 11 TD
H: 226.5 ypg, 15 TD
|Total Defense |
A: 260.4 ypg, 17 TD
H: 297.9 ypg, 21 TD
A: 18.0 ppg
H: 19.8 ppg
RETURNING STATISTICAL LEADERS
Alex Vetras (186-for-290, 13 TD, 10 INT, 233.6 ypg)
Aaron Rauh (126 att., 470 yds., 5 TD, 58.8 ypg)
Femi Oyalowo (44 att., 232 yds., 2 TD, 29.0 ypg)
Brandon Bullock (33 rec., 311 yds., 2 TD, 51.8 ypg)
Brian Murphy (30 rec., 318 yds., 2 TD, 39.8 ypg)
Mike Taylor (59 tackles, 5.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks, 3 INT)
Eric Pender (48 tackles, 7.0 TFL, 5.0 sacks)
Steve Mello (13-for-30, 1 TD, 0 INT, 54.0 ypg)
Mark Snickenberger (134 att., 479 yds., 4 TD, 59.9 ypg)
Dylan Isenberg (66 att., 260 yds., 2 TD, 32.5 ypg)
Max Foster (32 rec., 424 yds., 5 TD, 60.6 ypg)
Ryan Cray (17 rec., 208 yds., 2 TD, 26.0 ypg)
John Lawrence (53 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 7 INT)
Brian O’Malley (40 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1.0 sacks, 1 INT)