Week 8 Preview: Amherst @ Williams
AMHERST COLLEGE (7-0) vs. WILLIAMS COLLEGE (6-1)
SATURDAY, NOV. 14 * 12 P.M.
WILLIAMSTOWN, MA * WESTON FIELD
THIS WEEK IN THE NESCAC
Middlebury (4-3) @ Tufts (2-5) – 12 p.m.
Wesleyan (3-4) @ Trinity (5-2) – 12 p.m.
Bates (1-6) @ Hamilton (1-6) – 12 p.m.
Colby (4-3) @ Bowdoin (2-5) – 12:30 p.m.
Saturday’s game between Amherst and Williams can be watched live on New England Sports Network. Fans unable to watch the live television broadcast can listen to a live audio feed on the internet courtesy of Amherst's student-run radio station, WAMH, or through TEAMLINE. NESN will also provide a breaking look into the game with a Live Blog. The Williams sports information department will also be providing live statistics.
WHAT’S ON THE LINE
Amherst and Williams have been involved in countless classics, but the 124th meeting between these storied rivals may be one of the most anticipated. A win for Amherst would be so much more than a victory over its archrival; it would mark the program’s third 8-0 season, its first perfect season in 25 years, its first outright NESCAC title, its first win at Weston Field since 1985, its first win over Williams since 2004, and another Little III crown in the trophy case.
A win for the Ephs, however, would mark the eighth time Williams has ruined Amherst’s hopes of a perfect season. Saturday’s game pits the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in New England against each other, as well as the NESCAC’s top-ranked scoring offense against its top-ranked scoring defense, its best rushing offense versus its best rushing defense, and its most effective red zone offense against its most effective red zone defense. Should Williams win on Saturday, the Ephs and Lord Jeffs would be declared co-champions of the NESCAC.
The home team won each matchup from 1999 to 2005, but home field advantage has not been a factor during the Ephs’ current four-game winning streak over the Lord Jeffs. Williams out-scored Amherst by a combined 57-7 margin in 2006 and 2007 to take control of the rivalry before last year’s 24-23 result restored confidence in Lord Jeff Nation. The Ephs have ruined their archrivals’ perfect season seven times, with each of the past three occasions coming in heartbreaking fashion. Amherst lost the 1996 battle in the final minute (19-13), the 1997 meeting in the final two seconds (48-46) and the 2001 showdown in overtime (23-20), moving to 7-1 each time. Williams leads the all-time series, 70-48-5.
The 123rd meeting between the Amherst College and Williams College football teams 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 converting on 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 6-yard rushing touchdown by Eric NeSmith ’09, the ensuing kick by Matt Eberhart ’10 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.
Seven down, one to go...
AMHERST LAST TIME OUT
The Lord Jeffs trailed 9-0 at the end of the opening quarter last week against Trinity but out-scored the Bantams 23-3 the rest of the way to clinch at least a share of the NESCAC title with a 23-12 victory. The Amherst defense was the difference in the second half, as the Trinity offense picked up only two first downs in the final 30 minutes. After Trinity senior running back Oliver Starnes rushed for 105 yards in the first half, he picked up only a dozen yards in the second stanza.
Senior Brandon Quinn led Amherst’s defensive effort with 15 total tackles (six solo), one sack and four pass break-ups. Mike Taylor added another 11 tackles, while Jeff Katz had a pair of sacks to go with his seven tackles. Junior quarterback Alex Vetras finished the day 21-of-38 passing for 252 yards with three touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. Aaron Rauh was Amherst’s leading rusher with 51 yards on 17 carries, while three Amherst players pulled down four passes apiece.
Trinity used a field goal and a rushing touchdown to take a 9-0 lead after the first quarter, but a picture-perfect 20-yard pass from Vetras to Will Reed put Amherst on the board early in the second frame. The Bantams responded with another field goal to take a 12-7 lead into the locker room, but the visitors would not score again. Vetras used another long touchdown strike to hand the lead over to Amherst, this time connecting with Andrew Reed for 37 yards with 4:49 to play in the third. A touchdown pass from Vetras to Brian Murphy made it a 20-12 game early in the fourth quarter, and Matt Rawson sealed the deal with a 28-yard field goal with only 2:10 on the clock.
WILLIAMS LAST TIME OUT
Despite a slow start for the Eph offense and a strong start for the Cardinals, Williams hit its stride in the second half and cruised to a 34-7 victory at Wesleyan’s homecoming game in Middletown. The Cardinals found themselves with an early chance for a score as an almost entirely pass-exclusive drive orchestrated by sophomore quarterback Blake DuBois set them up 1st-and-10 on the Williams 14-yard line. However, three consecutive failed pass plays forced a field goal try from 31 yards out, but senior defensive back Matt Zanedis blocked the kick in what would prove to be the first of many big plays to come for the veteran playmaker.
A Wesleyan dropped pass in the end zone and a missed field goal from 29 yards out kept it a scoreless contest. It looked as if the squads might go into the locker rooms knotted at 0-0, until Zanedis came up huge again for the Ephs with a 40-yard interception return, giving Williams a 7-0 lead with six minutes left in the half. The Ephs came right back on their next possession and faced 1st-and-goal, allowing Ryan Lupo to barrel into the end zone to reward a gutsy 4th-down attempt and make it a two-touchdown game at the end of the half.
Lupo broke free and sprinted for a gain of 31 on the very first play from scrimmage in the third quarter. Matt Coyne finished off an impressive drive by running it in from two yards out for the touchdown to make it a 21-0 game. The Cardinals would respond to the Ephs’ third score with their own touchdown drive on their second series of the half. DuBois completed an 8-yard touchdown throw on 4th down to drop the deficit back to 14 at the end of the quarter. That would be as close as Wesleyan would get, however, as Lupo ran for two more touchdowns in the final quarter to finish with 114 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries. Moffitt was 13-of-20 for 211 yards and no picks, while Bryce Bennett and J.C. Stickney combined for 144 yards on 10 catches.
With only one game remaining in the 2009 season, Amherst still leads all of Division III in rushing defense (44.4 ypg) and sacks per game (5.1) and is fourth in scoring defense (8.9 ppg) and red zone defense (50 percent). As history has taught, such impressive statistics become irrelevant when the Jeffs and Ephs meet in the season finale. When the 1997 Lord Jeffs brought a 7-0 record to Williamstown having allowed only 45 points (6.4 ppg), the Ephs erupted for 48 in a heartbreaking loss for Amherst. The Jeffs were even more impressive in 2001 when they had allowed only 26 points (3.7 ppg) through seven games, but the Ephs scored 23 points in an overtime win at Weston Field.
Amherst has done an exceptional job stopping the run this year thanks to outstanding performances from several players, but those run-stoppers will need to be at their best if they want to keep Lupo and the Ephs in check. Senior Mike Taylor (82 tackles), juniors Brandon Quinn (62 tackles) and Jeff Katz (8.0 sacks, 12.0 TFL) and first-year Sam Clark (5.0 TFL) make up one of the most talented groups of linebackers in the NESCAC. The defensive line has been equally phenomenal with Edwin Urey leading the NESCAC in sacks (8.0) and TFL (13.0), while Eric Pender and Kevin Ferber have combined for 70 tackles, 10.0 sacks and 14.0 TFL.
Looking to repeat the success they saw a year ago against Williams will be juniors Andre Gary and Femi Oyalowo and senior Matt Eberhart. The Ephs held the Amherst running game to only 76 yards in 2008 and Oyalowo ran the ball only once for nine yards, but he made a huge difference by returning three kickoffs for a combined 129 yards, including a 75-yard return that led immediately to a go-ahead touchdown late in the third quarter. Gary caught eight passes for 109 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown reception that gave Amherst a 17-10 lead. Eberhart punted the ball four times in last year’s meeting with Williams, averaging 38.5 yards per kick with a long of 50. Two of Eberhart’s punts pinned the Ephs inside their 20.
Williams opened its 2009 season with a 23-19 win over Colby by scoring a go-ahead touchdown with only one minute remaining in regulation, and the Ephs followed up with a 26-21 setback to Trinity in Week 2. The Ephs seemed to be headed for an off-year, but they have since demonstrated why they are still a NESCAC powerhouse. Williams has scored at least 30 points in each of its past five games, out-scoring opponents by an impressive 174-48 margin during its current winning streak. In their first three home contests of the year, the Ephs have scored 103 points while holding opponents to only a pair of rushing touchdowns.
The Amherst defense allowed a season-high 116 rushing yards last week when Trinity’s Oliver Starnes showed why he is regarded as one of the best backs in the conference, and the Lord Jeffs will face an even greater challenge this week when they attempt to stop junior sensation Ryan Lupo. As the top running back in the NESCAC, Lupo is averaging 104.4 yards per game on the ground and has found paydirt nine times, with three of his touchdowns coming last week at Wesleyan. Despite averaging only 22.7 yards per game, fellow tailback Matt Coyne has found the end zone five times, as the Ephs have run for a conference-high 16 touchdowns.
Coyne has had a similar effect on the passing game; he has only thrown 30 passes on the year, but five of those have resulted in touchdowns. Taking the majority of the snaps this year has been sophomore quarterback Pat Moffitt, who has thrown for 1,290 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions while completing 56.2 percent of his passes. Nick Caro and Bryce Bennett have been the team’s prime targets, combining for 126.0 yards per game and eight touchdowns. Success on defense has been spread out among several contributors, but the Jeffs will need to keep an eye on linebackers Dan Schultz and Chris Cameron. The duo has combined for 97 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks as the team leaders in all three categories.
|LORD JEFF OFFENSE|
WR - Brian Murphy - 4
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 Rawson - 94
|LORD JEFF DEFENSE|
DT - Edwin Urey - 99
NG - Tom Grossi - 97
DT - Eric Pender - 92
ILB - Mike Taylor - 40
ILB - Brandon Quinn - 31
OLB - Jeff Katz - 98
OLB - Sam Clark - 34
CB - Nick Edwards - 25
CB - Fran Florio - 24
S - Chris Govey - 10
S - Fred Argir - 3
PR - Femi Oyalowo - 5
TE - Jon Carroll - 86
T - Steve Denza - 58
G - Simon Kloeckner - 65
C - Tim Bishop - 64
G - Kevin Rose - 73
T - Mike McGuire - 54
RB - Ryan Lupo - 23
QB - Patrick Moffitt - 5
WR - Nick Caro - 22
WR - Bryce Bennett - 8
WR - J.C. Stickney - 11
PK - Scott Sobolewski - 94
DE - Tim Kiely - 30
DT - Colin Curzi - 97
DT - Ben Halbower - 99
DE - Dan Canina - 92
LB - Dan Johnson - 37
LB - Dylan Schultz - 55
LB - Chris Cameron - 42
DB - Ben Oliva - 12
DB - Dan O'Mara - 21
DB - Will Cronin - 9
DB - Matt Zanedis - 27
P - Will Cronin - 9
Alex Vetras (144-of-261/1,323 yds/12 TD/7 INT)
Aaron Rauh (84 att/199 yds/3 TD)
Femi Oyalowo (61 att/188 yds/1 TD)
Brian Murphy (34 recs/317 yds/3 TD)
Brandon Bullock (31 recs/239 yds/3 TD)
Mike Taylor (82 tackles/10.5 TFL/4.0 sacks/3 FF)
Fred Argir (53 tackles/5 INT/8 breakups)
Pat Moffitt (95-of-169/1,290 yds/6 TD/3 INT)
Ryan Lupo (180 att/731 yds/9 TD)
Matt Coyne (42 att/159 yds/5 TD)
Nick Caro (27 recs/406 yds/5 TD)
Bryce Bennett (31 recs/408 yds/3 TD
Dylan Schultz (53 tackles/8.5 TFL/3.0 sacks)
Chris Cameron (44 tackles/8.0 TFL/5.5 sacks)
TEAM STATISTICAL COMPARISONS
|Rushing Offense |
A: 79.3 ypg
W: 169.7 ypg
A: 207.4 ypg
W: 222.3 ypg
|Total Offense |
A: 286.7 ypg
W: 392.0 ypg
A: 19.4 ppg
W: 31.1 ppg
|Rushing Defense |
A: 44.4 ypg
W: 68.0 ypg
A: 227.9 ypg
W: 177.7 ypg
|Total Defense |
A: 272.3 ypg
W: 245.7 ypg
A: 8.9 ppg
W: 13.3 ppg