Amherst Falls to 4-2 with 29-10 Loss at Tufts

Senior Nick Boehm had a game-high 14 tackles and an interception against Tufts.

From a Tufts University Release 

SOMERVILLE, MA - Behind three touchdown passes from senior quarterback Matt Russo and an outstanding effort on defense, the Tufts University football team remained in first place in the NESCAC standings with a decisive 29-10 victory over Amherst College on Saturday afternoon at Ellis Oval/Zimman Field. The win improves the Jumbos to 5-1 overall, their best mark this late in the season since 1998, while Amherst falls to 4-2.

Tufts and Amherst entered Saturday with 4-1 records, and the Lord Jeffs had out-scored the Jumbos 61-12 during two straight wins in the series. The Jumbos would turn the table on the Lord Jeffs, earning a 19-point victory that was their biggest against Amherst since a 23-0 score in 1992. Tufts possessed the ball for 38:02 compared to 21:58 for Amherst, out-gained the Lord Jeffs 323 yards to 216 and won the turnover battle, 4-1.

Amherst was leading the NESCAC in rushing with 185.2 yards per game, but was limited to 72 yards on 28 carries by a tenacious Tufts defense. The Jumbo offense would take the spotlight, with Russo completing 20 of 26 passes for 205 yards and touchdowns to senior tight end Kevin Gleason, junior tight end Max Cassidy and junior wide receiver Stephen Black.

The Jumbo defense established itself from the start after Russo was intercepted by Amherst senior linebacker Nick Boehm (Shaker Heights, OH) on his first pass of the day. With the Lord Jeffs taking over at the Jumbo 21, the Tufts defense was able to hold them to a 32-yard field goal by sophomore Matt Eberhart (Plano, TX) at 12:39 of the first quarter.

Tufts’ offense regrouped and would drive for a touchdown that would give them the lead for good on their next possession. Early on, Russo passed to Black for 14 yards and to Halas for 20 yards to set Tufts up on the Amherst 31. A 15-yard rush by junior Brad Ricketson and a 12-yard Russo-to-Black connection led to a four-yard TD pass to Gleason. The extra point was missed and the Jumbos led 6-3 at 7:34 of the first.

The Jumbo defense would force its first turnover on the next Amherst drive. The Jeffs moved the ball to the Tufts 28, helped by a 16-yard pass from sophomore QB Lucas Loeffler (New York, NY) to junior Taylor Brown (Boulder, CO). However, Loeffler fumbled when he was sacked by Jumbo senior defensive end Stephen Albertine and the ball was recovered by Pete Christensen. The offense turned that into points, launching a 15-play, 63-yard drive that ended with Russo plunging into the end zone from one yard out on fourth down with 12:07 left in the second quarter for a 13-3 advantage.

Amherst went three and out in their next series, but their defense appeared to do the same to the Jumbos. However, the visitors where whistled for an illegal participation infraction on a punt that gave Tufts a first down. Russo hit Cassidy for 18 yards into Amherst territory on the next play. Russo and Black converted a 4th-and-3 with a nine-yard pass, and the Jumbos would get a 37-yard field goal by first-year Greg Stewart to go up 16-3 with five minutes remaining until halftime. That would be the score at the half, with the Jumbos out-gaining the Jeffs 201 to 61 in the first 30 minutes of play.

After the teams traded punts in four possessions overall to open the second half, an interception by Tufts cornerback Nathan Scott set up the next Tufts touchdown, as his 31-yard return went to the Amherst 45. Five plays later, Russo drilled a ball into the hands of Cassidy over the middle from 20 yards out and the Jumbos led 23-3 at 1:28 of the third quarter.

Into the fourth quarter, Amherst was on the Tufts 23 when Scott made another big play on a pitch to Aaron Rauh (Hudson, OH) for no gain on fourth down and the Jumbos took the ball back. After a Tufts punt, Scott forced a fumble on an Amherst completion and Jumbo junior linebacker Ryan Crisco recovered at the Lord Jeff 41. Russo and Black, who caught six passes for 52 yards, then connected for a five-yard touchdown at 6:07 of the fourth quarter and Tufts led 29-3.

Amherst brought first-year Dave Pozner (Stoughton, MA) in at quarterback, and after he was intercepted on his first series by Jumbo junior Andy Henke, he would engineer a late Lord Jeff touchdown drive. He completed a 20-yard pass to first-year receiver Ben Kettering (Fairmont, WV) to open the drive, and finished it with a 10-yard touchdown toss to Kettering at 1:55 of the fourth.

The Tufts first-string defense, which did not allow a touchdown in the game, put forth a group effort to stall the Lord Jeffs. Nine Jumbos finished with four tackles or more, led by seven from junior linebacker Tyson Reynoso. Senior defensive end Derek Miller had 1.5 tackles for losses and Albertine broke up two passes. Sophomore Darren Ferguson ran hard for 63 yards on 17 carries to lead Tufts in that category.

The Jeffs couldn’t get it going offensively all game, as their 67-yard touchdown drive late in the game was their only possession on which they gained more than 40 yards. Rauh (13 carries, 21 yards) and junior Eric NeSmith (Newark, NJ), who had 23 yards on eight carries, entered the game as two of the NESCAC’s top four rushers, but were not a factor on Saturday. Loeffler finished 7-of-19 for 86 yards and Pozner completed 7 of 13 passes for 58 yards. Boehm was all over the field for the Amherst defense, making 14 tackles, as was junior Preston Puryear (Tampa, FL), who had 13.

Amherst returns to action at home next Saturday for a 1 p.m. game with Trinity College.