Amherst Gets Back on Track with 23-2 Win Over Colby

Senior Eric NeSmith had 138 yards of total offense and one touchdown reception.
By Peter Stein ’09

AMHERST, MA – The Amherst College football team dominated visiting Colby College on both sides of the ball en route to a 23-2 victory Saturday afternoon at Pratt Field. The Lord Jeffs featured a balanced running and passing game, amassing a total of 406 yards of offense while limiting the Mules to just 106 total yards.

Things started out pretty slow for the Jeffs, and a couple crucial penalties gave the Mules the momentum in the middle of the first quarter. However, as the Mules were driving in the Jeffs territory, senior defensive back Fran Florio (Staten Island, NY) picked off a pass from Patrick Burns, making a spectacular one-handed catch over the receiver’s helmet. Florio caught the ball at the 15-yard line and made a nice return to the 32, marking his third interception of the year.

Amherst and sophomore quarterback Alex Vetras (Clyde Hill, WA) made the most of the Mules’ turnover and proceeded to march down the field. Vetras found fellow sophomore Brian Murphy (Evanston, IL) three times on the ensuing drive, including a nine-yard touchdown grab to cap off the drive early in the second quarter. The ball was tipped at the line on the ensuing extra point attempt, as Colby held the Jeffs to just six points.

In their next possession, the Jeffs were able to get into field goal range, due in large part to a 19-yard rush by senior running back Eric NeSmith (Newark, NJ). The Jeffs had to settle for the field goal, as junior Matt Eberhart (Plano, TX) nailed a 39-yard kick to put the Jeffs up 9-0 with 9:16 left in the half.

Amherst continued to roll on its next possession when NeSmith caught a screen pass from Vetras and, after cutting to the outside and after receiving good blocks, took it to the house for a 77-yard play. The score came with just 1:18 remaining in the half and the Jeffs went into the locker room with a commanding 16-0 lead.

Coming out in the second half, it was clear that the Jeffs were treating the game as if they were trailing. On the Mules opening possession, sophomore Brandon Quinn (Atlanta, GA) and senior captain Guy Matisis (Hingham, MA) sacked Burns on back-to-back plays to force the Mules to punt.

In the ensuing possession, Vetras looked to junior running back Aaron Rauh (Hudson, OH), connecting on two short passes that led to gains of 32 and 11 yards to put the Jeffs at the one-yard line. Rauh capped off the drive by pounding his way into the end zone to put the Jeffs on top, 23-0, with 11:43 to play in the third quarter.  

The Mules were able to threaten the Jeffs by getting into the red zone late in the third quarter, but junior defensive back Chris Govey (Easton, MA) picked off a pass in the end zone and returned it to the 20-yard line, marking his second interception of the season. During the ensuing drive, however, the Mules were able to get on the board when the Jeffs snapped the ball over Eberhart’s head and through the end zone for a safety, as Colby trailed 23-2 with just 1:31 remaining in the third frame.

Neither team would put any more points on the board, with Amherst hanging on for the 21-point victory. A huge key to success for the Jeffs was their total domination at the line of scrimmage. The defensive front constantly got to the quarterback, totaling six sacks and 12 tackles for a loss. Junior defensive lineman Eric Pender (Drexel Hill, PA) led the charge with three sacks for a total loss of 30 yards. On the other side of the ball, the offensive line gave Vetras all day to throw and was able set up some key blocks on short throws that led to large gains.

On special teams and defense, senior defensive back A.J. Scola (Holden, MA) was instrumental for the Jeffs, as he was able to pump up his teammates by laying some vicious hits in the backfield.

On the day, Vetras completed 18-of-30 passes for a total of 271 yards and two touchdowns. NeSmith led in both receiving and rushing yards, accumulating a total of 138 yards (56 rushing), while Murphy and Rauh each hauled in five catches for 42 and 64 yards, respectively. Rauh also contributed 50 yards on the ground.

Burns completed four of 12 pass attempts for 32 yards, while junior Michael Cuqua led the rushing attack with 19 yards on six carries.

The Lord Jeffs return to action Saturday, Oct. 18 when they head to Wesleyan University for a 1 p.m. start.