Amherst Improves to 5-1 with 24-17 Win Over Tufts

Sophomore Sean Legister (#17) caught five passes for 44 yards and a touchdown in the Jeffs' win over Tufts.
AMHERST, MA – The Amherst College football team looked phenomenal while scoring 24 first-half points against visiting Tufts University, but the Jumbos scored 17 consecutive points in the second half to cut their deficit to seven. The Lord Jeffs were able to hang on for the 24-17 win to improve to 5-1, while Tufts fell to 3-3 with the loss.

Amherst entered Saturday’s game allowing a mere 54.0 rushing yards per game, an average that dropped to 41.0 after Tufts struggled in the ground game. The Lord Jeffs picked up eight sacks on the day for a total loss of 56 yards, giving the Jumbos a net loss of 14 rushing yards.

The Jeffs, meanwhile, ran the ball 40 times for 125 yards, with junior Aaron Rauh (Hudson, OH) accounting for 91 and a touchdown. Sophomore Femi Oyalowo (Bowie, MD) added 62 yards on 14 carries and effectively filled the void left by senior standout Eric NeSmith (Newark, NJ).

After a junior Matt Eberhart (Plano, TX) 35-yard field goal provided the lone points of the first quarter to give the hosts a 3-0 lead, sophomore quarterback Alex Vetras (Clyde Hill, WA) threw for a pair of touchdowns and Rauh ran for another to give Amherst a seemingly comfortable 24-0 lead at halftime.

Vetras’ first score came two minutes and 11 seconds into the second quarter on a five-yard pass to sophomore Sean Legister (Ossining, NY), who finished with five catches and 44 yards on the day. Rauh followed with a two-yard TD run four minutes later, before Vetras rounded out the scoring in the opening half by completing a 22-yard pass to first-year Andrew Reed (Riverside, CT) with just two seconds showing on the clock. Reed’s touchdown reception was the first of his career, while Vetras’ two touchdowns in the second quarter brought his season total to 10.

First-year Anthony Fucillo (Winthrop, MA) threw for 308 yards and also had a pair of touchdowns, completing 16 of 34 pass attempts. Each quarterback was intercepted once, with junior Mike Taylor (Evanston, IL) picking off Fucillo with four minutes to play in the first half and Vetras getting picked by first-year Donnie Simmons (Houston, TX) on the third quarter’s opening drive.

After Amherst took a 10-0 lead on its first possession of the second quarter, a perfectly-placed on-side kick by Eberhart was recovered by the Jeffs, only to have the play called back due to an off-sides penalty. Tufts took advantage of the miscue and stormed down the field to set up a 32-yard field goal attempt, but first-year Adam Auerbach (Glen Rock, NJ) missed wide left.

Sophomore Alex Vetras' two touchdown passes against Tufts brought his season total to 10.
Simmons’ interception early in the third quarter was followed by a quick two-play drive that concluded with a 53-yard completion from Fucillo to senior David Halas (Southbury, CT), as the Jumbos wasted no time getting on the board in the second half. The score remained at 24-7 after three quarters of play, with Tufts in the midst of another scoring drive.

Auerbach redeemed himself just 80 seconds into the final quarter when he nailed a 33-yard field goal to cut his team’s deficit to 14 points. On their next possession, the Jumbos converted on a fourth-and-15 situation when Fucillo hit senior Stephen Black (San Diego, CA) for 18 yards. On the ensuing play, Fucillo connected with Halas for a 25-yard touchdown, as Halas made an outstanding diving catch to make it a 24-17 game with 7:21 to play.

Tufts then seemed to have Amherst set up for a three-and-out on the next possession, but head coach E.J. Mills elected to go for it on fourth-and-one. It was a big gamble for the Jeffs, who were on their own 30-yard line, but Rauh powered his way forward for exactly what he needed, as the chains were brought out to measure and the home fans roared when the referee signaled the first down.

Rauh’s run kept the drive alive and forced Tufts to burn three timeouts, as the Jumbos began their final drive with less than five minutes to work with. Amherst’s defensive line had been shining all day and Tufts’ final possession was no different, as senior captain Guy Matisis (Hingham, MA) and junior Edwin Urey (Quincy, MA) each picked up a sack to put the Jumbos in a fourth-and-33 situation on their own seven-yard line. The visitors could not pick up enough yards to get the first down, and the Jeffs managed to run out the clock to hang on for the 24-17 win.

Halas had a spectacular day for Tufts, catching eight passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns. Black added 89 yards on four catches, while junior Brandon Bullock (West Orange, NJ) paced the Amherst receivers with 83 yards on eight receptions.

Tufts was 0-for-12 on third-down attempts and scored on one of its two appearances in the red zone, while Amherst converted on five of 16 third-down tries and scored in each of its four red zone appearances.

Taylor finished with seven tackles, one interception, one pass breakup and 2.0 sacks in what was an all-around outstanding defensive performance for the Jeffs. Junior Fred Argir (Lakeville, MN) and senior Jake Spadafora (New London, NH) each had a team-high eight total tackles, while senior A.J. Scola (Holden, MA) had five solo tackles and was stellar on special teams coverage.

Recording sacks for Amherst were Spadafora (1.5), Taylor (2.0), Urey (1.5), Matisis (2.0) and senior Greg Smith (Rockville, MD), who had one sack and two total tackles. Senior Tyson Reynoso (Bellevue, ID) had a game-high 12 tackles for Tufts, while sophomore Pat Bailey (Beverly, MA) broke up three passes and added five total tackles.

The Lord Jeffs return to action Saturday, Nov. 1 when they head to Trinity College for a crucial matchup with the undefeated Bantams. Tufts will host Colby next week at 12:30 p.m. in a battle of 3-3 teams.