Week 3 Football Preview: Amherst @ Middlebury

HelmetAmherst College (2-0) vs. Middlebury College (1-1)
October 9, 2010 * Youngman Field at Alumni Stadium
Middlebury, VT * 1:30 p.m.


LIVE COVERAGE
Saturday’s game between Amherst and Middlebury will feature live statistics. A live webcast will also be available on a pay-per-view basis.

THIS WEEK IN THE NESCAC
Williams (2-0) @ Bates (1-1) – 1 p.m.
Tufts (1-1) @ Bowdoin (0-2) – 1 p.m.
Trinity (1-1) @ Hamilton (0-2) – 1 p.m.
Wesleyan (1-1) @ Colby (1-1) – 1 p.m.

THE SERIES
After meeting only five times from 1908-28, Amherst and Middlebury have been regulars on each other’s schedules since 1980. These two teams have been involved in a hard-nosed tug-of-war since 1997 in what has become one of the most competitive football rivalries in the NESCAC. The Lord Jeffs hold a slim 19-16 advantage in the all-time series and have won seven of the past 13 meetings. The Panthers had the Jeffs’ number during a three-game winning streak from 2006-08, but Amherst got back on track with a 20-10 win a year ago. Five of the past 11 games have been decided by four points or fewer.

LAST MEETING
Amherst’s Alex Vetras ’11 set school records for single-game completions (35) and attempts (54), throwing for 234 yards and a pair of touchdowns without being intercepted during a 20-10 win over Middlebury. In addition to setting a new school record for career completions (418), Middlebury’s Donald McKillop ’11 tied his own NESCAC single-game mark of 47 completions and set a new record of 74 pass attempts. McKillop threw for 438 yards and a touchdown but was intercepted four times by the Lord Jeffs.

Donald McKillop
Donald McKillop '11 has thrown for 6,759 yards
and 48 touchdowns in his career.

The quarterbacks put up the big numbers on the day, but it was Amherst outside linebacker Sam Clark ’13 who stole the show with seven solo tackles and a pair of game-changing interceptions during a breakout performance. In the second quarter, Clark returned his first interception 64 yards to set up an Amherst touchdown, before hauling in his second pick in the endzone for a touchback in the third quarter. Amherst carried a 17-0 lead into the fourth quarter and held Middlebury to only 10 points after the Panthers averaged 40.0 points per game during the first two weeks.

AMHERST LAST TIME OUT
Vetras threw for a career-high 340 yards and three touchdowns and Eric Bunker ’12 ran for another pair of scores to lead Amherst in a 38-7 win at Bowdoin. The Jeffs scored on their first three possessions to carry a 21-0 lead into the second quarter, scoring the first 38 points of the game before the Polar Bears got on the board with 3:23 left in regulation. Vetras used seven receivers to eclipse the 300-yard mark for the first time in his career, with five of his targets racking up at least 48 yards apiece.

For the second consecutive game, the Amherst offensive line did not allow the opposition to record a sack. The Jeffs’ defensive line, meanwhile, sacked Bowdoin quarterback R.J. Shea ’12 four times for a total loss of 23 yards. Tying for the team lead in tackles for the second time in as many weeks were Amherst sophomore linebackers Sam Clark and Matt Pieterse, who each finished with seven. Matt Rawson ’12 was a perfect 5-for-5 on PAT attempts and 1-for-1 on field goals, also punting the ball five times for an average of 38.0 yards.

MIDDLEBURY LAST TIME OUT
Middlebury scored on three of its last four possessions, but it wasn't enough as Colby held on for a 38-27 win over the Panthers. The Mules out-gained the Panthers, 469-377, while holding a 38:10 to 21:50 advantage in time of possession. Each team turned the ball over four times on the afternoon, with McKillop going 32-of-52 for 312 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions.

After a scoreless first quarter, Colby built a 14-0 lead that it would carry into halftime. An interception by Connor Green ’11 set up Middlebury's first score of the game, as running back Andrew Plumley ’11 found paydirt from three yards out to make it a 14-7 contest early in the third quarter. The Mules added a passing touchdown late in the third and another early in the fourth to take a 28-7 lead. The teams traded scores the rest of the way, with a failed on-side kick by the Panthers resulting in a 31-yard scoring drive that served as Colby’s nail in the coffin late in regulation.

Andrew Reed
Andrew Reed '12 is averaging 39.0 yards per catch
as one of Amherst's top receivers.

KEYS TO THE GAME
With Amherst averaging 194.0 rushing yards per game and Middlebury ranking last in the NESCAC in rush defense (235.5 ypg), the Lord Jeffs will likely look to maintain what has been a strong ground attack. The Panthers have allowed more than 200 rushing yards in each of their first two games and could be in for another big test, as 85 of Amherst’s 150 plays this season have come on the ground. As a result the Jeffs are averaging more than 30 minutes of possession per game, while the Panthers rank ninth in the category at 24:07.

If Middlebury can be more effective at stopping the run, Saturday’s game may come down to which senior quarterback puts in a better performance. Vetras and McKillop combined for 672 yards in last year’s meeting, and this year they have been two of the most efficient passers in the conference. Vetras is coming off the best game of his career and is only 13 yards shy of 4,000, while McKillop enters the weekend with 6,759 career yards and 48 touchdowns as the conference’s reigning Offensive Player of the Year.

Each team’s secondary has its work cut out for it. Seven Panthers caught at least two passes in Middlebury’s 24-21 win against Wesleyan, with McKillop throwing touchdowns to three players. Last week against Colby, five Panthers had at least four catches and 25 yards. Vetras has done an equally impressive job of spreading the ball around, throwing touchdowns to four players thus far. Five Lord Jeffs are averaging at least 34.0 receiving yards per game, but only Andrew Reed ’12 averages more than 41.5 (78.0). Middlebury will need to put pressure on Vetras, who is one of only two NESCAC quarterbacks yet to be sacked in 2010.

Whichever team scores first could wind up playing a significant role. The Jeffs totaled only six first-quarter points in all of 2009, but they are out-scoring opponents by a 41-0 margin in opening quarters this year. Middlebury, meanwhile, has needed time to get into a rhythm, scoring 41 of its 51 points in the second half. The Panthers have demonstrated the ability to score in spurts, which could mean trouble for Amherst if the hosts are able to find their rhythm early on. Having not allowed a single point in the first three quarters of either of their games, the Jeffs will need to be prepared to respond to any early Middlebury scores. If both teams storm out of the gates, fans could be in for quite a shootout.

With six teams tied for third place at 1-1, Middlebury needs to win in order to stay with the front of the conference pack. The Lord Jeffs join Williams College as the only unbeatens remaining, and Saturday they have a chance to increase their winning streak to 11 games. The program record for longest winning streak is 14 games, which spanned the 1983-85 seasons.

PROBABLE STARTERS

AMHERST OFFENSE
QB - Alex Vetras - 12
RB - Eric Bunker - 14
TE - Charlie Pratt - 46
WR - Sean Legister - 22
WR - Brian Murphy - 4
WR - Andre Gary - 2
RT - Ian Mahoney - 70
RG - Marcus Richtel - 76
C - John Ceccio - 54
LG - Ricky Morgan - 62
LT - Jack Reynolds - 51
AMHERST DEFENSE
SS - Doug Gebhardt - 8
FS - Kevin Heller - 10
CB - Nick Edwards - 25
CB - Landrus Lewis - 1
OLB - Sam Clark - 34
OLB - Jeff Katz - 98
ILB - Brandon Quinn - 31
ILB - Matt Pieterse - 42
DE - Brady Benelli - 55
NG - Tom Grossi - 97
DE - Kevin Ferber - 3
MIDDLEBURY OFFENSE
TE - David Reed - 44
LT - Ryan Moores - 64
LG - Ling Zhou - 69
C - Ken LeStrange - 74
RG - Sam White - 65
RT - John Poulson - 70
WR - Zach Driscoll - 11
WR - Nick Resor - 7
WR - Matt Rayner - 6
RB - Andrew Plumley - 22
QB - Donald McKillop - 16
MIDDLEBURY DEFENSE
DE - Carroll - 46
NG - Carl Culicchia - 96
DE - Chris Dola - 50
LB - Matt Cawley - 43
LB - Andrew Poulin - 37
LB - Andrew Durfee - 53
S - Patrick Pembroke - 42
S - Michael Bilodeau - 21
CB - Connor Green - 35
CB - Charlie Taft - 17
FS - Daniel Kenerson - 31

STATISTICAL LEADERS

AMHERST
Passing
Alex Vetras (39-of-60, 505 yds, 5 TD, 1 INT)
Rushing
Eric Bunker (29 car, 169 yds, 3 TD)
Ryan Silva (19 car, 64 yds, 0 TD)
Receiving
Andre Gary (12 recs, 68 yds, 2 TD)
Andrew Reed (4 recs, 156 yds, 1 TD)
Defense
Matt Pieterse (18 tackles, 9 solo, 2.0 TFL)
Sam Clark (18 tackles, 9 solo, 2.0 TFL)
MIDDLEBURY
Passing
Donald McKillop (57-of-92, 567 yds, 5 TD, 3 INT)
Rushing
Andrew Pumley (31 car, 124 yds, 1 TD)
Donald McKillop (15 car, 26 yds, 1 TD)
Receiving
Zach Driscoll (14 recs, 191 yds, 1 TD)
Matt Rayner (10 recs, 60 yds, 2 TD)
Defense
Andrew Poulin (19 tackles, 9 solo, 2.0 TFL)
Michael Bilodeau (15 tackles, 10 solo, 1 INT)

TEAM STATISTICAL COMPARISONS

Rushing Offense
A: 194.0 ypg
M: 100.5 ypg

Passing Offense
A: 252.5 ypg
M: 283.5 ypg
Total Offense
A: 446.5 ypg
M: 384.0 ypg

Scoring Offense
A: 41.0 ppg
M: 25.5 ppg
Rushing Defense
A: 76.0 ypg
M: 235.5 ypg

Passing Defense
A: 160.5 ypg
M: 212.0 ypg
Total Defense
A: 236.5 ypg
M: 447.5 ypg

Scoring Defense
A: 3.5 ppg
M: 29.5 ppg