Late Touchdown Lifts Jeffs Over Colby, 14-10
Contact: Ben Badua
WATERVILLE, Maine - Thanks to a pair of fourth quarter scoring drives, the Amherst football team managed to remain unbeaten, escaping with a 14-10 victory at Colby College.
Trailing 7-0, early in the fourth, first-year quarterback Alex Berluti connected with senior wideout Jake O’Malley for a 72-yard touchdown that pulled Amherst even. Down 10-7 in the waning moments of regulation, the Jeffs engineered a 12-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 17-yard Max Lippe ’15 go-ahead touchdown pass to Wade McNamara ’14 with just 33 seconds remaining.
Improving to 4-0 on the season, Amherst is 32-4-1 all-time against Colby (1-3), having now won each of the past 17 match-ups. The Purple & White held a slight 335-331 edge in total offense, converting 9-of-18 third down attempts, while holding Colby to a 2-for-16 clip. Hauling in three more interceptions, the Amherst defense upped its season total to a league-high 15 picks.
Moving the ball on the Jeffs’ second possession, Lippe hit Gene Garay ’15 over the middle, who made a couple of defenders miss before being taken down at the Amherst 40-yardline. Facing a second-and-10, Lippe found Ragone on the right sideline for another big gain. Jumping a bubble screen moments later, Colby defensive back Zach Padula ’15 put the brakes on the Jeff drive with his second interception of the season.
Breaking into Amherst territory, Mule quarterback Justin Ciero ’16 completed an eight-yard pass to Luke Duncklee ’15 to set up a second-and-two from the Amherst 35. Facing a fourth-and-two two plays later, Ciero rolled out to his left before firing a 17-yard strike to Nick Joseph ’15 over the middle. Getting pressure on Ciero on a third-and-10 from the 18-yardline, Jeff linebacker Chris Tamasi ’15 forced an errant throw that ended up in the hands of a diving Steven Jellison '14 for his first career pick.
Looking at a third-and-six early in the second quarter, Ciero scrambled for 15 yards to move the chains. Taking a shot downfield on the next snap, Ciero linked up with Joseph, who out-jumped an Amherst defender for a 32-yard gain. Forcing a third down, the Jeff defense held steady as Landrus Lewis’14E sacked Ciero for a 6-yard loss. Missing an opportunity to put the Mules on the board, Louw Scheepers ’15 sent a 37-yard field goal wide right at 8:41 as the game remained scoreless.
Piecing together another drive late in the second period, Colby picked up a pair of first downs to move inside the Amherst 30-yardline. Ciero then found Ryder Arsenault ’17 along the right sideline to put the Mules on the 11. Once again making a play to halt a Colby drive, Christopher Gow ’16 intercepted Ciero in the back of the endzone as the teams headed into the intermission in a scoreless deadlock.
With neither offense able to sustain a drive on its opening possessions of the second half, Amherst took over at its own 43-yardline. Backpedalling on third down, Lippe overthrew a receiver, allowing Padula to nab his second interception of the afternoon. Wasting no time, Ciero went deep, lofting a ball to Duncklee, who made a one-handed catch before falling out of bounds at the nine-yard line. Buying himself some time on second-and-goal, Ciero scrambled to his right before again finding Duncklee for an 11-yard strike that put Colby on top.
Pinned inside its own 2-yard line, Amherst earned a couple of first downs to make its way to the 28-yardline. In for his second series of the game, Berluti sold the play action before rolling to his left. Going long, the first-year hit a streaking O’Malley in stride for a 72-yard touchdown that suddenly pulled the Jeffs even.
Starting the next drive on its own 23-yardline Colby marched the ball 45 yards on nine plays. Needing a stop, the Jeff defense stood tall, as Lewis got his hands on his third pick in two games. With Amherst going three-and-out, the Mules took over on the Jeff 45-yardline. Looking at a fourth-and-four from the visitor 29-yardline, Ciero picked out Duncklee for a 5-yard gain. Coming up inches short on a third-and-six later in the drive, the Mules settled for a 31-yard Scheepers field goal that made it 10-7 with 3:43 remaining in regulation.
Trying to engineer a game-winning drive, Berluti found Garay over the middle for a 9-yard gain to the Amherst 39. Coming back in for the first-year, Lippe completed consecutive passes to Kenny Adinkra ’16 and O’Malley to spot the ball on the Colby 38-yardline.
Two more quick passes to O’Malley put the Jeffs inside the 30-yardline before a nine-yard catch and run by Garay had Amherst in the redzone. Stepping up in the pocket with time winding down, Lippe fired a strike to McNamara for a score inside the right pylon with just 33 seconds left.
Lippe finished 16-of-28 for 165 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions, while Berluti completed four of his six attempts for 90 yards and a score. O’Malley led all receivers with 105 yards on five catches, while Kenny Adinkra ’16 paced all Amherst rushers with 38 yards on 11 carries (3.2 ypc). As a team, Amherst finished with a 255-240 edge in passing yards, while Colby held a 91-80 advantage on the ground.
Ciero went 21-for-35 with 240 yards a touchdown and three interceptions, while also gaining 48 yards rushing on 14 attempts. Duncklee collected nine catches for 98 yards, while Joseph brought down six receptions for 92 yards.
Ned Deane ’15 once again led the Jeffs in tackles, making eight stops (seven solo), while Tamasi had six tackles, including three for a loss and a fumble recovery on a Colby lateral on the last play of the game. Harry Nicholas ’16 led the Mule defense with 10 tackles (nine solo), while Henry Nelson ’15 and Stephen O’Grady ’16 each made six apiece.
Amherst will host Wesleyan on Saturday, Oct. 19 as part of the college’s Homecoming festivities.