Mills Wins 100th; Jeffs Edge Trinity, 17-16
Contact: Ben Badua
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AMHERST, Mass. - Head coach E.J. Mills notched his 100th career victory as the Amherst football team defeated rival Trinity College, 17-16, to improve to 6-1 on the season.
Mired in a defensive struggle, Amherst pieced together a seven-play, 73-yard touchdown drive midway through the fourth quarter, only to see Trinity (5-2) come right back a score a TD with just under four minutes remaining. Ben Rosenblatt ’17 had a chance to pull the Bantams even, but pushed the point after attempt wide left to keep the score at 17-16. Trinity got the ball back with 2:49 on the clock, but several big plays by the Jeff defense helped seal the win.
Upping his career mark to 100-35 Mills joins legendary Amherst head coach Jim Ostendarp as the only Amherst coaches in the history of the 134-year-old program to reach the 100-win plateau. In 33 seasons from 1959-91, Ostendarp compiled a 168-91-5 record. Mills will get a chance to add to his tally next Saturday, Nov. 9 when Amherst visits archrival Williams for the 128th edition of the “Biggest Little Game in America.”
Going three-and-out on its first possession, Trinity took over on its own 41-yardline with 12:16 left in the first. Completing a 12-yard pass to Chris Ragone ’15 before later scrambling for 14 more, first-year Bantam quarterback Sonny Puzzo helped move the visitors into field goal range. Looking at what would have been a 42-yarder, Trinity faked the kick, but Puzzo’s pass was intercepted by Max Lehrman ’15, who returned it to the Bantams’ 45-yardline.
Unable to move the chains following the interception, Amherst looked to get something going at the tailend of the first quarter. Getting the ball on an end-around, Gene Garay ’15 came up the near sideline for a 17-yard pick-up on first down. Rookie tailback Nick Kelly ’17 added seven more on the next play, but that was as close as the Jeffs would get, with the Purple & White having to settle for a Phillip Nwosu ’15 44-yard field goal.
Making something happen on Trinity’s next drive, an opportunistic Amherst defense gave the ball right back to the home team as Jimmy Fairfield-Sonn ’16 made a diving interception at the Jeff 37-yardline to halt what had been a promising Bantam possession. Wasting no time, first-year quarterback Alex Berluti took a shot downfield, finding Wade McNamara ’14, who shielded a defender before coming down with the reception for a 36-yard gain.
Facing a third-and-8 from the Trinity 25, Lippe re-entered the game and quickly found McNamara for a 13-yard strike before picking up five more on the ground. Firing a 16-yard out to the far sideline to Jake O’Malley ’14, Lippe had Amherst on the doorstep, before taking it in himself from 1-yard out to put Amherst up 10-0.
Jumpstarting the Trinity offense, Darrien Myers ’17 gained 38 yards on the return following the kick-off to set the Bantams up at the Amherst 49. Ben Crick ’14 picked up 14 yards on a pair of runs on the first set of downs before Puzzo bought himself time in the pocket on a first-and-10 and hit Ragone over the middle for 18 yards. Crick gained three more yards to move the ball into the redzone, but a pair of incompletions forced Trinity to settle for a 31-yard Rosenblatt field goal.
Still 10-3 at the start of the second half, Amherst marched 51 yards on eight plays on its opening possession, but a fumbled exchange on a read option gave the Bantams the ball inside their own 15-yardline. Two possessions later, Trinity saw a promising drive of its own come to an end as Crick lost a fumble at the Amherst 29-yardline.
With both teams struggling to sustain drives in a scoreless third quarter, Trinity took over on its own 42-yardline with 11:43 to go in regulation. Facing a third-and-nine, Puzzo found A.J. Jones ’14 for 17-yard completion over the middle. After an 11-yard Evan Bunker ’14 run, Puzzo sold the play action before hitting Ragone over the middle for a 29-yard touchdown strike that suddenly pulled Trinity even at 10-10.
Needing an answer on its next possession, Amherst looked at a second-and-seven from its own 40. Scrambling to his left, Lippe dumped an outlet pass to Kelly, who broke a tackle and rumbled for 27 yards into Trinity territory. Picking up another big gain, Lippe rifled a pass to O’Malley on the left sideline for 16 yards to set up first-and-10 from the 17. After an incompletion, Lippe swung a quick hitter to his right, finding Garay on the bubble screen, who made his way into the endzone to put the Jeffs up 17-10.
After gaining 12 yards on a pass play to Myers on Trinity’s next drive, Puzzo again hit the first-year in stride, this time picking up 49 yards in what was the game’s longest play from scrimmage. Going back to the run, Crick and Bunker carried it the final 16 yards, with Bunker going in untouched over the right side with 3:57 on the clock. Lining up for a crucial extra point, Rosenblatt pushed the PAT wide left as the Bantams still found themselves down one.
Forcing Amherst into a three-and-out, Trinity got the ball back with 2:49 left. Gaining 14 yards on a pair of runs, Crick set up a first-and-10 on the Bantams’ 41-yardline. With the visitors once again turning to the running game, Amherst linebacker Chris Tamasi ’15 broke through the line and tracked down Crick from behind for a 3-yard loss. Sniffing out a screen, Danny Chun ’14 tackled Ian Dugger ’16 for another three yard loss, before Puzzo dumped it to Crick for some positive yardage. Going to the air on fourth-and-12, Trinity hoped keep its drive alive, but pressure flushed Puzzo out of the pocket and forced an errant pass that sealed the Jeff win.
The Bantams finished with a 420-307 edge in total offense, holding a 13-plus minute edge in time of possession. Led by Crick and Bunker, the Trinity ground game racked up 250 yards, while the Jeff rushing attack managed just 56 yards on 26 carries (2.2 ypc). Crick finished with a game-high 109 yards on 24 touches (4.5 ypc), while Bunker had 102 yards on 20 carries (5.1 ypc). Puzzo added 44 rushing yards, while completing 11 of his 24 passes for 148 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions.
Lippe went 18-for-29 for 199 yards and a touchdown, while Berluti completed four passes for 52 yards. Garay led all Amherst receivers with six catches (64 yards), while McNamara enjoyed his best game of the season, gaining 85 yards on five receptions. O’Malley finished with 49 yards on four catches, while Ragone led the Trinity receiving corps with 77 yards.
Tamasi made a game-high 13 tackles, including 3.5 for a loss, while Tyler Mordas ’16 and Fairfield-Sonn each had 11 stops apiece. With two more interceptions, Amherst upped its season tally to a league-high 17 picks. As a unit, Amherst’s defense has produced a conference-best 19 takeaways, while recording a NESCAC-high 20 sacks.