With just two weeks remaining in the season, the Jumbos are looking to finish with a winning record for the first time since 2007. The 4-2 Tufts football team will travel to face 1-5 Colby on Saturday. Despite Colby’s record, Tufts coach Jay Civetti wants to be sure his team does not get complacent in the season’s final weeks.
“We could be 1-5 just as [easily] as [they are],” Civetti said. “We’ve won in overtime; we’ve come back from being down 14 [points]. The Bowdoin game is really the only game we’ve had true ownership of. Amherst put us in our place this past weekend, so we have no right to feel we’re any better than [Colby is]; we’ve just had a little more success. The reality is [that] Tufts hasn’t won at Colby since 2003.”
Against Amherst last Saturday, Tufts managed only 19 yards rushing and a single touchdown. After struggling offensively in that game, the Jumbos will turn to their dominant run game early, giving the ball to NESCAC leading rusher, junior Chance Brady, in order to try to prevent a similar situation from arising against the Mules.
Offensive coordinator Frank Hauser is confident that committing to the run game early is going to present more opportunities for Tufts junior quarterback Alex Snyder.
“I think we’ve got to run the ball better,” Hauser said. “Running the ball is what’s kept us going most of the year. Once we can run the ball well, we can throw off it. We’re going to establish the run and get back to the things we’ve been doing all year.”
Benefitting from that dominant run game are Tufts wideouts senior Jack Cooleen and junior Mike Rando who have 310 and 257 receiving yards this season, respectively. They are no doubt hoping Brady is dominant early, forcing the Colby defense to commit to stopping the run and allowing more one-on-one matchups in the secondary.
Though the Jumbos currently have NESCAC’s leading rusher in Brady, the Mules junior running back Jabari Hurdle-Price is close behind him with 611 yards to Brady’s 625. Hurdle-Price, however, only has four touchdowns this season, while Brady has nine.
“We’ve got to make sure we’re maintaining our gaps and getting good strike at the point of attack,” Civetti said. “If you give these guys a seam, [Hurdle-Price] will make you pay. Chance [Brady] has had a great season, and I love to think that he’s the best tailback in the league. But they’ve got a guy who’s right on his heels.”
By stopping the Colby running game, the Tufts defense would create big play opportunities for its star pass rushers, sophomores Zach Thomas and Micah Adickes, as well as a secondary that has managed eight interceptions on the year. Led by first-year cornerback Tim Preston, the Jumbos’ secondary will be looking for big plays when the Mules put the ball in the air. Preston himself has managed four of the Jumbos’ eight interceptions this season.
The Colby passing attack, led by sophomore quarterback Gabe Harrington, has been inconsistent this season. Harrington has thrown for 783 yards, but he has only one touchdown and nine interceptions. This has been one of the major causes of Colby’s offensive struggles. The team has averaged 12.7 points per game, the lowest in the NESCAC.
Colby will likely be forced to turn to the passing game early to keep up with the punishing Tufts offense, led by Brady who will no doubt be eager to prove himself after being bottled up last Saturday.
The Colby defense has also struggled this year, allowing opposing teams an average of 24.3 points and managing only three interceptions and nine sacks this season.
Hauser, however, characterized the Colby defense as solid.
“They’re pretty sound defensively,” Hauser said. “They’ve been running the same defense for a number of years, so they know what they’re doing. They have a couple young guys in the secondary; we hope that we’ll be able to take advantage of that a little bit.”
Following last week’s loss — and with only two weeks remaining in the NESCAC season — the Jumbos are no longer in contention for the conference title. Though this is disappointing for a team that started 3-0, the final two games still will be significant for the Jumbos.
“The umbrella goal of this program is to be NESCAC champions,” Civetti said. “Mathematically that’s out of contention. The other part of that goal is to have a winning season. To have five wins around here is a big deal. We want to finish [with] the best record that we can, 6-2, [and] in order to get to six we have to get to five.”
The Jumbos will travel to Colby to face the Mules in the penultimate game of the season, where they hope to get one game closer to achieving a winning season. If they accomplish this, it would be the first for the team in eight years.