Tufts rolls over Amherst for first time since 2007

Tufts quarterback, sophomore Ryan McDonald hands the ball off to senior tri-captain running back Chance Brady during the first half of Tufts Football's 35-16 victory against Williams at a home game on a rain soaked Ellis Oval / Zimman Field. (Matthew Schreiber / The Tufts Daily)

The Jumbos trampled the Amherst Purple and White 27-10 this weekend, improving their record to 5-1. The win is Tufts’ first over Amherst since 2007 and the first at Amherst’s Lehrman Stadium since 2004.

Going into the game, Amherst was touted for its extremely stout run defense. Before playing Tufts, the Purple and White had only allowed an average of 25.2 rushing yards per game to opposing offenses, the second fewest yards per game in the nation. Tufts shattered Amherst’s defense and ran for a total of 252 yards, 10 times Amherst’s average allowance.

Senior offensive lineman Jack Price said that the team had been confident in its ability to take on Amherst.

“All I [heard leading up to the game was] about that 25 yards per game,” Price said. “To go there and have success on the ground, especially as offensive linemen, we take a lot of pride in that. What [senior tri-captain running back] Chance [Brady] is able to do, we take pride in. We use that as a benchmark for our success.”

Brady was the Jumbos’ leading rusher with 136 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries. Sophomore quarterback Ryan McDonald was also a key offensive contributor with 104 yards and a score on the ground, plus 108 through the air.

The game started slow for the Jumbos, whose first and only score of the first half came with nine seconds to play in the first quarter. A 4-yard touchdown pass from McDonald to senior wide receiver Ben Berey put the Jumbos up six, but senior kicker and punter Willie Holmquist missed the extra point attempt.

Amherst answered back late in the second quarter with a 19-yard field goal from sophomore kicker Andrew Ferrero.

Though the Jumbos went into the half with a 6-3 lead, they wasted no time adding to that score, as Brady notched his first touchdown run of the day from one yard out with just under nine minutes left in the third quarter. Holmquist converted the extra point to put the Jumbos up by 10.

Amherst answered back at 4:35 in the third quarter, when junior quarterback Craig Carmilani ran it in from two yards out. The extra point put Amherst within a field goal of tying the game at 13-10.

Though the Jumbos did not extend their lead until late in the fourth, that did not prevent them from dialing up the pressure in an effort to force Amherst senior quarterback Alex Berluti — freshly back from his early season injury — to make off-balance throws.

Coach Jay Civetti noted that Berluti had some successes upon his return to the field.

“You could tell he hadn’t played in a few weeks,” he said. “He’s incredibly competitive and he’s a tough kid. Our D-line got after him and I think our secondary played well. I think the aggressiveness of the defense left him scrambling a bit back there.”

The Jumbos sacked Berluti four times in the contest with sophomore defensive end Micah Adickes responsible for two and a half takedowns. That pressure also translated to the secondary, where Jumbos senior linebacker Chuck Calabrese and sophomore corner Tim Preston both intercepted Berluti on Amherst’s final two possessions to seal the game for the Jumbos.

The game was tightly contested all the way until the end. With 3:11 left to play, McDonald took the ball into the end-zone from the 6-yard line to cap off an 80-yard drive and put the Jumbos up 10 once again. Tufts got the ball back immediately due to Calabrese’s interception and Brady broke a massive 49-yard run to the end zone that shattered any hope of a comeback from the Purple and White.

This game was one of the more offensively balanced contests for the Jumbos, as McDonald and senior quarterback Alex Snyder combined for 163 passing yards to go along with the team’s 252 rushing. Five different receivers caught passes for the Jumbos.

“It was great putting up [big numbers] on Amherst,” senior wide receiver Mike Rando said. “We have a lot of confidence in our offense and it was nice to get that going yesterday.”

First-year linebacker Greg Holt led the Jumbos in tackles for the third straight game with 11 solo and 15 total tackles in the game, leaving him atop the NESCAC tackle leaderboard with an average of 13.8 per game.

Civetti partially attributed the success to the planning efforts of the offensive staff. 

“[Offensive Coordinator] coach [Frank] Hauser did a great job with the game plan,” Civetti said. “Ryan McDonald and Chance Brady did a really good job. The offensive staff put our guys in positions to be successful.”

With the loss, Amherst falls to 3-3, a far cry from its undefeated 2014 and 2015 seasons and three consecutive NESCAC championships.

Civetti commended Amherst Coach E.J. Mills for his work with the football program, noting that the program’s prestige makes the win even greater for Tufts.

“[Mills is] one of the best coaches I’ve been around, and that program continues to be one of the best in our league,” Civetti said. “That was a great programmatic win for us. Any time you’re able to beat Amherst at Amherst, that’s a special moment.”

The Jumbos had not beaten the Purple and White in Civetti’s tenure as coach, and the win this week was an important step for the program.

“It was very exciting,” Rando said. “It’s a game that we have marked on our calendar every year. We came out flying, and it was great to finally get that win.”

Despite the win, the Jumbos (5-1) remain focused on the final games of the season. Tufts returns home this week for a matchup against Colby (2-4) on Saturday before traveling again to take on powerhouse Middlebury (5-1) on Nov. 12 in the final game of the season.


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