Football back on track with win at Bates

9/16/17 – Medford/Somerville, MA – Sophomore defensive lineman Quinn Fay leads the team to the field before Tufts vs. Hamilton while holding the national flag, on Sept. 16. The Jumbos declared another victory at Bates with a 37–17 on Sept. 30. (Angelie Xiong / The Tufts Daily)

After a gut-wrenching overtime loss last week to Wesleyan (2–1), Tufts (2–1) felt the pressure to come away with a win at Bates this weekend. Despite giving up an early field goal, the Jumbos scored four unanswered touchdowns on their way to a 37–17 routing of the Bobcats.

“I thought we were sloppy at times,” coach Jay Civetti said. “[I’m] happy with the response for a win but I don’t want to be satisfied with the overall play of the team I thought was lacking at times … It just has to do with applying the fundamentals that we spend so much time teaching and consistently seeing them over the course of however many snaps of the game it is.”

By the start of the fourth quarter, Tufts led 30–17. Despite the two-possession lead, the Jumbos exhibited no inclination to simply run out the clock. Having made it to the Bates’ 27-yard line when play was blown dead at the end of the third quarter, Tufts picked up in a third down and 7 yards to go situation. Under pressure, junior quarterback Ryan McDonald kept the play alive before throwing a jump ball to 6’4″ junior wide receiver Daniel de Leon. De Leon outjumped his defender and came down with the 27-yard touchdown pass. Up 20 points, 37–17, the Tufts defense held strong and did not allow any more points for the rest of the contest.

Although Tufts and Bates finished with similar yardage statistics — 385 yards of total offense for Tufts versus 312 for Bates — the Bates offense struggled to move the ball all game. Bates scored a touchdown in the third quarter when junior running back Kyle Flaherty converted a 2-yard dive at the goal line with 2:29 remaining.

That touchdown was basically a gift from the Bates defensive and special teams units, though. Bates drove from its own 35-yard line to the Tufts goal line earlier in the period, but Tufts forced a turnover on downs. The Bobcats defense kept the Jumbos backed up against their end zone, forcing a punt, which was returned to the Tufts 24-yard line. It was that drive, beginning nearly in the red zone, that ended with Flaherty’s touchdown.

Nearly all of the game’s scoring came in the first half, especially the second quarter, as Tufts went on a 23–7 rampage. First-year kicker Matthew Alswanger converted his second field goal of the season from 22 yards out with 2:43 remaining in the period. His kick brought the score to 30–10, where it stayed until halftime.

Bates’ first touchdown of the game came at the 7:35 mark in the second quarter when Tufts blitzed. First-year quarterback Brendan Costa narrowly escaped being taken down in the backfield near Bates’ 30-yard line. He found a hole through the left side of his offensive line and emerged somehow ahead of Tufts’ secondary. A 70-yard race ensued with Costa sprinting all but untouched into the end zone.

Costa’s touchdown run was redemption for the previous drive. Sophomore linebacker Tylor Scales jumped Costa’s pass on third-and-9 and returned it 33 yards for a touchdown.

“It was actually crazy because me and the other linebacker out there, [sophomore] Greg Holt, we lined up, we guessed the route,” Scales said. “As soon as the play started, since we knew what the route was going to be, went ahead and ran the route for the receiver and the quarterback ended up throwing it right to me. That being my first interception and first pick-six ever in my career, that was phenomenal.”

Junior wide receiver Jack Dolan caught three touchdowns, tying the Tufts record for single-game touchdowns. The record was most recently set by Greg Lanzillo (LA ’14) in a game against Colby in 2014.

Dolan scored his third touchdown of the day at the nine-minute mark in the second quarter. After Tufts was bailed out by a pass interference call, the team lined up on its own 41-yard line. The Jumbos faked a run play and the Bobcats bit hard, leaving Dolan completely uncovered over the middle for a short pass that he turned into a 59-yard touchdown. The game started to escape Bates, as Tufts led 21–3.

Just four minutes earlier the Jumbos were on the Bobcats’ 29-yard line. On a similar play to Dolan’s third touchdown catch, Tufts faked run and Bates left Dolan open over the middle. Dolan went untouched on his second touchdown catch of the day, another short catch with nobody between him and the end zone.

Dolan’s first touchdown of the day came with 8:21 remaining in the first quarter. Quick and a tough runner after the catch, Tufts often schemes to get Dolan open in space. This time, on third-and-5 from Bobcats’ 11-yard line, the Jumbos lined Dolan up on the right side with two other receivers flanking him. A quick pass to Dolan and excellent blocking from his pass-catching peers resulted in yet another easy touchdown catch and run for Dolan.

Tufts started the day off sloppily, with a lost fumble on its first play of the game. Though Bates picked up from the Tufts’ 37-yard line, the Tufts defense was able to hold Bates to just a field goal.

Tufts’ usual running back junior Dominic Borelli was out with an injury so sophomore Andrew Sanders and first-year Mike Pedrini picked up the slack.

“I thought Mike did a good job,” Civetti said. “Andrew Sanders started the game for us and he didn’t get a ton of touches because we were throwing the ball on the perimeter quite a bit. But I thought Michael came in at the end and for a freshman to step in there and play versus a gritty physical defense, I thought Michael did a good job.”

Dolan is now in a three-way tie for the most receiving touchdowns in the NESCAC with four touchdowns through three gamesThe junior posted over 100 yards receiving (118) for the first time this season with his longest catch of the day coming on his final touchdown.

McDonald passed for 245 yards and added 81 yards on the ground to go with his four touchdown passes. He was named NESCAC Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts.

NESCAC Special Teams Player of the Week, junior defensive back and punter Alex LaPiana helped pin Bates deep within its own territory with five punts for an average of 43.2 yards. His long was a 58-yard punt and two of his kicks were inside the 20-yard line.

“It’s new for me, I didn’t punt in high school or anything,” LaPiana said. “It’s been cool to play a new position and try and change the field for our team. I think we were just kicking around one day and coach [Scott] Rynne, who helps out with the punters, saw me and he said, ‘You know, we should see what you can do.’ That was last season, so I was a backup last season. Willie Holmquist graduated, so I came in this season and started punting.”

Tufts hosts Bowdoin (0–3) on Saturday at the Ellis Oval for Tufts’ Homecoming game. Civetti is looking forward to seeing some of his former players at the game.

“It probably affects me more than anybody because I get to see all our guys back,” Civetti said. “Personally, for me, I love the fact that I get a bunch of texts about guys coming back. Obviously, I’m very proud of what they’re doing in their professional lives now. I’m very thankful and grateful for the relationships I have with six graduating classes worth of guys. It’s one part of the job that nobody really talks about, how lucky you are to have these extended relationships with kids beyond when they just played for you here.”

Although Bowdoin has yet to notch a win, Tufts has no intention of underestimating its opponent. Having played Williams (2–1), Middlebury (3–0) and Amherst (3–0), Bowdoin is coming off arguably the strongest portion of its schedule.

“If any guys on this team look past Bowdoin I think unfortunately we’ll have a rude awakening for us on Saturday,” Civetti said. “If you put the film on, Bowdoin is a lot more athletic. They’ve done a really good job recruiting a lot of really good kids. They’re probably the best 0–3 team in the country right now that you’re going to find.”