Through the first two weeks of the season, the Jumbos have shown two vastly different faces on Saturdays.
Against the Trinity Bantams in its opening week win, the Jumbos defense was able to limit the three-time defending league champions to only six points on offense, sending a rousing message to the league that the they were the team to beat.
Fast forward a week later to Williamstown, Mass., where the Williams offensive duo of junior quarterback Bobby Maimaron and junior wide receiver Frank Stola rolled to a resounding 44–8 win over Tufts. The pair — praised by Tufts coach Jay Civetti as “the most dangerous in the league” — combined for all five of Williams’ touchdowns on Saturday, including a rushing touchdown for Maimaron.
This week, it will not get any easier for this seesawing Jumbo defense, when it squares up with the undefeated Amherst Mammoths (2–0).
The Mammoths, who collected wins against Bates and Colby, feature yet another elusive quarterback paired with a dominant wide receiver. Their offense starts and finishes with senior quarterback Ollie Eberth’s ability to take advantage of the quarterback option.
“[Eberth] pretty much runs 70% of the game, and being able to tackle a kid who can throw it or run it is really difficult,” Civetti said.
Tufts senior linebacker and co-captain Greg Holt and his defense will once again be on their toes, as Eberth’s running ability creates challenging matchups on the outside.
“As linebackers, we’re really tuned into paying attention to the keys our coaches are pointing out to us,” Holt, a three-time All-NESCAC first team honoree, said. “The biggest thing is being patient with our eyes, making sure we’re looking at the right spots and not getting distracted by things that aren’t part of our assignment.”
Facing Maimaron and Stola just a week prior may have awaken the Jumbos to this dangerous Mammoth offense. Holt and his unit certainly got a lot of reps against the pair, as Williams earned eight extra possessions off of turnovers.
“Last week’s game, the turnovers killed us, and Williams was able to capitalize on the extra possessions,” Civetti said. “We gave it to them three times inside the 20.”
One big way the Mammoths offense differs from that of the Ephs is in the size of its wide receivers. Senior wide receiver James O’Regan and his counterpart senior wide receiver Luke Mallette both stand at 6 feet, 4 inches, which presents a different challenge from the scrappy and speedy Stola.
“O’Regan is very physical, and he’s able to stretch the field a little bit more than [Stola],” Civetti said.
Combine this with Mallette’s deep ball threat, and the Tufts defense will have a lot of ground to cover on Saturday. Expect both O’Regan and Mallette to be matched up often against senior defensive back Miles Shipp and sophomore defensive back Brandyn Jones.
“Those guys [Shipp and Jones] are obviously two great players,” Holt said. “As a team, we love to have those guys, and I know they’re both super excited to play.”
While the defensive tandem of Shipp and Jones seems primed to get back on track, it won’t mean much unless senior quarterback Jacob Carroll can limit turnovers and put together long drives. With only 22 points generated on offense through the first two games, the Jumbos’ defense has had to put together a huge amount of stops.
Civetti, however, does not appear too worried about the team’s lack of offensive production in this young season.
“We faced arguably the best defense in the league week one, and another of the top defenses in week two,” Civetti said. “No one here is worried about what this offense is capable of.”
In fact, the Jumbos’ extremely tough opening schedule may serve to benefit them against the Mammoths, who started their season with two relatively comfortable victories. The lopsided Williams defeat will certainly motivate this Jumbo team, although Holt stands firm in his philosophy of wiping the slate clean and getting onto the next one.
“We treat each week like it’s the biggest game week of our lives, try not to focus on who’s the better team, records or stuff like that,” Holt said. “We’re simply focused on playing a complete four quarters of Tufts football.”
Regardless, this week will give us a clear picture of the identity of this Jumbos team that appears to be on the cusp of a truly promising season.
Kickoff is 1 p.m. on Saturday at the Ellis Oval.