Football improves to 2–2 with win against Bates

Tufts players line up for a snap during Tufts' 47–14 victory over Bates at Bello Field on Sept. 29, 2018. Rachel Hartman / The Tufts Daily Archives

The Tufts football team (2–2) added its second victory during its trip to Bates on Saturday. The Jumbos came out on top, 33–28, in a high-scoring battle with the Bobcats (0–4) at Garcelon Field in Lewiston, Maine.

The loss for the Bobcats marks their fourth defeat of the season, tied with two other teams — the Bowdoin Polar Bears and the Colby Mules — at the bottom of the NESCAC.

After the win, coach Jay Civetti spoke about the Jumbos’ effort.

“We needed a full team effort,” Civetti said. “That was a really great Bates team that really fought hard to the very end.”

The first half of the game on Saturday was a consistent back and forth battle with both teams holding the lead at one score. The defenses on both sides came out strong to start the afternoon, as neither the Jumbos nor the Bobcats were able to put together drives of more than 18 yards in the first quarter of play.

“I think the defensive guys put our players in a good position to have success,” Civetti said.

However, the next 15 minutes of play turned out to be a different story for both offenses. Tufts’ first full drive of the second quarter resulted in the first score of the game. On the fifth play of the drive, junior running back and co-captain Mike Pedrini beat all of the Bobcat defenders as he ran into the end zone from 36 yards out. After the successful point-after attempt, the Jumbos took a 7–0 lead.

However, the Jumbos were not able to keep the momentum swinging in their favor as the Bobcats answered with their own impressive drive. Lasting over seven minutes, Bates’ touchdown drive took 12 plays as they marched 75 yards down the field. Junior running back Christian Sanfilippo’s four-yard rush capped the Bobcats’ drive as he found a gap in the line going in the opposite direction of his blockers. On the point after, Bates decided to go for the early lead and did so successfully, as a two-point conversion gave the team an 8–7 lead.

Tufts was able to regain the lead on the next drive, a lead they would take into half time after junior kicker Matt Alswanger connected on a 21-yard field goal with 1:30 left on the clock.

The second half was a much different story, as both teams were able to get into a rhythm offensively at some point during the latter two quarters. Both teams were able to rely on both the run and the pass, and many players contributed offensively for the Jumbos and the Bobcats.

After Bates opened the second half with a 70-yard touchdown drive, Tufts responded with a 90-yard touchdown drive of its own as senior quarterback Jacob Carroll found graduate student wide receiver Frank Roche for a 70-yard touchdown completion.

Carroll spoke about the deep passes, taking time to commend the performances of his offensive line.

“The [offensive] line gave me some time,” Carroll said. “We ran the right routes and were able to connect, so hopefully we can get some of those next week.”

Tufts recovered the ball at the 12-yard line from a botched kickoff return that resulted in a fumble. However, the Bates defensive line dominated the line of scrimmage, stuffing Tufts’ rush attempts four times in a row at the goal line. 

Despite the turnover on downs, the Jumbos were able to make the most of their opportunity. On the Bobcats’ first play of the drive, senior linebacker Stephen Timmins forcibly met the running back in the end zone for a safety.

Following the safety, the Jumbos drove 60 yards relatively quickly and found the end zone on a 17-yard completion to senior fullback Winton Blount, giving them a 26–14 lead.

After a quick three and out for the Bobcats, the Jumbos received the ball back at their own 44. On the sixth play of the drive, first-year quarterback Trevon Woodson found junior wide receiver Brendan Dolan on a short completion. After the catch, Dolan broke numerous tackles, spinning away from defenders as he sprinted into the end zone for the 41-yard touchdown. The Jumbos33–14 lead after the touchdown was all they would need, as the defense took over from that point on.

Civetti further spoke about the production by both his passers and receivers.

“I think the quarterbacks, [Carroll] and [Woodson] did a nice job and Dolan continues … to execute,” Civetti said.

While the Bobcats were able to cut the lead to just five with around three minutes left on the clock, the Jumbos’ defense stood strong when it mattered most. With 41 seconds remaining and the ball on their own 29, the Bobcats tried three heaves downfield, all of which were defended beautifully by the Jumbos’ secondary. On fourth and 10, Bates attempted to get to the marker to give themselves a few more shots at the end zone, but the receiver was forced out of bounds three yards short of the line to gain.

Senior linebacker and co-captain Greg Holt was asked about stopping Bates on the final drive.

“I think just trying to go back to the basics of what our coaches have been beating into our heads since practice on Monday,” Holt said.

Holt was also asked about what the defense has to improve upon to prevent long drives put together by the opposition.

“I think for us, it’s being better on third down,” Holt said. “Making sure we’re sticking to the fundamentals of the things we talk about all week and stopping the run, not allowing big plays.”

Overall, both teams had players who put up big numbers on offense. Carroll finished the game with 223 yards through the air with five different receivers catching two or more passes. Bates had similar success through the air, as junior quarterback Brendan Costa threw for 200 yards with six different receivers totaling 20 yards or more.

“I think we had a good game plan going in,” Carroll said. “We executed well at times, and I thought we had a lot of good play calls in the passing game.”

The Jumbos look to continue their winning ways as they hit the road again Saturday for a matchup with the undefeated Wesleyan Cardinals (4–0) in Middletown, Conn. The Jumbos’ defense will have to prove its strength if it hopes to leave Connecticut with a victory against the strong Cardinals offense, which averages 31.5 points per game this season.