On Saturday, the Tufts football team fell in a 36–21 battle against the Hamilton Continentals (4–3) during the Friends and Family day game. With the loss, the Jumbos fall to a record of 3–4 and now hold seventh place in a competitive NESCAC conference.
Fresh off their 49–0 victory over the Bowdoin Polar Bears the week prior, the Jumbos went into halftime with a disheartening 34–7 deficit. Despite a marvelous second-half defensive rejuvenation that constricted the Hamilton offense to no points in the third and fourth quarters, the Jumbos were unable to finalize on what for a moment seemed like a potential comeback performance.
Coach Jay Civetti spoke about the result of the game, making it clear that moving forward, he hopes the team can perform better.
“We did not play well,” Civetti said. “We need to play better, and we just need to work harder this week in order to get back on track.”
Turnovers plagued the Jumbos early in the first half. On the opening drive of the game, Tufts senior quarterback Jacob Carroll threw a pass that was snatched out of the air by Hamilton defensive back Ian Esliker, who returned the interception to the Tufts 48-yard line.
Although the Continentals were ultimately unproductive in their ensuing three-and-out drive, the Jumbos soon gave up another turnover, giving Hamilton the perfect scoring opportunity. On a drive that started at the Tufts 1-yard line following a lucky bounce off of the punt, the Jumbos executed a series of runs to try to create some distance between themselves and their own goal line, even choosing to substitute Carroll for the more run-heavy first-year quarterback Trevon Woodson.
However, an exceedingly high snap at Tufts’ own 22-yard line led to a mad scramble for control of the ball by Woodson and a multitude of the Hamilton secondary. By the time the play was over, the Continentals were waving their arms toward the Jumbo endzone, celebrating their ball recovery at the Tufts 10-yard line.
Hamilton was quick to score off of their fortuity. Although one of the Continentals’ passes was broken up by sophomore defensive back Brandyn Jones, quarterback Kenny Gray completed a pass to wide receiver Sam Robinson to put Hamilton up 7–0 six minutes into the game.
Civetti commented on the turnovers, accrediting them to Tufts’ disappointing loss.
“One of our key tenants is that we need to control the turnover battle,” Civetti said. “We didn’t, and that’s why we lost.”
Following Hamilton’s first score, a bad three-yard punt off of the foot of Tufts first-year punter Patrick Walsh once again gave Hamilton the ball in Tufts territory. Starting at the 36-yard line, Gray led a drive that ultimately ended in a 21-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Will Budington, putting Hamilton up 14–0.
Hamilton scored its third unanswered goal in the opening minutes of the second quarter. After starting at their own 48-yard line, the Continentals ground their way down to the Tufts 8-yard line. Running back Joe Park broke past the Jumbo secondary to set the Continentals at a 21–0 lead.
By the third Hamilton touchdown, it was obvious that Carroll had had enough. Starting at Tufts’ own 33-yard line, Carroll crossed the 50-yard line for the first time in the game and went 3–4 on his ensuing drive. In just over a minute, Carroll finally gave the Jumbos points on the board by connecting with graduate student wide receiver Frank Roche in the red zone. The experienced wideout thereafter used a mixture of his speed and tenacity to shake his defender off, sprinting into the endzone to set the score at 21–7.
The rest of the second quarter was dominated by wide receiver Christian Donahoe. The slippery 5’11” receiver caught a 41-yard pass to set up a successful field goal for the Continentals. Later, Gray left the pocket and signaled to Donahoe for a long 54-yard pass that was caught and downed at the Tufts 11-yard line. Two plays later, Donahue caught an 8-yarder to put the Continentals up 31–7. A successful field goal attempt sealed a 34–7 lead for Hamilton at halftime.
To the casual observer, it seemed that the game was destined for disappointment coming out of the halftime break. However, coming out of the locker room, the Jumbo defense owned the entirety of the second half. With fierce tackles, good reads and excellent coverage, Tufts was able to contain the Continentals to zero offensive points throughout the third and fourth quarters.
The defense was led by three-time all-NESCAC senior linebacker and co-captain Greg Holt, who accumulated 12 total tackles in the game. Along with the defensive shutout in the second half, the Jumbos forced Hamilton to four three-and-outs.
When asked about the strong defensive stance in the second half, Holt attributed a large part of its success to the Jumbo coaching staff, as well as focusing on assignments.
“We chalk that up to coaching and getting back to the fundamentals of what our coaches are coaching us to do,” Holt said. “I’d say in the second half, the biggest adjustment we made was just focusing on ourselves, and do what we were coached to do.”
Civetti also commented on the team’s second-half defensive performance. However, despite their success, Civetti clarified that the first half remained unforgotten.
“It’s a 60-minute game,” Civetti said. “You can’t play a half of football. We need to get better.”
Carroll supplemented the performance of his secondary by throwing for an extra two touchdowns in the second half of the game. In his first two plays of the third quarter, Carroll made his way down 68 yards of the field, scoring on a 27-yard pass to Roche.
Carroll’s second touchdown came in the fourth quarter when he connected once again with Roche to cut Hamilton’s lead to 34–21. Roche extended around his defender, adjusting in the left side of the end zone to make the solid two-handed catch.
However, while the Tufts offense was able to score in their first drive of the fourth quarter, their second drive started at the Tufts 1-yard line. Pressured by the powerful Hamilton defensive line, Tufts was forced to punt in its own end zone. With no space, Hamilton’s special teams blocked the punt, resulting in a safety and putting Tufts down 36–21.
With the Jumbos down by two potential scores, for a moment it seemed as though they had the possibility of staging a comeback attempt late in the fourth quarter. However, with less than five minutes remaining in the game, the Jumbo offense committed its fourth turnover of the game. Senior running back Dom Borelli attempted a pass in the end zone that was intercepted by defensive back Jared Schwartz. Hamilton ran the time out for the rest of the game, finalizing the score at 36–21 in favor of the Continentals.
Civetti spoke about the prospects of the team moving forward, sharing the areas in which the team could improve.
“[We need to] regroup, get back on track, and stay consistent,” Civetti said. “I’ve been doing this long enough, and I’ve been in far worse situations. We need to get back to basics and continue to prepare better than we did last week.”
With two games left in the season, Holt spoke about his hopes for the remainder of the season.
“I think we’re just going to keep going out and enjoying the time we have left with each other,” Holt said. “Focus on trying to finish this thing out as strong as we possibly can, and doing our job each individual play for the dude next to you.”
Holt also mentioned his teammates, thanking them for the years they’ve had together on the program.
“I’m gonna miss them. I love them,” Holt said. “It’s been a blast, and I couldn’t have played anywhere else, ever, so I’m thankful for them beyond measure.”
The Jumbos will travel to Waterville, Maine, this weekend to face the eighth-place Colby Mules (1–6). Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.