Record-setting performances propel football to a 35–10 victory over Colby

Junior wide receiver OJ Armstrong catches a touchdown pass in the Homecoming football game against Bowdoin at Zimman Field on Oct. 19. Evan Slack / The Tufts Daily

The Tufts football team traveled up north to Waterville, Maine, on Saturday for its final road game of the season against the Colby Mules. The visiting Jumbos, dominant through every phase of the game, routed the home team with a 35–10 victory.

Coach Jay Civetti spoke about the victory, highlighting the elements that led to the dominant road win.

“When we’re able to put all four phases of the game together like we did [at Colby], that’s when we’re able to find the most success,” Civetti said.

The win brings the Jumbos’ record to 4–4 on the season, tied for No. 5 in the NESCAC; the Mules fell to 1–7, tied for No. 8 in the conference.

The Jumbos were quick to establish the run on their opening possession, driving 76 yards down the field through entirely run plays. Junior running back and co-captain Mike Pedrini capped the drive off with an emphatic 1-yard touchdown run right up the middle of the Mules defense. Pedrini was exceptional throughout the game, rushing 16 times for 101 yards and one touchdown on the day, which marked the first time this season that he eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark.

Civetti spoke about how the Jumbos used the run and focused on defense to capitalize on their talented roster.

“Just being able to run the football and imposing our will on the defense, that’s the type of physical football that we wanted to play,” Civetti said.

The Mules responded with a drive of their own as quarterback Matt Hersch led his team 75 yards down the field off a plethora of short passes and well-timed runs. However, the Mules were forced to settle with a field goal, as the Jumbo defense successfully held a goal-line stand and stuffed any attempt by the Mules’ running backs to find the endzone.

With momentum squarely on the side of Tufts, first-year running back Tyler Johnson delivered perhaps one of the most electrifying plays of the season when he returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards, blowing by Colby defenders and giving Tufts a 14–3 lead. Johnson’s 100-yard return tied the Tufts record for longest kickoff return held by Daryl Brown from 1976 in a game against Williams.

Johnson spoke about his record-setting return, detailing the schematics that led to the remarkable moment.

“It was so unreal,” Johnson said. “I saw the blocking scheme my teammates created [and] knew I could break through. It was such a great experience not only because I tied the record and got my first collegiate touchdown, but because I got to celebrate with all of my teammates who all wanted me to score just as bad.”

For the rest of the half, the Tufts defense stifled the Colby offense, forcing two three-and-outs and holding the Mules scoreless. The pressure up front by the Jumbos combined with excellent coverage continually frustrated the Mules as they were only able to gain 112 yards of total offense in the first half.

Senior linebacker and co-captain Greg Holt spoke about how the Jumbo defense halted the Mules offense.

“As a defense, we focused on executing our fundamentals with physicality and made sure to bring our own energy and intensity,” Holt said. “We just really wanted to have as much fun as possible and have each other’s backs.”

Meanwhile, the Jumbo offense continued to roll in the second quarter with back-to-back touchdown drives, as senior quarterback Jacob Carroll tossed dimes of 53- and 11-yard passes to graduate student wide receiver Frank Roche. Roche finished the game with eight catches for 181 yards and three touchdowns, and he extended his streak of games with over 130 receiving yards to four. To keep with the record-setting theme, Roche’s 886 total receiving yards through eight games also eclipsed the Tufts single-season receiving yards record of 855 yards previously held by Jon Troy all the way back in 1999. 

Civetti further praised Roche’s receiving prowess.

“Frank’s a special kid, one of the best kids that we’ve had here at Tufts. That’s a huge milestone and a huge recognition of his accomplishments here in our program,” Civetti said.

Not to be outdone, junior kicker Matt Alswanger nailed all five of his extra-point attempts in the game, raising his career total to 81 and breaking the previous record of 79 held by Chris Wild from 1988–91. On the back of these record-setting performances, the Jumbos headed into the half up 28–3.

The second half saw both teams afflicted by turnovers and penalties, and the Jumbos ultimately lost the turnover battle. Although junior defensive back Michael Mughetto was able to pick off Hersch midway through the third quarter, the Jumbos fumbled the ball three times, two of which they lost.  The Jumbos also committed eight penalties that cost them 50 yards and valuable field possession in critical conversion situations. Despite these issues, the Jumbos were able to preserve the lead they held at halftime and emerge victorious in the end, 35–10, with another Roche touchdown in the fourth quarter. 

Civetti further addressed the turnovers, emphasizing how the team is going to work to combat them in practice.

“Zero tolerance for the turnovers, it’s something we talk about every day at practice and an area that we’ll need to get better at for next week,” Civetti said.

The team is set to host undefeated Middlebury (8–0) for its final game of the season. Tufts will also be celebrating Seniors Day to show appreciation for the seniors in their final game repping the brown and blue.

When asked how he felt going into his final collegiate game, Holt eagerly shared all the happy moments and memories he’d made while playing football at Tufts.

“I’m looking forward to walking out with my brothers one last time and giving them everything I have on that field,” Holt said. “I can’t thank them enough for the impact they have had on me, and I couldn’t imagine playing with any other guys. They truly are my family, and I’m going to miss celebrating their success on the field with them! They’re great players, but even better people, and I’m going to miss them a ton.”

Civetti echoed a similar sentiment, heaping praise on the seniors and all they’ve done in their four years.

“They’re a great group of men who’ve given this program an awful lot,” Civetti said. “[They’re] some of the best people we’ve had here, just super thoughtful, caring, compassionate people who’ve been incredibly committed to both this program and to each other. If there’s anything special we’re gonna do, it’s making sure that we’re that much better this week for them and playing as hard as we can for one another.” 

The regular season finale kicks off Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Ellis Oval.