Football falls to Bates, still searching for first win

The football game between Bates and Tufts took place at the newly renovated Ellis Oval on Saturday, Oct. 9. Tobias Fu / The Tufts Daily

After a tough 0–3 start to the 2021 season, Tufts football came into its bout with Bates College believing that it could secure its first win of the season. Both NESCAC schools held an 0–3 record prior to Saturday’s matchup. The Jumbos had some close games against better teams, and they hoped to turn their season around, but the Bobcats posed questions that the Jumbos failed to answer, and the Bobcats left the new Ellis Oval Field with a 33–10 win.

The game began with Tufts on defense, where the team held Bates to a field goal that was blocked in extraordinary fashion. However, during the ensuing Tufts possession, Bates caused a Tufts turnover on a recovered fumble, which led to a Bates score close to the seven-minute mark. Senior Bates quarterback Brendan Costa threw a 20-yard touchdown to senior wide receiver Sean Bryant, who gave the Bobcats a 6–0 lead. The first quarter offered little scoring from both offenses, who have had difficulty finding the end zone all year. The Jumbos are also hindered by a slew of injuries that included their starting junior quarterback Trevon Woodson, leaving first-year quarterback Michael Berluti to fill in, making it difficult for the Jumbos’ offense to find any continuity over the course of the season.

The common theme of this game was missed opportunities. The offense had trouble converting in the red zone, and the defense, although it caused two turnovers, could not make the easy tackles and blew coverages on several key third downs.   

Tufts also could not contain Costa, who rushed for 113 yards and threw for 254 yards. The Jumbos also had difficulty stopping Bryant, who went for 91 yards and three receiving touchdowns on the day. 

Meanwhile, Tufts’ offense was powered by its receiving corps, which featured strong showings from junior wide receiver Philip Lutz and senior wide receiver Paul Campo. Lutz is averaging around 88 yards per game and has two touchdowns on the season, while Campo caught Tufts’ only touchdown of the day.

Lutz explained what’s been going right for him. 

“It’s getting closer with [the quarterbacks]. I’m doing everything I can — I’m running the routes that I’m given as hard as I can,” Lutz said. “It’s working out, personally, but I want to do more for the team.”

In the second quarter, Bates continued to pressure Tufts during a five-play, 73-yard drive that ended with a touchdown to put Bates up 13–3. On the final play of that drive, Costa rushed for 30 yards to find the end zone himself. Meanwhile, the Jumbos went into halftime with only three points from junior kicker Patrick Walsh’s field goal early in the second quarter.

The third quarter featured Tufts’ first touchdown of the game, although Bates also scored to keep it a two-possession game going into the fourth. Bryant again caught a deep touchdown throw from Costa after beating his defender to put Bates up 19–3. Tufts countered with two minutes left in the quarter after Berluti scrambled and found Campo for six on the right side of the end zone, where he just managed to get his foot down to stay inbounds.

The Jumbos’ defense fought resiliently over the course of the game as they held the Bobcats to 19 points until the final minute, when Bates scored twice in the last 30 seconds off a Bryant catch and a late scoop and score to cap off a 33–10 win for the Bobcats. Although the final score looks like a blowout, the Jumbos missed out on some key chances to compete in a much closer game.

“I think our defense played their hearts out yesterday,” Lutz said. “Honestly, they had a really good game. They held them until the last minute and held them to 19 which should have been good enough, and the offense, we should have capitalized off of that.”

Tufts football looks onward to Wesleyan, who the team plays at home on October 16th. 

“Losing is always tough,” Lutz said. “After a loss, you’re not all going to be happy about it, but we keep our heads up for the next game next week. Just trying to be confident, trying to stay positive for games to come.”