Tufts football beats Hamilton in overtime thriller

The Tufts football team is pictured in a game versus Wesleyan on Oct. 16, their last loss before this two-game winning streak. Tobias Fu / The Tufts Daily

After claiming its first victory of the 2021–22 season on Oct. 23, Tufts football continued its hot streak on Saturday, beating Hamilton 30–24 in overtime. The Jumbos have had a difficult season with injuries to many of their key starters, but it seems as though the offense and defense finally clicked.

Junior wide receiver Philip Lutz explained how the team has figured out its red zone issues.

“I think we’ve just been executing a little bit better, play calls have been pretty consistent,” Lutz said. “We’re realizing we have a really good running game as well as passing game. We practice it a lot so it kind of translates into the games.”

The first score of the game came during the second drive as Hamilton gashed the Tufts defense for 60 yards and got into the end zone on a 2-yard rush by junior running back Joe Park eight minutes into the game. After each team punted on the next two drives, Tufts got the ball back five minutes before the end of the first quarter and got to work. First-year quarterback Michael Berluti, who really stepped up after junior starter Trevon Woodson’s season-ending injury, and junior running back Tyler Johnson countered with a 95-yard drive that ended with a 11-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Billy Dunn to tie the game.

“Berluti is a great dude, a great leader,” Lutz said. “He’s also a hell of a player. He keeps us up when stuff’s going wrong, he keeps your head up, and when stuff goes right he’s the first person to tell you’re doing a great job.” 

Hamilton responded well by scoring on its next drive that ended with a Park rush for three yards. Tufts failed to continue the touchdown streak as they were stopped short by the Hamilton defense, who blocked a 22-yard field goal attempt and recovered the ball. The Continentals looked to capitalize on the blocked field goal, but on only the second play of that drive, Tufts sophomore linebacker Tyler Roach intercepted first-year quarterback Joe Cairns and went for a house call to pull the game even at 14 points each.

Scoring would not resume until the fourth quarter on the first drive by Hamilton when Cairns led the Continentals down the field with two plays over 20-plus yards, and then made a nice throw to senior wide receiver Drew Granski to get the lead up to seven. Berluti answered by throwing a 46-yard touchdown pass to Dunn to tie the game again.

The Continentals tried to close out the game in the fourth quarter by letting Park waste the clock to get into field goal range. With 27 seconds left, Hamilton senior kicker Quinn Voboril drilled a 20-yard field goal attempt to give them a three-point lead.

Berluti refused to give in and worked the 20-second drill by launching a 40-yard pass to Lutz and then a 12-yard completion to junior wide receiver Jackson Butler to put the Jumbos in field goal range. First-year kicker Sal LoCoco, who missed two field goals already on the day, came in clutch with a pure 41-yarder to send the game to overtime. 

Tufts went first on offense, and Berluti captained a beautiful drive that gave the Jumbos the upper hand in overtime. On 4th and goal, Johnson rushed on the 1-yard line for a touchdown. Hamilton had to score a touchdown to keep playing, but another massive interception made by the Tufts defense from senior linebacker Spencer Alligood gave Tufts its second win of the season in a thrilling fashion. Lutz displayed another masterpiece with 144 yards, Dunn caught two touchdowns on the day and Berluti threw for 311 yards and two touchdowns while leading the team in rushing with 73 yards. 

Lutz described how he felt as the game went to overtime. 

“Personally I had full confidence, I knew we were going to do it,” Lutz said. 

The Jumbos will look to win out with two games left on their schedule facing Colby on Saturday at home and at Middlebury the following week.