Coming off a resounding victory in their season opener two weeks ago, the Amherst football team traveled to Bowdoin College on Saturday for their first road contest of the year.
The Jeffs were looking for their seventh consecutive victory against the Polar Bears, and they earned it in impressive fashion, coming from behind for a 22-10 victory.
It was Amherst’s tenth straight win overall, a streak dating back to the beginning of last season and kept the Jeffs undefeated on the year, 2-0.
The 12-point margin of victory certainly does not reflect how tough this win truly was. Amherst looked to be in serious trouble in the first half as they fell behind early and could not quite find their offensive rhythm.
On the game’s opening possession, the Jeffs moved into Bowdoin territory behind a couple strong runs from Ryan Silva ’14, but they could not capitalize on their opportunities. Amherst was stopped short of a touchdown at the 21-yard line and kicker Jake Schmidt ’14 was unable to convert the 38-yard field goal attempt.
While Amherst continued to struggle, Bowdoin was able to strike first. Attacking along the ground, the Polar Bears put together a series of impressive runs, capped by a 17-yard gain that put Bowdoin inside the Amherst 20.
Slowing wearing the Jeffs down, Bowdoin continued to pound the running game, finding the end zone on a one-yard rush with 2:36 left in the first quarter. Amherst, though, was finally able to respond in the second period. Quarterback Max Lippe ’15 found his rhythm, demoralizing the Bowdoin defense with a series of timely passes. Facing third-and-eight early in the drive, he found Wade McNamara ’14 for a momentum-building first down. Amherst faced another big third down later in the drive, but Lippe stepped up once again, finding McNamara with a 15-yard pass that put Amherst at the Bowdoin 5. Lippe, himself, ran it in from there, sneaking in for a touchdown that cut the deficit to a single point. However, Schmidt was unable to convert the extra point, so Bowdoin retained their one-point advantage, 7-6.
The Jeffs, though, kept the pressure on Bowdoin on the ensuing possession, forcing the Polar Bears into a quick three-and-out. Amherst’s offense had a shot at taking the lead but was unable to take advantage of the opportunity, as they coughed up a fumble that was recovered by the defense.
Now with great field position, Bowdoin appeared primed to stretch their lead. It was dangerous moment for Amherst, but the defense made an impressive goal-line stand, stopping three attempts at the end zone from inside their ten-yard line and holding Bowdoin to a mere field goal.
Although the Jeffs did not respond with a score, the stop was a huge boost of momentum for the Jeffs, keeping the deficit manageable. Bowdoin did get one more shot at a score before halftime, but their field goal, as time ran out, missed wide left and kept the score at 10-6.
Facing an uphill battle, Amherst coaches certainly did their job in the locker room, because the Jeffs came out of the half looking like an entirely different team. The team began clicking on all cylinders, on both sides of the ball, locking down defensively and executing on offense.
After a defensive stand to start out the quarter, the Jeffs turned to the ground game on their first drive. Running back Silva took over, as Amherst handed him the ball on eight of their first nine plays for a total of 45 yards, putting the Jeffs at the Bowdoin 16-yard line. An eight-yard pass from Lippe to Jake O’Malley ’14 and a Bowdoin personal foul moved the Jeffs inside the ten-yard line, where Lippe ran it in himself for his second touchdown of the day.
However, Amherst was thwarted on the extra point, as the kick was blocked, leaving the score at 12-10 in favor of the visitors.
However, the Jeffs were not about to let that small blip get in their way. After an uneventful finish to the third quarter, Amherst began the fourth by tacking on a 37-yard field goal from Schmidt. The kick capped a 15-play, 55-yard drive and pushed the lead to 15-10.
Looking to put the game away, Amherst’s defense clamped down, as linebacker Sam Clark stepped in front of a pass to notch his first interception of the season.
The pick led to one last scoring drive, as Amherst methodically marched down the field behind 34 more rushing yards from Silva. Finishing the drive off, Lippe found McNamara for an eight-yard end-zone strike that put the game out of reach at 22-10.
The victory moved Amherst to 71-17-2 all-time against the Polar Bears. Although they started slowly, the Jeffs’ offense certainly had its way with Bowdoin, as they amassed an impressive 241 yards on the ground, led by Silva’s 143. Lippe was incredibly efficient as well, finishing 18-22 for 141 yards and scrambling for 33 yards.
Amherst’s defense stepped up impressively as well, shutting out Bowdoin in the second half. In fact, the Jeffs have yet to concede any points after halftime this season, after blanking Hamilton in the third and fourth quarters of their first game.
Travis Dickenson ’13 led the Jeffs’ effort with nine tackles, including 2.5 for loss, while fellow defensive tackle Lou Jacobs ’13 made seven stops and was responsible for one of two Amherst sacks on the afternoon.
The Jeffs return to the field this Saturday against Middlebury. The Panthers, also entering the game at 2-0, have picked up two monster wins, topping Bowdoin 42-18 and Colby 42-13.
Amherst will be on the road once again and will look to continue building momentum, as they get into the heart of their season.
They have shown an incredible ability to close out games with flourish and will be hoping to bring that same intensity to the start of this next contest.