The previously-unbeaten football team finally found their match last week, losing for the first time in over a year. The Lord Jeffs had been riding an incredible 10-game win streak, dating to the beginning of last season.
However, playing at Middlebury, the Jeffs were unable find their rhythm on either side of the ball en route to a disappointing 24-3 defeat. However, as heartbreaking a loss as it was, there was no time for the team to hang their heads with a game the very next week. Impressively, Amherst did bounce back strong, coming through with a solid performance to crush Colby 23-3. The victory moved the Jeffs to 3-1 on the season and kept the team in NESCAC Championship contention.
In retrospect, it is clear that a weak second quarter cost Amherst the Middlebury game. The Panthers ran off 21 unanswered points to turn a scoreless tie into an insurmountable lead. Middlebury quarterback McCallum Foote threw for two touchdowns and rushed for a third, all in the span of five possessions, as the Panthers offense started clicking on all cylinders.
On the other hand, Amherst’s offense was struggling mightily, barely scraping their way to first downs. They were forced into three-and-outs on six of their first eight drives of the game and, considering that their seventh drive ended with a fumble, the Jeffs were truly unable to get any offensive momentum rolling.
The Jeffs, however, did not go away so easily. Amherst managed to come out of halftime with more intensity, and it seemed for a moment that the team might be able to turn their fortunes around. The third quarter started with Amherst getting a quick defensive stop, before taking over at their own 28-yard line.
Sophomore quarterback Max Lippe orchestrated a 14-play, 61-yard drive that moved Amherst into the red zone, although they were unable to convert for a touchdown. Kicker Jake Schmidt ’14 did come through for the field goal, giving some momentum back to the Jeffs and cutting the deficit to 21-3.
Unfortunately, that was as close as Amherst would get. The contest turned into a defensive battle, as both team held their ground with the Jeffs giving up a lone field goal to start the fourth quarter. The defeat marked Amherst’s first loss to Middlebury since 2008 and trimmed the Jeffs lead in the all-time series to 21-17.
Returning to the field a week later, Amherst clamped down defensively to get back into the win column, earning their 16th consecutive victory over Colby.
Once again though, the Jeffs offense came out of the gates a little tight with early turnover issues. Amherst’s first drive appeared to be rolling smoothly, as Lippe marched the team down inside the Mules 25-yard line, until an interception cost the Jeffs their possession. Fortunately, senior cornerback Robbie Heflin paid the favor right back, intercepting a Colby pass deep in Amherst territory to give the Jeffs another shot.
Amherst’s offense, though, was unable to capitalize on the Colby turnover. Fortunately, Will Brewster ’15 came up big for the Jeffs, placing his punt inside the Mules’ two-yard line. It was all the advantage Amherst needed, as defensive tackle Travis Dickenson ’13 muscled his way into the backfield for a safety on Colby’s opening play. Amherst took a 2-0 lead but, more importantly, grabbed some much-needed momentum.
Building off that play, Amherst’s offense finally caught fire at the beginning of the second quarter. Relying on their passing game, the Jeffs blitzed right through the Colby defense, capping the drive with a 15-yard touchdown strike from Lippe to tight end Tom Holahan ’13. The touchdown extended Amherst lead to 9-0, and they would maintain that margin heading into halftime.
However, Colby was the first to strike in the third quarter. Capitalizing on an Amherst fumble at their own 21-yard line, the Mules turned that great field position into their first points of the game. Luckily for the Jeffs, consecutive penalties prevented Colby from reaching the endzone, and they were forced to settle for a field goal.
Finally with some momentum though, Colby’s defense stepped up their game, forcing a quick Amherst three-and-out.
However, the Jeffs’ defense, not to be outdone, came up even bigger. Heflin stepped in front of another Colby pass for his third interception of the game, returning the pick 24 yards for a touchdown and stretching the Jeffs’ lead to 16-3.
The interception sparked Amherst’s offense as well. Looking to add to their cushion at the beginning of the fourth, the Jeffs put together a six-play, 51-yard drive, picking apart the Colby defense along the ground and through the air. A five-yard touchdown run from Steven Jellison ’14 gave the hosts a 23-3 advantage and capped the scoring for the afternoon.
Overall, the victory was an impressive bounce-back effort from the Jeffs, not allowing the previous week’s loss to hang over them. The win also kept Amherst in the NESCAC Championship picture, although they will have to win the rest of their games to have a shot at the title.
For now though, the team is focused solely on their next game, as they return to action this Saturday at Wesleyan. The Cardinals are 4-0, most recently having edged Bates, 24-22, so the Jeffs will have their hands full.