Kicking Game Powers Amherst Past Wesleyan
Issue   |   Tue, 10/21/2014 - 22:27

Trailing after the halftime for the first time all season, the Amherst put together an impressive second half to knock off the Colby Mules 35-10 on Oct. 11th. The Jeffs maintained their undefeated record thanks to stalwart defense and a second half offense led by quarterback Max Lippe ’15.

“Max Lippe was definitely the story of the game because he changed the pace of our offense, made the right decisions and some big plays,” senior wide receiver Gene Garay said.

Lippe threw for 142 yards in the second half alone. Combined with the rushing efforts, the Amherst offense totaled 329 yards on the day.

The Jeffs moved into a big game the next week against Wesleyan, who also was undefeated moving into week five.
“Going into Wesleyan I think the biggest threat for us is letting them dictate what we do,” Garay said prior to the Wesleyan game. “We have to stick to our script, execute our plays and make big plays when we get the opportunities to do so.”
The stage was set for a NESCAC battle on Saturday, Oct. 18th. The Jeffs faced an impressive Wesleyan team who beat Bates 24-10 the previous week. The sun was shining at the beginning of the game, but ominous clouds in the distance meant rain was on the way. Wesleyan hosted their homecoming, and the home crowd factored into the excitement. Tensions ran high, as did penalties: Amherst received eight penalties, while Wesleyan committed nine.

Reid Singer ’16, who transferred after his freshman year from Wesleyan to Amherst, was especially excited for the game. “Playing former teammates was unnerving, but once the game began it was all about execution,” Singer said.
Ultimately, the Jeffs prevailed 33-30 in overtime, avenging their 20-14 loss to the Cardinals at Amherst Homecoming in 2013.

“I think the best thing the team did against Wesleyan was to never give up and we played with passion,” said kicker Phillip Nwosu ’15.

The Jeffs offense recorded 322 total yards, 158 through the air and 164 on the ground. Lippe led the team with patience and ease, converting two fourth down plays for the Jeffs. Garay led the team in receptions and racked up 99 yards, while Kelly dominated the ground game once again with 122 yards rushing and another 20 yards receiving. The Amherst defense faced their most formidable opponent on the year and gave up a season-high 433 yards. Though the Cardinals success through the air, piling up 305 yards, the Jeffs limited the ground game effectively, only giving up 128 yards.

Amherst received possession first, but was unable to convert any points. The Wesleyan offense found more success. Senior Jesse Warren converted three first downs to get Wesleyan deep into Amherst territory. The Cardinals’ Kyle Gibson finished off the drive running for two yards in the end zone.

Trailing by seven, the Amherst offense returned to the field but was unable to move the ball. Jackson McGonagle ’16 had a great punt pinning the Cardinals inside their own 20. After a penalty and a series of unsuccessful running plays, the Cardinals were forced to punt from their own 5-yard line. Warren was unable to get off a good punt, and the Jeffs received the ball at the Wesleyan 24-yard line. On the first play of the drive, Kelly blew through a massive hole in the Cardinals defense and ran for the touchdown.

The Cardinals and the Jeffs exchanged punts until midway through the second quarter. The Cardinals broke the stalemate finding the end zone with four minutes left in the half. However, the Wesleyan kicker missed a crucial extra point, and the score remained 13-7. Feeling the pressure, Lippe and the Amherst offense returned to the field hoping to put up points. The Jeffs worked their way the Cardinal 15 yard line. Unable to convert on third down, Nwosu made the first of his four field goals from 32 yards out.

The half ended with the Jeffs trailing 13-10. The Cardinals got the ball to begin the half and added a field goal on the opening drive. Trailing by six, Lippe led the team with patience, converting two third down passes to Garay and Brian Ragone ’16. At the Wesleyan 10 yard line, Lippe handed the ball to Kelly who found the end zone again. Nwosu’s extra point attempt was good and the Jeffs led 17-16 for the first time in the game. Wesleyan answered on their next possession, as Warren found Jay Fabien on a 20-yard touchdown pass, putting the Cardinals up 23-17.

Garay returned the kickoff following the Cardinals’ touchdown 39 yards to midfield. With good field position, Lippe moved the Jeffs up to the Wesleyan 13 yard line. On fourth down, the Jeffs sent Nwosu in again for a field goal attempt, which he made from 30 yards out. The third quarter ended with the Jeffs trailing the Cardinals 23-20.

Entering the final quarter, the Jeffs defense needed to stop the potent Cardinal offense. Jimmy Fairfield-Sonn ’16 came up with a big play for the Jeffs by intercepting Warren’s pass near the Cardinal 36-yard line. The turnover ignited the Amherst bench and gave the team a much-needed burst of energy. Lippe passed Garay the ball on the first play of the drive for a 15-yard gain. From there, Kelly received the ball on almost every down including a 1-yard rush for a Jeffs’ touchdown. The Jeffs seemingly took the lead for good at 27-23.

The Jeffs and Cardinals exchanged punts as time wound down in the fourth quarter. With four minutes left, the Cardinals made a big play. Warren heaved the ball towards the Wesleyan sideline, finding Fabien, who beat the Amherst secondary and sprinted to the end zone. Once again, Amherst found themselves behind as time was running out.

With 3:44 on the clock and the rain starting to come down more heavily, the Amherst offense took the field in hopes of marching to victory. Lippe was unable to find any of his receivers, and the Jeffs punted the ball away. The Cardinals attempted to drain the clock, but were unable to convert any first downs. The Amherst defense held the Cardinals on third down and forced a poor punt.

The Jeffs’ offense returned to the field with 1:34 to work with. Lippe ran the ball for seven yards and threw the ball to Garay for 13 yards to the Wesleyan 24-yard line. After two failed attempts at the end zone, Mills decided to rely upon Nwosu, who had made two field goals already on the day. This attempt was different. The rain and wind had picked up in the fourth quarter, and this kick was long. It was a 41-yard attempt, a formidable distance for an NFL kicker. The Amherst team knew its season came down to this moment. With little time remaining in regulation, Nwosu kicked the most important field goal of his life. The bench erupted as the ball went flying through the uprights, and the referees signaled the kick was good.
Tying the score 30-30, the Jeffs had the momentum going into overtime. After winning the coin toss, the Jeffs chose to be on defense first. The Cardinals started at the 25-yard line. Warren coordinated a first down at the Amherst 12-yard line. The Cardinals were unable to convert on third down at the Amherst three yard line and faced a tough decision: they could send out their kicking team or go for the touchdown. With a missed extra point attempt, it was clear the Wesleyan kicking game was weak. The Cardinals tried to run for the touchdown, but the Amherst defense remained stout and made a goal-line stand.

Turning over on downs, the Amherst offense now had a shot from the 25-yard line as well. Lippe ran the ball on third down for eight yards, but was unable to get a first down. Mills sent out Nwosu again. When asked if he was nervous, he replied simply “yes.” Nwosu would once again have to make a long kick in the rain. The Jeffs sideline once again locked in arm-and-arm in anticipation of the game winning kick. Nwosu kicked the ball just like he did all day. Flying through the uprights, the Jeffs’ bench erupted in cheers and stormed the field with excitement. Nwosu emerged as the team hero, making two impressive field goals late in the game, in addition to his two field goals from earlier on.

Deane described the moment the team win as “surreal... Just an incredible team win. So proud of each and every one of our 75 guys.”

Singer was also pleased. “Winning any game in the NESCAC is amazing only playing eight games, but this one was really special,” Singer said. “Revenge from last year and ruining their homecoming in overtime is memory that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life. It just shows that all the hard work we put in during the offseason pays off. I’ve been a part of the Wesleyan offseason program and they don’t work as hard as we do. That’s why we won. It’s a game of inches."

The Jeffs move to 5-0 on the season with their win over Wesleyan and will face Tufts at home for family weekend this Saturday.