Turnovers Sink Football In Tough Homecoming Loss
Issue   |   Tue, 10/29/2013 - 23:02
Rob Mattson, Public Affairs Office
Kenny Adinkra ’16 gets a carry in the Jeffs’ Homecoming loss to Wesleyan.

It has been a roller-coaster two weeks for Amherst Football. Riding high on the momentum of an undefeated record, the Lord Jeffs were given a harsh reality check two Saturdays ago. Playing host to Wesleyan, who also boasted a flawless 4-0 record, Amherst was handed a 20-14 defeat on Homecoming Day, dampening what should have been a celebratory mood.

Plagued by turnovers and a stagnant offense, the Jeffs were unable to get any momentum going, even with the crowd support. In fact, the Jeffs got on the scoreboard first in the contest, jumping out to an early lead, but could not take advantage of further opportunities.

Seeking to make up for that disappointment, Amherst did manage to bounce back with a victory last Saturday. Playing at Tufts, the Jeffs did not let this one slip away, wrapping up a 17-7 victory and sending the Jumbos to their sixth consecutive loss on the season.

The win was keyed by a solid defensive effort. The Jeffs defense has been ranked in the top two in the NESCAC all season and has become the Jeffs’ calling card. Unfortunately though, that strength deserted the Jeffs against Wesleyan. To their credit, the Jeffs raced out to an early advantage against the Cardinals. Orchestrating a 12-play, 82-yard drive, quarterback Max Lippe ’15 led the Jeffs to a touchdown on their opening possession. The junior found Gene Garay ’15 in the endzone with a four-yard pass and, with less than four minutes gone, Amherst had taken the lead.

Unfortunately for the Jeffs, they did not manage to score again until the fourth quarter. Instead, they gave up 20 unanswered points to the Cardinals, allowing Wesleyan to take a comfortable advantage.

Granted, the Amherst defense was not responsible for the majority of those points. Rather, turnovers and inefficiency on the part of the Jeffs offense repeatedly gave the Cardinals outstanding field position.

In the first half alone, Amherst suffered through an interception and fumble, and together those miscues prevented any chance of building momentum.

However, the team did persist and made one successful red zone drive late in the second quarter. The Cardinals defense stepped up, though, stopping multiple Amherst attempts to score from inside the 10-yard line. Amherst was forced to settle for a field goal attempt, but senior Phillip Nwosu’s kick was blocked by Donnie Cimino ’15 and recovered by Wesleyan to end the threat.

The second half was more of the same struggle for Amherst. First-year quarterback Alex Berluti was called on to try and jump-start the offense, but his efforts did not fare any better than Lippe’s. Although he completed a nice 31-yard strike to receiver Wade McNamara ’14 on his first possession, Berluti followed that up with an errant pass, intended for Garay, but the attempt was intercepted by Wesleyan to end the drive.

The Jeffs did not relent though and did rally in the fourth quarter with their second touchdown of the day. Lippe led an impressive drive that ended with the quarterback keeping it himself for a one-yard touchdown run. The score cut the deficit to 20-14, but it was too little, too late. The Jeffs’ next possession ended with yet another interception, effectively ending hope for the victory.

With the loss, Amherst suffered their first loss in six games, dating back to last season. Learning from their mistakes though, the team hoped to get back in the winning column against the Jumbos.

Playing at Tufts, in the coldest conditions of the year, Amherst’s offense finally came to life. The team racked up a season-high 515 yards, including a season-best 268 yards on the ground led by an impressive effort from first-year running back Nick Kelly.

However, the Jeffs only came away with 17 points due to turnover troubles once again. Amherst committed six on the day, five of which came inside the Jumbos’ 25-yard line. Those miscues certainly cost the Jeffs a chance at a runaway victory and kept Tufts in the game until the end.

Unlike against Wesleyan, a slow start plagued the Jeffs in this game. After punting on their opening drive, the next three Amherst possessions ended in a missed field goal, interception and fumble.

However, Tufts had just as much trouble getting their offense in gear and could not take advantage of Amherst’s miscues. With the score still deadlocked at zero heading into the second period, the Jeffs finally got on the board. Five consecutive runs from Kelly got Amherst inside the red zone, and Berluti took it in from there for his first career rushing touchdown.

The Jumbos responded, though, before the end of the quarter. Capitalizing on another Amherst fumble, Tufts made the most of their opportunity, attacking the Jeffs defense to tie the game with 16 seconds left in the half.

To open the third quarter, both teams had opportunities to score but sloppy execution stalled most drives. Amherst did threaten once, getting into the Tufts red zone, but were forced to settle for a field goal. That kick put the score at 10-7, which would hold through the end of the period.

Building on their slight momentum, Amherst began to piece together solid drives early in the fourth. A 33-yard strike from Lippe to sophomore wideout Jackson McGonagle ’16 put Amherst inside the Tufts red zone on the second possession of the quarter. Keeping it himself, Lippe took it into the endzone on the next play, giving Amherst a 17-7 advantage that they would not relinquish.

With the victory, head coach E.J. Mills notched his 99th career win as Amherst’s lead man. The 17-year coach will aim for the century milestone next week as the Jeffs play host to Trinity.

Last weekend, the Bantams suffered their first loss since the 2011 season, so the team will certainly be motivated against the Jeffs. Both teams still have a chance to compete for a NESCAC Championship but need a win and some luck to keep those hopes alive.