On Saturday, the Wesleyan football team took the field against Tufts, looking for its first win against the Jumbos since 2004 and its first win overall since October 11th of last year. The Cardinals did not disappoint, delighting the 2200 fans in attendance at Andrus Field, and hundreds more enjoying the beautiful fall day on Foss Hill, with a thrilling 7-3 win.
Wesleyan found the end zone midway through the second quarter on a five-yard rush by Shea Dwyer ’10. After taking possession at the Wesleyan 41 with 12:22 to go, Cardinal quarterback Blake DuBois ’12 engineered a 10-play, 59-yard drive that gave the Cardinals the lead. Dwyer accounted for 29 of the 59 yards during the series. DuBois threw a nine-yard pass to Dwyer to open the drive, and, following an incompletion, Dwyer rushed up the middle for a three-yard gain on third-and-1. Another rush up the middle by Dwyer moved the Cardinals to the Tufts 41, and DuBois found Pete Modera ’11 for a 30-yard completion on third-and-4. An illegal block penalty on Wesleyan gave the Cardinals first-and-20 from the 21, but Dwyer rushed up the middle for five yards and to the right for nine more for a first-and-goal from the Tufts 7. Another rush up the middle by Dwyer brought Wesleyan to the 5, where Dwyer rumbled into the end zone to give Wesleyan a 6-3 lead. Matt Alexaner’s ’12 kick made it 7-3 with 8:31 on the clock.
Tufts had taken an early 3-0 lead with a 32-yard field goal on its first possession. The Jumbos took the ball on their own 42 and completed a pair of passes on third-and-6 before a 16-yard rush brought the Jumbos to the Wesleyan 19. In the first of three red-zone chances, he Jumbos gained four yards, driving to the Wesleyan 15, before kicking the 32-yarder with 9:08 left in the first quarter.
Following a 19-yard kickoff return by Te’Rhon O’Neal, Wesleyan took possession on its own 30. A pair of rushes by Vince Miller ’12 gave Wesleyan a first down on its own 44, but an illegal block penalty made it first-and-25 from the Cardinal 29. Wesleyan eventually punted after driving to the 39, but a 31-yard Tufts return gave the Jumbos the ball at the Wesleyan 40 as they looked to add to their three-point lead.
A series of rushes gave Tufts fourth-and-1 from the Wesleyan 20, where the Cardinals’ defense came up with the first of several key stops on the afternoon. Justin Freres ’11 swung the momentum in the Cardinals’ favor, tackling the Tufts ballcarrier for no gain and a Jumbo turnover on downs.
Despite a pair of first downs, Wesleyan was unable to advance into the Jumbos’ territory, as the Cardinals’ drive stalled at their own 48. Tufts opened its ensuing series with an 11-yard rush for first-and-10 from its own 49, but the Jumbos gained only two yards from that point and concluded their drive with a 12-yard punt that went out of bounds at the Wesleyan 41, setting up the day’s only touchdown.
Tufts went three-and-out on its next two possessions, as did Wesleyan in its next series. Following a Wesleyan punt, Tufts took possession from its own 43 with 1:28 left in the first half. The Jumbos picked up four yards on a fake punt on fourth-and-2 to advance to the Wesleyan 45, and two plays later, a 17-yard completion gave the Jumbos first-and-10 from the Wesleyan 28. However, Tufts’ 46-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left as time expired, maintaining the four-point margin.
Wesleyan dominated play in the third quarter, picking up six first downs to Tufts’ two; one of the Jumbos’ first downs came on a Wesleyan penalty. The Cardinals had a good chance to add to their lead late in the quarter; after taking possession at their own 12, Wesleyan drove 65 yards to the Tufts 25. On fourth-and-3, Wesleyan elected to go for the first down rather than attempt a 42-yard field goal, but Dwyer was stopped one yard short. On the following play, a 16-yard completion as time expired gave Tufts a first down on its own 39.
A facemask penalty on Wesleyan following a one-yard Tufts rush moved Tufts to the Wesleyan 36, and a 15-yard pass on third-and-13 moved the Jumbos down to the 24. On third-and-2 from the Wesleyan 16, however, Tufts was hit with a 10-yard holding penalty, moving the Jumbos back to the 26. After an incompletion, the Jumbos attempted a 43-yard field goal, but the ball was kicked low and into the line, with Lane Kirshe ’10 recovering.
Following five three-and-outs—three by Wesleyan, two by Tufts—the Jumbos took possession at their own 18 with 1:58 remaining in the game. The Jumbos only made it to the Wesleyan 48, however and their final pass fell incomplete with 18 seconds to play, giving Wesleyan a hard-earned victory.
Wesleyan used a dominating rushing offense and tough defense to grind out the victory. Miller rushed 23 times for 102 yards and a 4.4 yards-per-carry average, with Dwyer rushing 14 times for 69 yards. Saturday marked the second 100-yard game of Miller’s career, with the first coming in a 109-yard effort against Bowdoin last season. In addition, the Wesleyan defense forced Tufts to punt on seven of its 12 possessions.
The Cardinals will look to win their second game in a row for the first time since October 2007 when they travel to Hamilton this Saturday, October 3. Wesleyan is 10-2 in its last 12 games against the Continentals, dating back to 1997, and stands 22-15-1 all-time against Hamilton. Last season, however, the Continentals earned a 17-7 victory on Andrus Field. Wesleyan eked out a 10-9 victory in its last trip to Clinton two years ago, with quarterback Zach Librizzi ’08 taking an intentional safety to end the game. This game will be Wesleyan’s first on artificial turf since last Oct. 4 at Colby, as Hamilton’s Steuben Field was outfitted with turf this summer. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.