Wesleyan football’s dominant road performance against Tufts on Saturday, Sept. 22 could not have been a more auspicious start to its 2012 season. The team jumped out to an early lead with three touchdowns in the opening quarter and never looked back. Behind a strong defense and a ground-and-pound rushing attack, the Cards handily defeated the Jumbos 35-14.

The Cardinal defense set the tone on the opening play from scrimmage, when cornerback Jake Bussani ’14 intercepted Tufts quarterback John Dodds’ first passing attempt only four seconds into the contest. Bussani’s opening pick was his first of two of the day in a shutdown performance that garnered him NESCAC Defensive Player of the Week honors. The interception gave Wesleyan’s offense a short field for its first drive, which began at the Tufts 39-yard line. Six plays later, the Cardinals took the lead when Jesse Warren ’15 connected with wide receiver Rob Manning ’16 on a 17-yard touchdown pass.

Following the opening touchdown, the Wesleyan defense forced a quick three-and-out, and a bad snap on the Jumbos’ punt attempt gave the offense great field position once again. Running back LaDarius Drew ’15 brought Wesleyan down to the Tufts 10-yard line, which allowed Warren to connect with tight end Kevin Hughes ’14 for his second of three touchdown passes. Warren completed 16 of 21 of his passing attempts for 165 yards that afternoon. Two possessions later, Drew would add another touchdown to give the Cardinals a commanding 21-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. Drew ran for 98 yards on 21 carries before leaving the game at halftime due to a knee injury. Fortunately for the Cards, the injury is not thought to be serious, and Drew is expected to return to action shortly.

Despite failing to score in the first quarter, Tufts made the game interesting in the second quarter as a pair of touchdown passes by Dodds made it a 28-14 game heading into halftime. However, the result was never in doubt, as Wesleyan resumed domination of the Jumbos on both sides of the football. The Cardinals defense would not give an inch during the third quarter, as they held Tufts scoreless yet again. Linebacker Jack Siciliano ’15 was a force in the third quarter with a sack and five of his team-leading 10 tackles during the frame.

The Cardinals offense put the nail in the coffin at the 10:21 mark of the fourth quarter, when running back Kyle Gibson ’15 tallied the first score of the second half with a five-yard touchdown scamper. Gibson took over for Drew in the second half and proved to be a more than adequate fill-in for last year’s NESCAC Rookie of the Year, as he rushed for 100 yards on 15 carries. The defense shut down the Jumbos the rest of the way to ensure the win for the Cardinals.

Wesleyan football will make its first appearance at home this upcoming weekend, as the team looks to improve its record to 2-0 versus Hamilton College. Last season, Wesleyan fell to the Continentals on the road by a score of 7-6, a result the Cards are eager to avenge. Kickoff is at 1:00 pm on Saturday, Sept. 29 at Andrus Field.

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