Following a hard-fought loss at home last week, the Cardinals recorded their first victory of the year at Hamilton College on Saturday, Oct. 3, triumphing 15-10 to even their record at 1-1. Wesleyan recovered from a late 10-9 deficit, as Devon Carrillo ’17 broke off a long 19 yard run for his second touchdown of the contest with 3:19 remaining, breaking a tackle at the line of scrimmage and then carrying a defender the final five yards for the touchdown. The defense came up big a number of times on Saturday, but their biggest play was on Hamilton’s ensuing drive, when Alex Daversa-Russo ’16 picked off Hamilton’s quarterback with only 2:16 left on the clock, all but ending Hamilton’s day.
“We played great in the end to get our first victory,” said Gernald Hawkins ’18. “With us being a young team, we’re going to make mistakes. I’m just glad we came together in the end.”
The defense, which struggled at times last week, looked a lot like the squad that gave up the fewest yards per game in the nation last year. On Saturday, the Cardinals completely shut down Hamilton’s run game, allowing only 16 yards on 25 rush attempts for a miniscule average of 0.6 yards per carry. Wesleyan’s defense stuffed the box so effectively that Hamilton’s starting running back, LaShawn Ware, incredibly lost one yard over his 13 carries. Jon Spivey ’16 and Daversa-Russo led the Cardinals with seven tackles each.
“I think the defense played a great game,” said Carrillo. “They stepped up big when they needed to and then we [the offense] capitalized toward the end of the game to win.”
The Cardinals did a fantastic job limiting Hamilton’s passing game as well, allowing only 148 pass yards in the game. Hamilton quarterback Chase Rosenberg completed fewer than half of his passes, with 14 completions in 29 attempts, throwing for one touchdown and one interception. Wesleyan also broke up three of Rosenberg’s passes and sacked him twice, the second of which occurred on the first play of Hamilton’s final drive, backing the Continentals up to their own 24-yard line and setting up 2nd and 17 on a crucial drive in which they needed a score to win.
Following Daversa-Russo’s decisive interception, the Cardinals needed a first down to put the game away. Jaylen Berry ’18 took the ball three times, but was only able to gain one yard total, and Hamilton used their final two timeouts to stop the clock. Facing a fourth down with nine yards to get the first down, quarterback Hawkins took the snap but found none of his receivers open. Hawkins was just able to elude a Hamilton defender and took off down the field for 17 yards and the first down, before getting upended at the one-yard line. With the win secured, Hawkins took a knee on the next snap to wind down the clock and close out the victory.
“I knew that the defense was looking for us to pass so everyone cleared out and I found a lane,” said Hawkins. “I really should’ve scored, but I’m glad I was able to seal us the win.”
The Cardinals’ offense was not as effective as their defense this week, but it got the job done and was much more balanced than last week, in which the offense went run-heavy. Hawkins only threw for 157 yards over 14 completions on 31 attempts, but did not commit a turnover and also ran for 37 more yards. Mike Breuler ’18 led the Cardinals receivers with 57 yards on five catches, while tight end Ben Kurtz ’17 added 54 yards.
“I really just played more within myself and was a lot more calm versus last week getting my first start, and not executing everything,” said Hawkins. “As an offense we have a lot to work on with the pass game. We left some catches on the field but besides that I’m happy with the win.”
For Wesleyan, the run game was again effective, as the team totaled 191 yards on the ground. After a number of impressive runs against Middlebury, Carrillo got more carries against Hamilton and made the most out of them with 63 yards and two touchdowns on 11 attempts. Jaylen Berry ’18 added 53 yards on 18 rushes. In addition to his game-winner, Carrillo rushed from one yard out on a third down to score in the third quarter, giving Wesleyan a nine to three lead. Unfortunately, Carrillo also lost a fumble just in front of the goal line at the end of the third quarter, squandering an opportunity for Wesleyan.
“I thought we played a great game,” said Carrillo. “On offense we didn’t execute the way we should have. There were way too many penalties. However, in the end we got it done.”
Wesleyan will try to build off its victory in their matchup next week, as Colby will come to Andrus Field on Saturday, Oct. 10. Last season, the Cardinals thumped the Mules on the road, 28-7.