Although they fought hard against a tough Amherst team, building a 12-0 lead at one point in the second quarter, the football team eventually fell to the Lord Jeffs in a road matchup, 27-18. Wesleyan dropped to 3-2 on the season following the loss. Amherst, now at 5-0, maintained its perfect record. Facing the only team to beat them last year, Wesleyan controlled the game in the first half thanks to three interceptions. However, Amherst attacked the Cards with deep passes in the third quarter, as quarterback Reece Foy connected with his receivers on touchdown passes of 33 and 65 yards.
Wesleyan started off strong, picking off Amherst on each of its first two possessions as Foy struggled to find his receivers. Foy would end up with 202 yards on 9-20 passing, with three touchdowns and three interceptions. Though the Cards were unable to capitalize on the first turnover, Devon Carrillo ’17 ran the ball four straight times following the second interception, eventually punching it in from the one-yard line for the touchdown. The extra point attempt failed, but Wesleyan took a 6-0 lead. Carrillo finished with 36 rushing yards and a touchdown, 12 receiving yards, and a passing touchdown.
Though Wesleyan held a huge 38:46-21:14 edge in time of possession, and a solid 392-320 advantage in total offensive output, it struggled to make the most of their drives. Wesleyan tired out Amherst’s defense on a nice 19 play, 71-yard drive that lasted almost nine minutes spanning the first to second quarters, but stalled on a second-and-four after getting the ball down to the Lord Jeffs’ 18-yard line. They had to settle for a 34-yard field goal for the 9-0 advantage.
“You need to convert in the redzone,” Coach Dan DiCenzo said. “Obviously, the ability to get touchdowns and not settle for field goals is a big deal against a good team.”
On Amherst’s next drive, Robert Manning ’16 intercepted Foy for the second time in the contest. Mark Piccirillo ’19 came into the game as the quarterback for the first play of the drive, completing a deep pass to Mike Breuler ’18 for a 54-yard gain to the Amherst 14-yard line. The Lord Jeffs again locked down on defense in the redzone, as the Cards were only able to add on four yards from there, forcing a Wesleyan field goal from 27 yards out. The kick gave Wesleyan a 12-0 lead.
Amherst began its comeback quickly from there, earning great field position thanks to a 43-yard kickoff return. Facing a third-and-four, Foy tossed a deep one to Jackson McGonagle for a 40-yard score. The touchdown cut Wesleyan’s lead to 12-7 with three minutes left in the half.
The Lord Jeffs forced a quick Wesleyan three-and-out, securing an extra possession before the break. Importantly, the Cards defense buckled down and forced Amherst to punt. Brandon Morris ’19 blocked the punt attempt, and Wesleyan got the ball back at Amherst’s 36-yard line with 1:17 left. With great field position, the away team found themselves in prime position to take a more commanding lead into halftime. A pair of double-digit rushes by Jaylen Berry ’18 and Hawkins, plus an Amherst penalty, brought the ball down to the Amherst five-yard line. However, the Cards were again unable to capitalize; a 22-yard Ike Fuchs ‘18 field goal attempt was blocked as time expired, and the chance went begging.
The second half began auspiciously for the Cards, as they forced an Amherst three-and-out. However, the wheels quickly fell off the bus from there, as Hawkins lost a fumble on the first play of the next drive to give the ball right back to the Jeffs. McGonagle then corralled another long touchdown pass from Roy, this one a 33-yarder, to give Amherst its first lead of the game, 14-12, less than three minutes into the half.
From there, the Lord Jeffs forced another three-and-out to keep the momentum going. On the second play of the ensuing drive, Foy again tossed a long touchdown, this time a 65-yard bomb to Devin Boehm, to increase the lead to 21-12. These two demoralizing touchdown drives took only three plays and 56 seconds, turning the game fully on its head.
“If you want to beat good teams you can’t give up big plays,” DiCenzo said. “We gave up three.”
Wesleyan and Amherst traded punts for the next four drives before the Cards strung together an impressive drive early in the fourth quarter littered with short gains on both runs and passes. Wesleyan capped off the drive with a trick play in which the swiss army knife Carrillo hit quarterback Hawkins for a six-yard touchdown pass. However, Fuchs missed the extra point again, as the Cards failed its third kick attempt of the game. Still, the deficit was down to three with 8:18 to go, plenty of time for a comeback.
The Lord Jeffs killed Wesleyan’s momentum as they drained the clock, rattling off a long five minute drive capped by a touchdown of their own, making a Wesleyan comeback unlikely. Though Amherst’s point after attempt failed, its lead was back up to nine, and the Cards had only 3:05 to overcome the two-score deficit.
Due to a penalty on the kickoff, Wesleyan was awarded great field position on a must-score drive, yet they weren’t able to get anything going. On a fourth-and-four, Hawkins managed to get only three yards on the ground, turning the ball over on downs with 2:17 to go, sealing Amherst’s victory.
Hawkins finished 19-of-32 passing for a scant 147 yards, but racked up 85 rushing yards on 21 attempts and caught a touchdown pass.
Against an undefeated team, the Cards more than held their own, and on a different day they very well might have won this matchup. Despite the loss, Coach Dan DiCenzo took solace in his team’s effort.
“I was pleased with how our guys competed,” DiCenzo said.