A late surge by the Cardinals wasn't enough to overcome a 10 point deficit, and the Birds finished the 2015 season 5-3

Wesleyan finished up its 2015 season with a nail-biting 17-13 road loss to in-state rival and NESCAC powerhouse Trinity College. The Bantams jumped to a quick lead in the first quarter and held the Cards offense in check for most of the game. Although Wesleyan forced a couple of late fumbles in the fourth quarter, the team was only able to convert one of those scoring opportunities into points.

Trinity forced a three-and-out on Wesleyan’s first drive, and got the ball back in Cardinal territory after the punt. A 33-yard pass from Sonny Puzzo to Bryan Vieira followed by a Wesleyan offsides penalty put the Bantams seven yards away from the endzone. From there, Max Chipouras ran it in on the ground for the score to put Trinity up 7-0 with 7:31 left in the opening quarter.

The Cardinals were unable to get past Trinity’s 40-yard line in the first quarter, though Mark Piccirillo ’19 led the offense down to the 29-yard line early in the second quarter. However, Wesleyan would get no further as Piccirillo was picked off by Patrick Dorsey at the 21-yard line. After the interception, Trinity’s defense completely stymied the Cardinals, who were not able to make it into Bantams territory for the remainder of the half.

Neither offense could muster much on their next drives. Later in the quarter, Trinity’s Nick Gaynor would almost single-handedly lead the Bantams down the field, picking up 40 yards on three rushes. However, on a first-and-ten on the 12-yard line, the Cardinals defense locked down on Gaynor, who only managed five yards on three rushes, forcing Trinity to kick a field goal. Kyle Pulek knocked down the 24-yarder to up the Bantams’ lead to 10-0.

Following a short Wesleyan drive, Trinity again threatened to score as time was running out in the half. The big plays of the drive came right at the beginning, as Puzzo hit Ian Dugger with a 20-yard pass and Gaynor hauled in a 33-yarder to get into the red zone. However, the Cardinals defense forced two incompletions and a negative rush attempt by Gaynor to again hold the Bantams to a field goal try. This time Jordan Stone ’17 blocked the 38-yard attempt to prevent Trinity from increasing their lead going into the half.

After another three-and-out to start the half, Wesleyan’s offense finally found their footing during their next possession. Piccirillo and Mike Breuler ’18 connected for a 29-yard gain, the Cardinals longest on the day, to get into Bantams’ territory. Lou Stevens ’17 then caught a Piccirillo pass for ten yards, and then another for 14 more to get Wesleyan a first-and-goal seven yards from the goal line. A holding call against Trinity then gave the Cards a first down at the three-yard line, and LaDarius Drew ’15 punched it in for the touchdown, his first of the year. The score put the Cardinals within three with 8:11 to go in the third quarter.

The Bantams again threatened on their ensuing drive, taking the ball down to the Wesleyan 25. However, the Cards made sure that Trinity could not get any momentum back as defensive stud Zac Cuzner ’17 intercepted Puzzo. Cuzner finished the season with a team-leading four interceptions and eight broken up passes, and also had a solid 26 tackles. The Cardinals were unable to capitalize on the turnover, however.

Trinity would then drive 66 yards down the field, taking up over six minutes in the process. Chipournas capped off the possession with a two-yard touchdown run. The score gave the Bantams a 17-7 advantage with 11:22 remaining in the game.

Wesleyan forced two fumbles in the final five minutes to give them a chance to win the game. First, Alex Daversa-Russo ’16 got Gaynor to cough up the ball at the ten-yard line to give the Cards a great shot at a score. However, an unsportsmanlike penalty and a Trinity sack on Piccirillo moved the ball back to the 32. Facing a second-and-16, Dan Laorenza ’16 caught a 17-yard pass for the first down, and Sebastian Canizares-Fernandez ’17 hauled one in for eight more. Piccirillo picked up another first down with a four-yard run, and Stevens brought the ball to the one-yard line. From there, Piccirillo twice attempted to run the ball in for the touchdown himself, but was stopped short both times as the Cardinals turned the ball over on downs a yard away from the endzone.

On their ensuing possession, the Bantams again fumbled as Isaiah Thomas ’19 stripped the ball from Puzzo at the one-yard line. This time, Piccirillo needed only one try to get into the endzone from one yard out. Ike Fuchs ’17’s extra point attempt was blocked by Trinity to maintain a 17-13 lead with 1:28 remaining, meaning that the Cardinals would need a touchdown to win the game. Wesleyan attempted an onside kick, but the Bantams recovered to allow them to run out the clock.

Coming into the season the Cardinals were not expected to be a major player in the NESCAC, but they fought their way into first place contention after winning five of their first seven games, only falling to Middlebury and Amherst in close contests. With their 5-3 record on the season, Wesleyan finishes in a tie for fourth in the NESCAC with Middlebury. Amherst, Trinity, and Tufts took the top three spots.

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