The Cardinals opened their season this past Saturday with an away contest against the Tufts University Jumbos. After posting a first-half lead, however, the team couldn’t hold off against a hungry Tufts team, eventually falling by a score of 17-14.
Wesleyan started out on offense to begin the game. After catching a short pass, running back Jaylen Berry ’18 fumbled the ball, and Tufts recovered on the Cards’ 41 yard line. After losing a yard on the ground, Tufts dropped back to pass four times in a row, completing just one of these four attempts but earning a first down on an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty called against the Cardinals. Despite this fortunate break, the Jumbos’ drive stalled, and their kicker Willie Holmquist missed a 49-yard field goal. An offside penalty on the Cardinals gave Holmquist another chance, this time from 44 yards out, but again his attempt proved unsuccessful.
The next Wesleyan drive ended in a punt by Ike Fuchs ’17 that pinned the Jumbos at their own 9 yard line. However, Tufts drove down the field and kicked a 36-yard field goal, taking their first lead of the day with 3:06 left in the first quarter.
After trading punts, Wesleyan got the ball at their 49 yard line and put together a steady drive, capped off by a 2-yard Devon Carrillo ’18 touchdown run and and a Fuchs extra point. The touchdown gave Wesleyan a 7-3 lead with 9:58 left in the first half after a solid 5:23 drive.
After forcing a three-and-out on the Jumbos’ ensuing drive, Wesleyan got the ball back and quarterback Mark Piccirillo ’19 took over the game. He completed one pass for 29 yards to Sebastian Canizares-Fernandez ’17 and then rushed for a 23-yard touchdown, giving Wes a 14-3 lead with a little less than seven minutes before halftime.
The last six minutes of the first half included a two-minute-long Tufts drive that ended in a punt and a Wesleyan drive that ended in a 30-yard missed field goal with only 15 seconds left in the half.
The third quarter was one dominated by the defenses of both teams. There were seven punts in the quarter, four by Tufts’ Holmquist, and three by Wesleyan’s Fuchs. This battle for field position eventually led to a promising drive for Wesleyan at the end of the third quarter. Starting at the Tufts 34 yard line after an 11-yard Justin Sanchez ’17 punt return, the Cardinals got one first down on a Piccirillo pass to Mike Breuler ’18, but after two rushes and an incomplete pass, Fuchs got another chance to extend the Cardinals’ lead. However, his second missed field goal gave the Jumbos the ball at their 20 yard line with just over 14 minutes remaining in the game.
This Tufts drive marked the first time the Jumbos were able to make any splash plays. The home team reached Wesleyan’s 47 yard line on a 33-yard rush by tailback Chance Brady. After another short rush by Brady, quarterback Alex Snyder completed a 39-yard pass to Mike Rando to put Tufts in scoring position at the Wesleyan 10 yard line. Brady then rushed the final 10 yards over two runs to cut Wesleyan’s lead to 14-10 with 12:10 left in the game.
The Cardinals’ next drive started with an exciting 41-yard kickoff return, giving the team good starting field position. However, the team couldn’t muster anything on the offensive end and the Jumbos blocked Fuchs’ punt. The Cardinals and Jumbos then traded punts before the Jumbos gained 45 yards on three carries from Brady. The Jumbo tailback mustered a 31-yard rumble to give the Jumbos their second lead of the game with 5:24 remaining. The Cardinals’ next drive also faltered, and the Jumbos were able to run out the clock and hand the Cardinals their first loss of the season.
“We were happy with the effort the guys gave on Saturday,” Head Coach Dan DiCenzo said. “Tufts was a tough opponent but we just didn’t make enough plays to win the game.”
Wesleyan actually had the better game offensively in a contest where neither offense succeeded much. The Cardinals had more first downs (16-12), more yards (310-259), and a longer time of possession (34:34-25:26) than the Jumbos. Piccirillo was the offensive star for the Cardinals. He was 20-32 and passed for 189 yards on the day, also adding 82 yards on 18 rushing attempts. On defense, the team was led by an all-NESCAC selection from last year, Jordan Stone ’17, who had 8 tackles including a half sack and 1.5 tackles for a loss. The Cardinals look to get back on track with a win this upcoming Saturday in their home opener against Hamilton.