Wesleyan’s football team obliterated Williams on Homecoming weekend with its first shutout of the season. The Cardinals’ offense scored an effortless 35 points against a porous Williams defense by improving in several key areas: ball security, consistent offensive scoring, and well-balanced offensive attacks. However, penalties are still a huge issue for the team; this week was their fifth game giving up more than 80 yards in penalties. That could have derailed their chances of a shutout if not for very stout defensive play in the fourth quarter. On offense, Mark Piccirillo ’19 scored four touchdowns—two on the ground and two through air—while contributing over 340 yards of total offense. On defense, the players of the game were Brett Robertshaw ’20 and Ben Thaw ’20, who both snagged an interception and sealed the victory for the Cards.
The first quarter started off well on both sides of the ball for the Red Birds, as the offense scored on the opening drive of the game despite a handful of penalties, and the defense then forced a three-and-out. However, the momentum slowed down on offense, as the Dirty Birds did not move into scoring position for another two drives and then missed subsequent field goal attempt at Williams’ 27-yard line. Yet throughout the first quarter, the defense played effectively, not allowing a single 1st down.
The Red and Black continued to play resiliently in the second quarter, grabbing an interception on the Ephs’ first drive just as Williams was beginning to gain momentum. Despite starting in good field position, the Cardinals’ offense kept stalling thanks to penalties that morphed manageable 3rd downs into impossible ones. Luckily, the defense was still on fire. As Williams was once again gaining rhythm on offense, Wesleyan forced and recovered a fumble, giving the offense the ball back near midfield. The Cards’ offense did commit a few penalties but kept moving forward and finally got into the end zone, increasing their lead to 14-0 with a two-yard run from Piccirillo. The Cards were beginning to gain some offensive momentum, but the defense had been on fire all game, and they did not miss a beat when they intercepted Williams first-year quarterback Bobby Maimaron once again, giving Piccirillo the ball with less than 40 seconds left on the clock. The offense began driving down the field thanks to their dynamic passing, and with two seconds left on the clock, Piccirillo threw a dime to Hallvard Lundevall ’20, extending the lead to 21-0.
The Wesleyan defense stayed red hot through halftime and forced yet another three-and-out on the first drive of the second half. Neither team scored in the of the third quarter; almost every drive ended with a punt. The lone exception was a failed 4th down conversion. Offensive inconsistency plagued the Dirty Birds during the quarter, since they would start drives but quickly lose momentum and be forced to punt.
Meanwhile, the defense was playing with incredible poise, as they did not allow a single 1st down the entire quarter. Williams only gained 15 yards throughout the third quarter. But once again, as time was running out, Piccirillo and the offense started rolling. Thanks to a foolish penalty by Williams, the Dirty Birds reached the red zone for the first time in the second half. On the opening play of the fourth quarter, Piccirillo unleashed a 20-yard bomb to AJ Girard ’18 for his first career receiving touchdown, bringing the score to 28-0.
But the Cards’ offensive successes did not relax the defense, as they forced yet another three-and-out. With incredible plays by Evan Hull ’19 and Glenn Smith ’21, each over 20 yards, the Cardinals soon found themselves on the Williams six-yard line. Smith then hammered in the final touchdown of the game, bringing the final score to 35-0. The defense kept stifling Williams until the end of the game, and the offense ran the clock out with Smith to seal the blowout win.
This week’s game ball goes to the defense. They played sensationally, holding Williams to 127 total yards on offense, with three turnovers and seven three-and-outs. While this was expected to be a much closer game, Wesleyan was able to take it all, thanks to a sterling performance on both sides of the ball. Next week, the team will face off against the Trinity Bantams, who lost to Amherst this week. If the Cardinals’ defense stays red hot and their offense can be more consistent, there is no reason why Wesleyan cannot be victorious next week on the road.
Jacques Slaughter can be reached at email@example.com.