Having lost two weeks in a row, the football team was fed up, and it showed in the form of a strong victory over Colby. As with the win over Middlebury, the offense was more balanced than usual, and the defense had another strong showing with three sacks and an interception. Quarterback Mark Piccirillo ’19 led the team both through the air and on the ground while Taj Gooden ’21 had two sacks and nine tackles in total, two of which were for a loss. Though the Red and Black had less time of possession and ran significantly fewer plays than the Mules, the Birds still outperformed them on offense and were far more efficient with the ball. However, Wesleyan continues to struggle with penalties and converting late downs, both of which have been a point of difficulty throughout the season.
The Birds did nothing special in their preparation to play Colby, opting to continue with their strategy that they stick by throughout the season.
“We prepared for Colby like we have for every other team,” wide receiver Joe Scancarella ’21 said. “We knew that they are a better team than in past years. We had a good week of practice and that showed up in the game.”
The game started off slowly as both teams’ offenses failed to find a consistent rhythm and get downfield. On the third drive of the first quarter, the Cardinals started to put the pieces together as Piccirillo led his team down the field. Thanks to a Colby tripping penalty, the Cardinals ended up in enemy territory, carrying momentum on their side. A strong rushing attack made slow but consistent progress as Smith, Piccirillo and Sean Penney ’21 pushed Colby back. Piccirillo led the offense and completed a beautiful 20-yard passing touchdown to Smith to take the 7-0 lead.
Once again, Colby failed to do anything with their subsequent drive to end the first quarter and were forced to put the ball back into the hands of the Red and Black offense. The Cards hit the ground running as Dario Highsmith ’20 rushed for a first down before the trusty pair of Piccirillo and Hallvard Lundevall ’20 got down to work, connecting first for a 15-yard gain and then a whopping 35 yards to take the offense practically down to the Colby goal line. Soon after, Piccirillo connected to Penney for another passing touchdown to extend the Wesleyan lead to 14-0.
Colby’s next drive was ended with a sack by Gooden, asserting the dominance of Wes’ defense. Wesleyan wanted to capitalize on this opportunity and started the drive well, making it well into the Colby territory on three plays with three consecutive first downs. But feet away from another score, Piccirillo threw a pass into a tight window and got intercepted on the Colby five-yard line.
The Mules took this opportunity and ran with it, quickly driving down the field. They went 95 yards to close the lead to 14-7. The score would remain the same until at halftime.
After halftime, the offense made consistent progress before a stunning 22-yard scramble by Piccirillo put Wesleyan back on top with a decisive lead of 21-7.
Colby made a strong attempt to get back in the game, making good advances down the field as the Wesleyan defense struggled to stop their progress, a common theme for most of the game.
However, this theme would not last the entire game. In the fourth quarter, the defense gave up a disappointing 63-yard touchdown as Colby made a desperate last-minute attempt to steal a victory away from Wes. The Mules tried and succeeded at an onside kick and with their advanced field position, quickly scored again as time continued to run out, closing Wesleyan’s lead to 28-20. The Mules made another dramatic but in-vain attempt to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat with another onside kick but it was too little, too late and Wesleyan’s victory was sealed. The final score: 28-20.
After the game, the team reflected on their overall performance, knowing it has an impact on the rest of their season.
“We have to be better at finishing games if we want to win out the reason of our season,” Scancarella said. “We executed until the end of the game where we let them score two touchdowns in the closing minutes.”
Though the Cardinals performed well in this match—particularly Piccirillo, Smith, and Gooden—Colby is still 0-4 this year. Additionally, the pair of late touchdowns was not acceptable for the caliber of team the Red and Black can be. Though a drastic improvement on last week’s performance, Wesleyan still struggled greatly with penalties and on special teams. Had they played against a slightly stronger team, those mistakes would have been enough to turn this victory into a defeat.
Next week’s match is against Bates who are also 0-4. This should be good news for the Cardinals as it gives them another chance to get back into form before the Little Three rivalry matches in upcoming weeks.
Jacques Slaughter can be reached at email@example.com.