Football | Football slips early again, cannot recover against Bates
Bobcats pounce on Jumbos on the way to a 31−23 win
Published: Monday, October 1, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 1, 2012 06:10
A second slow start, a second scoreless first quarter and a second unsuccessful comeback attempt all paved the way to a second−week loss for Tufts football by a score of 31−23 to Bates.
Before the Jumbos snapped the ball 10 times on Saturday, the Bobcats had already sprinted out to a 14−0 lead on the strength of their triple−option rushing attack, which gashed the Jumbos for 105 yards in the first quarter alone.
Although the Jumbos did settle down after the opening period to bring the halftime score to 21−10, any sense of offensive balance disappeared as they looked to stretch the field and come back.
This burden was placed squarely on the right arm of senior quarterback John Dodds, who attempted 70 passes in the rain on Saturday afternoon. His 40 completions went for 363 yards, but that was not enough to claw the Jumbos out of the hole they had dug for themselves.
But Tufts was given a glimmer of hope with 2:37 to go, when the Bobcats coughed up a fumble on their own 33−yard line that the Jumbos promptly turned into a touchdown by running back Marcel Pitre. But when the Jumbos failed to recover their onside kick, the window of opportunity had slammed shut, leaving the team frustrated with yet another loss.
For head coach Jay Civetti, the most obvious cause for his team’s 0−2 start has been their first quarters, in which Tufts has now been outscored 35−0 over the first two games.
“I don’t think any team can get down as soon as we’re getting down,” Civetti said. “Playing from behind is something that you never want to do. When you’re down, you can’t make mistakes.”
Civetti noted that part of those early struggles might stem from a lack of experience on the defensive side of the ball.
“Teams identify that we’re thin up front,” Civetti said, referring to his defensive line. “Bates’ offense is really good, they run the ball very well and their offensive linemen were fantastic, but we’ve gotta tackle the football better.”
Tufts’ defense let up 387 yards of total offense, with 309 of those coming on the ground. Although the Jumbos prepared to shut down Bates’ rushing attack all week, they simply could not execute out on the field.
“There were a lot of missed assignments,” said junior linebacker Sean Harrington on the defensive unit’s first quarter. “We knew what we were getting and we got it, we just didn’t play as well as we could.”
That lack of execution plagued the offense as well, which picked up 370 total yards but also turned the ball over five times on the afternoon.
“We’ve really been the only ones that have been stopping us,” Dodds said. “We’ve been picking apart defenses the past two games, but the offense keeps making mistakes and not capitalizing on our situation.”
Throughout the game, when Tufts was handed a short field by Bates, the offense struggled mightily to turn those chances into points. The defense forced two turnovers, but a minus−three turnover differential is nearly impossible to overcome for even the strongest of teams.
“We can’t turn the ball over that much,” Civetti said. “As a team, we need to value the football more and value possession more.”
Though holding onto the football was a problem in Saturday’s slippery conditions, no member of the team could find fault with the competitive fire the Jumbos demonstrated in front of the packed Homecoming stands.
“We’ve got good fight in this team,” said Civetti. “I don’t think there’s one guy in this team who isn’t looking to get out there and fight regardless of the situation, but we have to focus that fight in terms of execution to be able to win.”
Now standing at 0−2 for the second time in as many years, the Jumbos are already looking ahead to their game at Bowdoin next weekend, attempting to fix mistakes that they believe are correctable. The team continues to stay resolved and focused on not letting its slide corrupt the attitude at practice each week.
“There was a lot more head−hanging last year,” Harrington said. “We’ve got some good leadership in [this] senior class and everyone comes in Monday ready to go. We all understand what happened and that it’s not the outcome we wanted.”