Football | Heading into opener, Jumbos look to build on scrimmage victory
Doll named starting QB as Tufts takes on Wesleyan
Published: Friday, September 21, 2012
Updated: Friday, September 21, 2012 02:09
For the first time in nearly two years, the Tufts football team will go into a Saturday afternoon coming off of a win. While it may seem trivial to be excited about the scrimmage against Bowdoin that the Jumbos won last Friday, for a team looking to build a new culture a scrimmage was more than enough to get the squad fired up for the season opener against Wesleyan this weekend.
“It was just a scrimmage,” senior tri−captain Andrew Rayner said. “But we haven’t gone back in the locker room and celebrated a win in a long time. It gets people more jacked up in practice and we want that same feeling every Saturday.”
In order for Tufts to return to the locker room celebrating for the second week in a row, they will have to take down a Cardinals team that went 3−5 last season and hasn’t played the Jumbos in three years.
Last season, the Cardinals’ offense was powered by last year’s NESCAC Rookie of the Year, running back LaDarius Drew, and shutting him down will be crucial if the Jumbos hope to leave Zimman Field with an unscathed record Saturday afternoon.
“It’s all about good discipline,” senior defensive lineman and tri−captain Chris Toole said on stopping their rushing attack. “If everyone does their job, we stop the run, and if we stop the run, we win the game.”
One factor that may break in the Jumbos’ favor is some inexperience on the Cardinals’ offensive line, something that had Toole chomping at the bit for game day even on Wednesday night.
“They’ve got a couple of younger guys that I know I’m personally ready to welcome to the NESCAC,” Toole said. “That’s what I’m focused on and that’s all I’m going to focus on these next few days.”
But while Wesleyan may only be returning fifteen starters, head coach Jay Civetti isn’t using that as a reason to look past this team in the slightest, especially considering the youth present on the Jumbos’ sideline. When the full squad slips on their jerseys this Saturday, 46 of the 75 players suiting up for Tufts will be freshmen or sophomores.
“Regardless of their age over there, I respect [Wesleyan’s head coach] Mike Whalen and [his] staff immensely,” Civetti said. “I know that Wesleyan’s gonna be prepared, so I think about [preparing] ourselves better than their coaching staff.”
The Jumbos’ coaching staff not only had to worry about preparing for their season opener, but also who would be under center come Saturday and hopefully for the rest of the year.
As announced Monday evening, sophomore Jack Doll will start for the Jumbos, but the late decision hasn’t shaken Doll’s confidence as he heads into his first collegiate start.
“I’m excited,” Doll said. “I just want to take advantage of the opportunity and do what I have to do to help the team win.”
To ease some of that opening game pressure, Doll will likely rely heavily on senior tri−captain receiver Dylan Haas as his downfield threat, while he and Haas attempt to poke holes in a Wesleyan defense that ranked fourth in the NESCAC last year in points allowed.
However, the team is making sure not to get caught up in who is and isn’t starting. The Jumbos’ plan, regardless of who is on the field, is to outmuscle and outhustle the Cardinals at every moment possible.
“We want to be the most physical team on the football field,” Civetti said. “We want to beat you and we want to beat you up. We’re going to play physical football [and] we’re going to be mentally tough.”
Since Aug. 27, the Jumbos have been looking across the line of scrimmage and seeing no one but their own teammates, meaning that a unit looking to be the most physical in the league has been waiting nearly two months to let all of that aggression out. Come this weekend, though, the 76 men on that roster will be ready to lower their shoulders and fight as hard as they can for the program’s first win since 2010.
“There’s no other feeling like it,” Toole said, on suiting up for opening day. “It’s one of the biggest rushes we get as athletes to line up against someone you don’t know and put everything out there on the field.”
Toole and the rest of his teammates will finally get the rush they have been waiting for all summer this weekend, and though the Jumbos put the rest of the NESCAC on notice with their scrimmage win last week, the real statement will come from picking up a win against the Cardinals.
“Our goal is to win the game, no matter what it takes,” Rayner said. “We want to send the message that we’re here to play.”
Doll echoed the sentiment, voicing the hopes of everyone in the program looking for redemption.
“It’s a big game,” he said. “It’s a huge game. It’s a new season, and we want to win.”