Football | Huge second quarter propels Bantams to blowout win
Published: Monday, October 15, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 15, 2012 08:10
For 15 minutes on Saturday, Tufts went toe-to-toe with the best team in the NESCAC and the No. 2 team in New England. The Jumbos had 98 yards of offense in the first quarter; the Bantams had 112. In their first three drives, each team finished with one punt, one field goal and one touchdown.
Heading into the second, the game was tied 7-7.
“I thought we were stride-for-stride with them in the first quarter, both offensively and defensively,” head coach Jay Civetti said. “We just didn’t capitalize on opportunities to get points on the board. You definitely can’t do that versus Trinity.”
Before you could even mutter the word “upset,” the Bantams reminded everyone why they haven’t lost in Hartford since 2001, exploding for 26 points in the second quarter. The scoring spree was capped by a 70-yard run from junior Ben Crick with less than a minute to go in the half that erased any remaining hope for the Jumbos.
Trinity went on to win 40-7, as Crick and junior Evan Bunker, who has now rushed for over 100 yards in six straight games, combined for 253 of the Bantams’ 361 rushing yards, including 170 in the second quarter alone.
The duo proved too much to handle for Tufts’ young front seven, which has allowed an average of 275 rushing yards in the Jumbos’ four losses to start the season.
“I don’t know if the defense got tired,” Civetti said. “I think they went against a really good offensive line and two of the best tailbacks in the league.”
In the first quarter, though, the Jumbos did well to keep Crick and Bunker on the sidelines, winning the possession battle by almost a two-minute margin and going 5-for-6 on third down.
“It’s about getting [the defense] off the field at the right times,” defensive coordinator Scott Rynne said. “We want to make sure that we’re helping our offense get the ball back and stopping [the opponent] in the important parts of the field.”
Tufts had an opportunity to take an early lead, forcing a three-and-out on Trinity’s first possession before senior quarterback John Dodds marched 48 yards down the field to set up a 35-yard field goal try. But sophomore Connor McDavitt pulled the kick left, and the Bantams responded with an 80-yard touchdown drive to go up 7-0.
The Jumbos responded well, as senior Sam Diss, who racked up 95 yards on four kick returns in the game, ran the ensuing kickoff 35 yards to midfield. This time, Dodds led the offense into the end zone, finding senior tri-captain receiver Dylan Haas from 16 yards out.
From there, though, Trinity kicked it into gear on both sides of the ball. Crick and Bunker put on a show while Tufts’ offense sputtered, going 2-for-12 on third down in the final three quarters while punting seven times and reaching Trinity territory just twice.
Meanwhile, junior quarterback Ryan Burgess looked comfortable in the pocket for the Bantams, completing 11 of 15 attempts for 175 yards and three touchdowns.
“It wasn’t that they just ran the ball,” Rynne said. “They had some big plays in the passing game. They had some good balance. That’s what good teams have.”
Trinity has now won 45 straight games at home and has yet to lose on Jessee/Miller Field since the surface was changed from grass to turf in 2002.
While the loss certainly stung for the Jumbos, it was an important learning experience, especially for the underclassmen.
“It’s always a good litmus test for your team to see what the best is, to know what you’ve got to do to get there,” Civetti said. “We’re resilient, we’re tough. But we’re young.”
Civetti found playing time for almost all of his freshmen on Saturday, and a few stepped up in a big way.
Justin Weaver, in his second game replacing injured sophomore Zach Trause, had 14 carries for 66 yards. And Akene Farmer, who got his first start at right tackle as sophomore Kyle Duke slid over to right guard, looked right at home.
“[Akene] held his own and did a great job,” Civetti said. “I think that says a lot about him and all the other freshmen that played.”
With the game out of reach in the second half, Civetti also gave reps to quarterbacks junior Jon Sobo and senior Matt Johnson, while 11 different Jumbos had at least one rushing attempt.
Dodds spread the ball among eight different receivers, but as has been the case all season, the Jumbos struggled to break any big plays. Their biggest gain of the game was a 29-yard pass to freshman Jack Cooleen, who was Tufts’ leading receiver despite making just one catch.
Ultimately, losing 40-7 was a sobering reminder that this team has a long way to go.
“It’s all in how you want to look at the reality of where we’re at,” Civetti said. “We’re a very young team with a lot of inexperience, and we’re building a program and building a culture. Programs aren’t built overnight.”
Halfway through the season, the Jumbos are not yet where they want to be. Now, they have four games left to erase the zero from the win column.
“Did I ever think we’d be 0-4? No,” Civetti said. “We’re just running out of opportunities to get a ‘W.’”