Football | Jumbos defense a bright spot despite loss to Bantams
Tufts holds Trinity offense to lowest point total in six years
Published: Sunday, October 16, 2011
Updated: Monday, October 17, 2011 02:10
Trinity marched into Saturday's Homecoming game as the cream of the NESCAC crop, owning a 3−0 record, averaging over 25 points per game and fresh off a 35−0 drubbing of Hamilton, a team that beat Tufts in Week 1.
The Jumbos entered as the Bantams' polar opposite, at 0−3, featuring an inexperienced senior Johnny Lindquist at quarterback and with senior defensive lineman Nick Croteau — Tufts' only defensive player with a sack this season — week−to−week with an elbow injury.
But in front of what will surely have been the largest crowd at Zimman Field all season, Tufts' defense made the gap between these two programs seem far smaller than the records show. The Jumbos held the Bantams to just nine points, Trinity's lowest scoring output since 2005, and kept Tufts in the game all the way through.
The problem was Tufts' offense, which again sputtered as the Jumbos lost their 11th straight game, this time 9−0.
"I'm incredibly proud of the defense. Those kids play hard. They practiced hard all week," interim head coach Jay Civetti said. "Like I said to the guys, we've got a team with fight, now we've got a defense with attitude."
Trinity stuck to its bread and "Bunker" all game along, rushing for 270 yards on 45 carries between sophomores Evan Bunker and Ben Crick.
But the Jumbos turned the Bantams over on downs three times, a number equal to the amount of passing yards Bantams starting quarterback Hedley Jennings had in the contest.
Jennings, who was subbed out in the second half for backup Ryan Burgess, had one completion on the day to match one interception, thrown to Tufts junior Austin Crittenden in the first quarter.
Perhaps the Jumbos defense's biggest stand came on a drive when Trinity did score points. Up 6−0 and with the ball at the Tufts 26 following a short punt by junior Marty Finnegan, Trinity could not find a way to get into the end zone, and settled for a field goal.
"On that field goal we had our backs against the wall, we had terrible field position starting out and we gave it to 'em," senior tri−captain linebacker J.T. Rinciari said. "It was great confidence−wise for our defense, [showing] that we can hang with anyone in the league."
Trinity's offense, with a passing game that was completely inept, was one−dimensional Saturday, making for a physical grind. With everyone in the stadium knowing that Trinity was going to run, the Bantams' bruising offensive line — filled with upperclassmen who have played together for years — still made room for the backs to gain yards between the 20s.
"Even though we weren't doing so much in the passing game, they put more guys in the box and we saddled up," junior Bantams center Andrew Weiss said. "That's our mentality, that's our identity."
At many decisive moments, though, the Jumbos fought back, even without Croteau and junior offensive lineman Chris Toole, who endured a leg injury in the first half.
Senior linebacker Zack Skarzynski led the team with 18 tackles, 2.5 of which came for a loss, and it was junior defensive lineman Curtis Yancy who pressured Jennings into throwing the pick to Crittenden in the first quarter.
"That's what we can hang our hat on," Rinciari said. "Guys went down, and other guys stepped up and we didn't change. We kept flying around, making gang tackles, getting three−and−outs."
The Jumbos defense will need to build on Saturday's showing as Tufts enters the second half of its season, especially since the team's offense is still a glaring work in progress.
Playing against the top scoring defense in the NESCAC, Tufts managed 146 yards of total offense and just 13 rushing yards on 26 carries on Saturday. The Jumbos converted two of 14 chances on third down, and Lindquist was sacked four times before being taken out of the game in favor of junior John Dodds in the fourth quarter.
"John had a great week of practice, and I felt that Lindquist, at the end of the game there, something wasn't clicking," Civetti said.
"We had a couple conversations about those sacks and about making the play and throwing the ball, and I didn't feel like he was executing at the level that I expect of him."