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Football | Jumbos ready for Mules, looking for first win

Time to get out of NESCAC cellar

Published: Friday, November 2, 2012

Updated: Friday, November 2, 2012 07:11

Colby and Tufts are both coming off lopsided losses. Both have struggled mightily to run the ball. And both have played much of this season with a first−year quarterback under center.

But the similarities between the two teams stop at their record.

The Mules have something that this Jumbo football team needs, something so simple that they crave so deeply: A win.

The Jumbos sit at 0−6, and with a matchup looming in the final week of the season against Middlebury, their showdown this Saturday with the 1−5 Mules may be their last chance to get out of the NESCAC basement.

“I just think this is the week,” senior quarterback John Dodds said. “This is the team that we should be able to beat.”

To do so, the Jumbos will have to put their 51−7 loss to Amherst last Saturday behind them, and focus on doing what needs to be done to get their first tally in the win column. In a practice week shortened by Superstorm Sandy, the Jumbos will try to shake the ghosts of last Saturday’s disappointment. For this team, resiliency has been a key word all season, but it has never been more important than heading into week seven.

“Everybody had a good amount of time to sit and soak in what happened on Saturday,” head coach Jay Civetti said. “But they get an opportunity to respond, and what’s better than having another chance?”

To take advantage of that opportunity, the Jumbos will first look to take advantage of a middling Mules defense that struggles where Tufts excels. This season, Colby has given up 232 yards per game in the air, which means that Tufts’ second−ranked passing offense should have space to work with and the chance to break off some larger gains than they’ve seen in the past weeks.

“The whole season we’ve been talking about making big plays,” Dodds said. “So I think what we’re really harking on this week is to play smart, run your routes and catch the football.”

It’s a simple philosophy, but it’s one that has evaded the Jumbos several times this year.

The offensive plan remains simple when the focus shifts to the running game. Tufts has only rushed for a shade over 58 yards per game this season, but with the Mules sporting a lackluster run defense as well, freshman Justin Weaver, sophomore Zack Trause and junior Marcel Pitre will look to turn themselves into real threats this weekend.

“I think we can run the ball against them,” Dodds said. “That’s what we’re focusing on this week, just getting the running game going. Just trying to eat up some clock, pound the football and out−physical them.”

Part of that rushing attack for the week will likely include some more looks at Civetti’s Wildcat formation, which provides a change of pace that allows Trause to go slash towards the offensive line with a number of different options.

“Zack [Trause has] done a really nice job of it,” Civetti said. “I think it adds a nice dimension and it will continue to be a part of our offense.”

On defense, the Jumbos will have their hands full with the Mules’ own mobile quarterback in freshman Justin Ciero, who has thrown for just over 175 yards and run for nearly 35 yards per game in his first season. He will spearhead the Colby offense along with running back Spencer Gopaul, and a Tufts unit that has struggled to stop the run will have to make sure that the same issues do not plague them again.

But success in all of these phases of the game will be for nothing if the Jumbos step on their own feet as they have previously this season. They’ve thrown twelve interceptions, lost five fumbles and had a number of costly penalties that slowed them down in crucial moments. Particularly against a team like the Mules that does not force a lot of takeaways, the Jumbos simply cannot afford to give the ball up multiple times on Saturday.

“If we expect to win, we have to take care of the ball,” Dodds said.

And make no mistake, they do expect to win. Perhaps the single most impressive aspect of Civetti’s team is their unwavering belief in the system and the program. They’re 0−6, coming off of a dispiriting defeat, but the resolve in Civetti’s players never seems to fade. This week, that’s exactly what they need.

“We’ve just got to go out there and do it,” Dodds said. “There’s really nothing else I can say, we just have to do it.”

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