Football | Jumbos seek consistency to produce first win
Tufts takes on reeling Williams
Published: Friday, October 19, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 19, 2012 08:10
Consistency. Playing four hard, steady quarters of football. The Jumbos have repeated the importance of this message all season long. And, with a reeling Williams team coming into town on Saturday, four quarters of steady play might be all that is separating 0−4 Tufts from its first win of the season.
The players certainly believe that they are just a couple of plays away from a win as they head into tomorrow’s game with the Ephs. Each of Tufts’ four games this season has seen the flashes of brilliance that this year’s squad is capable of, yet has also displayed the prolonged struggles the team has been unable to avoid.
“We’ve had glimpses of success all season,” senior tri−captain offensive lineman Andrew Rayner said. “But we just haven’t been able to put it all together.”
Last week showcased that contrast for the Jumbos, as the team played league−best Trinity to a draw through one quarter, but then quickly gave up 26 points in the second en route to a 40−7 road loss.
This week, however, the Jumbos will take to Zinman Field for the first time since Homecoming, and will have a Parents Weekend crowd spurring them on throughout the contest.
“We’ve been on the road the last two weeks and it’s good to get back home,” head coach Jay Civetti said. “We’ve got another good test this week, and guys are excited about the opportunity.”
That opportunity for Civetti’s team is to take down a Williams squad in the midst of its first three−game losing streak since 2007. The Ephs have suffered lopsided defeats at the hands of Bates and Middlebury. The Jumbos may just be catching them at the right moment to snatch a win.
To pull that off, the key on both sides of the ball will be big plays.
In last year’s matchup between the two teams, the Ephs surged to the lead after a 77−yard punt return and a crucial 33−yard pass broke the game open. This year’s team has continued with more of the same, completing a play of over 25 yards in each of its games so far, with junior quarterback Adam Marske averaging more than 11 yards per completion.
“They like to take big shots,” Civetti said. “And they’ve got two wideouts that can do it. Eliminating the big play will certainly be a top process on our end.”
Conversely, the Jumbos have struggled mightily in that area this year, as they’ve had a great deal of trouble creating quick offense and capitalizing when given good field position in their opponents’ territory.
“We gotta make plays,” Civetti said. “We’ve got to continue to rally and when we get down inside the red zone we have to score. You’ve got to be able to capitalize, especially versus a team like Trinity or Williams.”
Tufts’ offense will look to make those plays against a Williams defense that has given up an average of 219.5 passing yards per game and should give the Jumbos’ second−ranked passing offense holes to exploit in the secondary. The Jumbos will rely heavily on senior quarterback John Dodds, and that will mean that he’ll have to remain standing in the pocket under pressure from an experienced Williams pass rush.
“The biggest thing this weekend is just protecting the quarterback,” Civetti said, alluding to a Williams defense that has recorded five sacks in its last three games.
At the other end, this week marks the first time that the Tufts defensive line won’t have to face a top−five NESCAC rushing attack. But that doesn’t mean that Civetti and his staff aren’t worried about the Ephs’ ability to move the ball.
“I would imagine they’re gonna come out with a pretty good balanced attack and want to run early and catch us in some play− action opportunities,” Civetti said.
Overall, Williams’ offense breaks down similarly to the Jumbos’, and Tufts’ defensive players will be used to lining up across from an offense that favors the pass more than the run. Tufts’ secondary will have opportunities to make big plays, and the rest of the defense will be hungry to shut down an offense that averages only slightly more yards per game than the Jumbos attack.
“If everyone does their job and executes what they’re coached we’ll be alright,” senior tri−captain defensive end Chris Toole said. “We see drives where we stop the run and shut down the pass, it’s just a matter of doing it consistently.”
That consistency will continue to make or break this team throughout the season. They’ve been witness to their own moments of greatness, but have been unable to string those moments together for a full game. At home, in front of their parents, against a reeling Williams team is as good as any place to start.