Football | Notebook: Jumbos win preseason scrimmage
Published: Monday, September 17, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 17, 2012 11:09
Yes, it was a scrimmage, and yes, it ended with about 11:30 remaining in the fourth quarter. But on Friday night under the lights at Bello Field, Tufts outscored a NESCAC opponent for the first time in 15 games and almost two years, beating Bowdoin 7-0.
For the guys who have been through it all, it sure felt good to come out on top.
“It was a feeling we hadn’t felt in a long time,” senior tri-captain Chris Toole said. “Having not experienced that feeling in the locker room afterwards — it was great. It was great to see guys, smiles on their faces, enjoying themselves.”
At the same time, the Jumbos know the win was a product of what they’ve been working on all offseason and in practice these past few weeks.
“For us, we had certainly established a set of expectations as a group, and I think we certainly felt like we accomplished our goals for the preseason as a whole,” head coach Jay Civetti said.
There is room for improvement — the Jumbos turned the ball over four times and had a field goal blocked — but sophomore Jack Doll’s quarterback sneak from the goal line in the second quarter was all the scoring Tufts would need.
“Offensively, we took ourselves out of scoring positions way more times than we should have,” Civetti said. “I don’t think the score is reflective upon the offensive effort, but that’s how offensive football works. You take yourselves out of four opportunities to score — I’ll tell you this much, there are enough places where we can work this week.”
After the scrimmage, Civetti finalized his roster, which features 26 freshmen, 20 sophomores, 13 juniors and 17 seniors. The freshman class has expanded in each of the past three seasons, from 21 in 2010 to 23 last year to the current 26.
Tufts’ experienced defensive unit shone on Friday, shutting out a Bowdoin squad that put up 27 points on Zimman Field last October.
While the defense showed flashes of brilliance in 2011 — it held Trinity to single-digit points on Homecoming — it now looks like a group that is reaching its full potential.
“The defense as a whole, the energy, the focus — I think the defensive staff has done a great job preparing those guys,” Civetti said. “Like I said to the guys, play within your box in terms of how you’ve been coached. Our coaches spend a lot of time on the fundamentals. I want you to be as fundamentally sound as you possibly can be, and when you match fundamentals with good hard effort, then you should be successful.”
A huge factor in the defense’s success on Friday was its strong veteran presence.
“I think it has almost everything to do with experience,” said Toole, a defensive lineman. “Our entire secondary, they’re seniors, they’ve been playing together for four years, almost.”
Still, even in a shutout, Toole saw plenty of room to build.
“We have an older, more experienced defensive line, and actually I think we could have played a lot better, which is actually great,” he said. “We didn’t let them score any points, but I know we’ll only get better. That’s hard to see on the scoreboard, but I’m very optimistic about how we’ll play.”
And the starting QB is?
Senior John Dodds got the start on Friday before giving way to Doll, although the team had not named an official starter as of press time.
Meanwhile, junior Jon Sobo, who has been taking snaps in practice but is listed on the roster as a running back, did not play quarterback in the scrimmage, although he may still be used under center in Wildcat or QB-option scenarios.
Season opener five days away
Friday’s victory was a positive sign, but the first game that really counts for Tufts will be on Saturday against Wesleyan at home. The Cardinals are one of two NESCAC teams the Jumbos did not face last year, perhaps a fitting symbol for a team seeking a fresh start.
The Cardinals went 3-5 in 2011 with six games decided by a touchdown or less, and like the Jumbos are transitioning to a new starting quarterback. They will return their leading rusher and receiver, respectively, in sophomores LaDarius Drew and Jay Fabien.
The win on Friday felt good, but today, the Jumbos will turn their full attention to the Cardinals and the regular season.
“We showed teams that we can play football, but it was really only the start,” Toole said.
“I’m not looking too much into Friday. It was great to get that winning feeling, but we’ll see the real message [to the rest of the league] in the Wesleyan game on Saturday.”