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Football | Season finale fumbled as Tufts finishes winless

Jumbos lose 35−13 in Middlebury

Published: Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, November 13, 2012 08:11


Virginia Bledsoe / The Tufts Daily

Tufts once again came close to victory on Saturday, but let the chance at the comeback slip away in the final minutes of the game.

The Jumbos were just 10 yards away from a potential game−tying touchdown. Thirteen plays had brought them 89 yards down the field, tantalizingly close to a chance to knot up the game.

But one play later, the chance was out of Tufts’ grasp. The team watched Middlebury race down the field on a fumble recovery, putting the game away and capping Tufts’ second straight winless season and their 23rd loss in a row.

It had been the Jumbos’ most impressive drive of the day. After being pinned on their own one−yard line, senior quarterback John Dodds had methodically worked the ball up the field, hitting six different receivers on nine attempts.

But as Dodds started to hand off to freshman running back Justin Weaver on that 14th play of the drive, the ball slipped out and Middlebury senior linebacker John Wiet was off to the races.

Wiet scooped up the ball and rumbled 65 yards the other direction, and just as he was about to be chased down by Tufts senior tight end Nick Kenyon, he tossed the ball behind him to junior Jared Onouye, who ran the rest of the 25 yards to double the Panthers’ lead, 28−13.

“I don’t know exactly what happened on the fumble. I just looked back and the ball was headed the other way,” Weaver said. “That was definitely a killer for us.”

Middlebury would go on to add another touchdown at the end of the game to bring the final score to 35−13, finishing off another impressive performance for the 7−1 Panthers.

The day had started well for the Jumbos, as they drove 61 yards on the first possession of the game for a 10−yard touchdown reception by senior tri−captain Dylan Haas.

But the Panthers would answer quickly on their next drive, tying up the score on a pass from junior quarterback McCallum Foote to senior wide receiver Zach Driscoll, a tandem that haunted the Jumbos all afternoon. Driscoll picked up 124 receiving yards on 10 receptions against Tufts, all part of Foote’s 389−yard outing.

Those yards put Foote in the NESCAC record books, as he broke the single season passing yards record with 2,897 on the year. The quarterback was the key in Middlebury’s first−ranked passing offense all year — and for the Panthers to stave off the Jumbos on Saturday.

“They executed well on offense,” freshman linebacker Wes Hartman said. “Their quarterback is just really good. We had a good game plan, but it just didn’t end up working out.”

All of the Panthers’ offensive touchdowns came through the air, including a one−yard reception from Driscoll at the end of the second half that gave the Panthers a 14−7 lead at intermission.

In the third, the teams traded touchdowns, and the game stayed even until that fateful fumble that sent the Jumbos home empty−handed.

“We competed well all the way up until the fourth quarter,” Weaver said. “We were playing a 6−1 team and I don’t think there was anyone watching that game that didn’t think we had a chance to win it.”

Weaver was the standout for the Jumbos in the contest, as the power back picked up 112 yards on the ground to go with 38 receiving yards, the Jumbos’ best rushing performance of the season.

But that still wasn’t enough to measure up to the firepower of the Panthers, both offensively and defensively. The Jumbos can feel pleased with the effort, but find themselves once again frustrated with the results.

“We certainly had the game in our sights in the fourth quarter,” coach Jay Civetti said. “But it was a disappointing loss considering we had an opportunity to compete for a victory.”

For the second season in a row, the Panthers have crushed the Jumbos’ hopes of sneaking out a win in the final game of the year, providing them a glimpse at victory before snatching it away as the clock wound down.

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