Football | Tufts heads to Trinity with nothing to lose
Bantams bring lethal ground attack into Saturday’s matchup
Published: Friday, October 12, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 12, 2012 07:10
When the Jumbos head to Hartford, Conn. on Saturday, they know they will be underdogs. Tufts is 0−3; Trinity is 3−0. The Jumbos rank ninth in the NESCAC in run defense; the Bantams have the best running game in the league. Trinity is riding a 44−game home winning streak; Tufts has lost its last 18 games overall.
The Jumbos realize the odds are stacked against them. But they also know that on any given day in the NESCAC, anything can happen.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity,” head coach Jay Civetti said. “[Trinity is] well−coached, they play hard, they’ve got great players. But the ball can bounce in anybody’s direction. I’m excited to go down there and play with our team.”
After a gut−wrenching 17−10 loss to Bowdoin last weekend, it would be easy for Tufts to get discouraged, especially with a tough stretch coming up against Trinity, Williams and Amherst. But the Jumbos have been here before, and they know they have no other choice but to soldier on.
“Mentally right now, we’re just looking forward,” senior defensive lineman Curtis Yancy said. “On the field, [looking forward to] your next play, and between games [to] your next game. We’re hungry, ready to get one.”
On Saturday, against a team that has averaged over 35 points and 300 rushing yards per game this season, the Jumbos will try to show that they can hang with the NESCAC’s football elite.
In a similar situation last year against Trinity at Zimman Field, Tufts did just that. Entering the game, Trinity was 3−0 and Tufts was 0−3, but the Jumbos put forth perhaps their best effort of the season, holding the Bantams to their lowest point total in six years in a 9−0 loss.
This time, Tufts will have to play in a hostile environment where the Bantams haven’t lost since 2001. But the Jumbos are also a different team now than they were one year ago.
“I think everything is a year closer to where we want it,” Civetti said. “It’s a different 0−3 than it was last year. Last week was an opportunity for a victory, now we’ve got to really learn how to win, really learn how to finish.”
In last year’s matchup, the Bantams were all run, all the time, rushing for 293 yards and passing for just 4 against the Jumbos. This season, the story has been the same, with juniors Evan Bunker and Ben Crick forming a two−headed monster in the backfield. Last week, each ran for over 100 yards in a 53−14 thrashing of Hamilton.
The duo will likely cause problems for a Tufts defense that has surrendered 246 rushing yards per game, and will pose an especially large challenge for a young, injury−plagued defensive line.
“We had four freshmen on the defensive line on Saturday,” Civetti said. “They haven’t had the years in the weight room and haven’t had the opportunity to really mix it up in there, and they’re growing, they’re learning. We’ve just got to continue to coach the heck out of them.”
Still, the Bantams rank just sixth in the NESCAC in passing, and the Jumbos will have to show that they are capable of limiting the run to force Trinity to vary its play−calling.
Meanwhile, on offense, Tufts is trying to develop a more balanced attack after a pass−heavy start to the season. The team took a step in the right direction against Bowdoin, passing for 124 yards and rushing for 73, and now has four viable running back options in freshman Justin Weaver, sophomore Zach Trause and juniors Marcel Pitre and Ryan Pollock.
Weaver stepped in last Saturday for an injured Trause — who will be back in uniform on Saturday — and racked up 91 all−purpose yards in his first collegiate game.
“[Running backs] coach [Ashleigh] Davenport said, ‘I don’t know if you’re gonna get one play, I don’t know if you’re gonna get 50 plays,’” Weaver said. “I guess it was the latter. ... For the first couple plays I was nervous, but then you realize it’s just still football.”
With so many threats in the backfield, the Jumbos hope they can establish the run against a Trinity defense that shut them out in 2011.