Football | Victory slips away from Jumbos in fourth quarter
Published: Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 06:10
Heading into this past Saturday’s game, head coach Jay Civetti’s plan for his team was simple: play smart football, play fundamentally sound football, tackle well and put yourselves in position to win the game in the fourth quarter.
The Jumbos did just that. But they still fell short.
It sure didn’t seem like the Jumbos were following his requests for smart football after the first play of the game, when a pass from junior quarterback Matt Johnson off of a reverse was picked off to start the afternoon. But after that early throwaway, the Jumbos settled down and cured their first quarter woes to keep the game close throughout.
Although they were in good position, a tie game in the fourth quarter quickly turned sour, and a final Bowdoin drive turned the matchup into Tufts’ third loss of the season, 17-10.
The Jumbos had held down the Polar Bear offense for 55 minutes, but there was nothing the defense could do to slow Bowdoin down at the end of the game. The Polar Bears got possession at their own 40-yard line and opened the drive up with 31 yards on three quick plays, including a 17-yard pass to sophomore tight end Matt Perlow down the middle and a 12-yard first down run by senior running back Zach Donnarumma.
After those quick gains, the Polar Bears pounded the ball with their rushing attack, slowly picking up two more first downs and punching the ball across the goal line with 2:36 to go on a run that put them ahead for good.
“We just needed a stop and we didn’t get it,” senior defensive back Sam Diss said. “There were a few times where we should’ve made a play on the ball carrier, but we let them squeak out for the first down. They were running the ball well, and we couldn’t come up with that third-down stop.”
Diss finished the day with a team-high 10 tackles to go along with an interception, but found himself questioning his success after another loss for the team.
“No matter how well you play, there’s always a point in the game where we need to make a stand,” Diss said. “We didn’t really come through with that this week, so it kind of washes the game right out the door.”
This was true on both sides of the ball, as the Jumbos struggled in crucial moments to make plays that could have turned the game in their favor. Senior quarterback John Dodds completed 21 passes, but the Jumbos accumulated only 124 passing yards, suggesting a somewhat lifeless downfield performance.
“I don’t think we made the plays,” Civetti said. “I don’t think we did a good job at the wide receiver position.”
Those outside threats have been a huge asset throughout the season for the Jumbos — last week, Dodds threw for 363 yards to eight different receivers.
But in a game where they weren’t playing from behind, those receivers just couldn’t find the pockets of space on the flanks that they’d become so accustomed to.
Junior Pat Nee led the receiving corps with six catches for 56 yards, but his play still was not enough to bolster an offense that received its first major contributions of the season from the running back position from freshman Justin Weaver.
“Justin came in and did a great job,” Civetti said. “He runs hard and works hard at it. His running ability is fantastic.”
Weaver racked up 66 yards on 18 carries to go along with five receptions for 25 yards and a touchdown in his first playing time wearing Tufts’ name across his jersey.
But unfortunately for him and the Jumbos, Weaver’s counterpart had a far more prolific outing in what was also his first playing time of the season.
Donnarumma picked up 137 yards on 32 carries for the Polar Bears and combined his performance with 73 yards on 17 carries from his backfield-mate, senior Greg Pierce, to gash the Jumbos’ defense.
Tufts has now faced three of the top five rushing offenses in the NESCAC and has contributed heavily to those successes with their ninth-ranked rushing defense.
“The defense struggled a bit in the run,” Civetti said. “Up front we’re so inexperienced and so young. We played a lot of guys that hadn’t played a lot of football in the past two weeks.”
Those inexperienced players got the Jumbos close to the finish line, but instead the Jumbos saw what was perhaps their best opportunity for a win in the next few weeks slip away.
“I thought we should’ve won the game,” Civetti said. “I thought we were the better team.”
After three games, the Jumbos stand at 0-3 and stare down the league-best Trinity Bantams at the end of this week, but Civetti remains encouraged by his team’s persistence and growth.
“I know we’re getting better, and I can see it,” Civetti said. “But sometimes we just need the ball to bounce our way. We’re not getting any of the breaks, and when we do get a little bit of a break, we’re not capitalizing.”