Football | Homecoming loss leaves more questions than answers
Published: Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 15, 2013 08:10
The Jumbos have held a lead in all four of their games. They have scored first three times. They are 0-4.
Tufts’ opponents have made the plays that count. Saturday’s homecoming contest against Trinity, the top-ranked team in New England, was a case in point: The Bantams, after a sluggish start, made one big play after the next until the game spiraled out of control.
First, Tufts forced a three-and-out and drove 99 yards to take a 7-0 lead. But Trinity scored the next 43 points to win 43-7, a turnaround reminiscent of Wesleyan’s 52-point barrage in the season opener.
After the Jumbos pulled ahead, Trinity sophomore Ian Dugger returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards to tie the game. Then came another special teams lapse, as the Bantams recovered their own kickoff at Tufts’ 30-yard-line.
On its next possession, Trinity drove 55 yards to make it 14-7. Tufts responded by moving the ball to the goal line, but Trinity denied diving freshman Chance Brady on 4th-and-1.
It was a golden chance to tie the game. The Jumbos would not get another.
Junior Jack Doll attempted a screen pass on the next drive; senior defensive lineman Michael Weatherby tipped it, caught it and rumbled 30 yards to the end zone. Trinity led 21-7.
After 19 minutes of play, the Bantams had scored a special teams touchdown, an offensive touchdown and a defensive touchdown. Freshman Ben Rosenblatt followed with two short field goals, the latter coming late in the half after the second of Doll’s three picks, and Trinity entered the locker room leading 27-7.
The Jumbos had more total yards of offense than the Bantams at halftime, including 106 yards rushing and a touchdown from junior Zack Trause. But the scoreboard indicated a blowout.
“We felt like we were the better team in the first half, but we made some mistakes,” Trause said. “We all knew that if we just played our brand of football, we could have closed the gap. But we didn’t come out as strong in the second half, and the score showed.”
In the third quarter, Trinity returned Doll’s third interception for a touchdown, effectively putting the game out of reach.
“You can’t expect to win games that way,” head coach Jay Civetti said. “When [you make two mistakes] on special teams and you throw three interceptions, two of them for touchdowns — regardless of how well the defense played, it doesn’t matter at that point.”
For a team that has now lost 27 straight, turnovers and missed opportunities told the story. Civetti said he expects better.
“We’re evaluating everybody’s job on this team right now,” he said. “We’ve got to find guys who are in positions to help us be successful.”
With Tufts trailing 34-7, freshman Liam O’Neil replaced Doll for the final five possessions and completed four of eight attempts. According to Civetti, Doll knew coming in that if he did not protect the ball, he would not stay on the field.
“I told him, ‘You’re starting the game, but if I feel like you’re putting things in a place where you’re not doing your job, I’m going to find somebody who will do what we’re asking of them,’” Civetti said.
“There’s a handful of positions where I could say that,” he added.
The typically pass-heavy Jumbos took to the ground Saturday, racking up 251 yards rushing, including career highs of 114 from Trause and 78 from senior Jon Sobo. They finished with 69 yards passing.
The 99-yard drive to open the game was masterful; the 64-yard drive that followed and brought Tufts to the goal line was strong, but not quite good enough, and the remainder of the Jumbos’ drives were disappointing. On seven possessions, they traveled 10 yards or fewer.
Meanwhile, Trinity extended its winning streak to 13 overall and six against Tufts. Senior running back Evan Bunker was without his speedier teammate, banged-up classmate Ben Crick, but he still clawed his way to 104 yards on 31 carries. At quarterback, the Bantams stuck with the duo of sophomore Henry Foye and freshman Sonny Puzzo, who each attempted 16 passes.
With the season halfway gone, the Jumbos have yet to play 60 straight minutes of winning football.
“We haven’t had that complete game yet on both sides of the ball and on special teams,” Trause said. “We have the guys to do it. We just have to execute.”
Tufts will visit winless Williams on Saturday.