Football | Sloppy second half results in loss
Published: Monday, October 21, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 21, 2013 02:10
The football team squandered a halftime lead at Williams on Saturday and lost, 49-35. After falling behind 24-7 early, the Jumbos scored three touchdowns in five-plus minutes to close out the second quarter. But they fell flat in the second half, allowing 25 points and scoring just seven.
Tufts is now 0-5 and has lost 28 straight games.
For this season, things are looking bleak. The Jumbos will be heavy underdogs in their remaining three games against Amherst (4-1), Colby (2-3) and Middlebury (4-1). But for the days and years ahead, Saturday’s contest offered a thick silver lining: The Jumbos may have discovered their quarterback of the future in freshman Alex Snyder.
A mid-week MRI revealed that junior quarterback Jack Doll, who started the first four games, had torn his left labrum — his non-throwing shoulder — during the opening drive against Trinity last Saturday. The same injury to his right labrum kept Doll out almost all of last season.
Entering the week of practice, there was a three-way competition between Snyder, freshman Liam O’Neil and sophomore Drew Burnett for the position. On Friday, head coach Jay Civetti told Snyder — the fourth-string quarterback when the season began — that he would start against the Ephs, even though the Colorado Springs product had never taken a collegiate snap.
Despite his lack of experience, one thing was clear from watching the 6-foot-4 Snyder practice: He has a cannon for an arm.
“There was no question about his arm strength or his range — that’s how he played in high school,” Civetti said. “Alex, at the end of the day, was the guy we thought was the appropriate [choice], and he held true to it.”
Snyder exceeded expectations. He threw four touchdown passes and finished with 302 yards. He exuded poise and made smart decisions, bringing the Jumbos back from a 17-point deficit and keeping them in the game until the final minutes. He helped the team score 35 points, its highest total since Nov. 6, 2010.
“Everyone seemed to back me up,” Snyder said Sunday. “That’s a big thing as a freshman, to know that guys like [fifth-year receiver Nick] Kenyon and the other seniors have my back.
There were some [jitters] in warmups, and then once I got out there, there weren’t any at all.”
Snyder’s fourth touchdown pass, a 41-yard rainbow to junior Greg Lanzillo in stride along the right sideline, was the best throw by a Tufts quarterback in recent memory.
“I just threw it,” Snyder said matter-of-factly, drawing laughs from his teammates.
The play drew positive remarks from his teammates.
“He made a good read, we saw the coverage all day, and we took a shot at it,” Lanzillo added. “It was a great throw.”
Once again, though, the Jumbos failed to play a complete game. The offense stalled in the second half, and the Ephs drove 57 yards to take a 31-28 lead late in the third. Williams quickly got the ball back, and senior Joseph Mallock hit a 23-yard field goal to make it 34-28 early in the fourth.
The Jumbos were still very much alive, but the sequence that followed was a killer. First, the offense went three-and-out in just 19 seconds. Then, freshman punter Willie Holmquist shanked one, giving the Ephs the ball at Tufts’ 30-yard line. It took Williams just two plays to reach the end zone, and a two-point conversion increased the lead to 42-28 with 11:49 remaining.
On the Jumbos’ next possession, Holmquist attempted a fake punt run on 4th-and-17 and came up four yards shy of the marker. The Jumbos got the ball back three minutes later, and Snyder threw the 41-yard strike to Lanzillo to keep the team alive. But the defense could not come up with the stop it desperately needed, and the Ephs scored a touchdown to put the game away.
“We had all the momentum going into [halftime],” Kenyon, who had four catches for 69 yards, said. “Through our own mistakes, we let the momentum shift.”
Snyder finished 22-of-46 with four touchdowns and a pick. He was sacked eight times, including four times by Williams sophomore James Howe.
“The clock in your head is an area that most freshman quarterbacks need time to develop,” Civetti said. “Those eight sacks probably meant he held onto the ball and didn’t try to force something that he shouldn’t have.”
Lanzillo finished with a game-high 102 yards receiving and two touchdowns.
For Williams, which earned its first win of the year, the hero was quarterback Adam Marske. The senior finished with 342 yards passing and two touchdowns, despite throwing two interceptions into the hands of sophomores Junior Arroyo and Matt McCormack.
Marske and his receivers put on an offensive show on Saturday.
“[Williams] might be the best team we’ve played all season,” Civetti said. “That’s the best core of skill players I’ve seen in this league.”
The Jumbos scored plenty of points and forced three turnovers, but sloppy special teams and lackluster defense opened the door for the Ephs.