Football | Tufts works to stomp out complacency before Williams showdown
Battle of winless teams looms in Williamstown
Published: Friday, October 18, 2013
Updated: Friday, October 18, 2013 08:10
For any team near the bottom of the standings, an inevitable amount of “grading” occurs with the remaining games on the schedule, at least from outsiders. Every game counts the same, but clearly, matchups against fellow strugglers take on an added significance.
Prior to the start of the season, this Saturday’s road game with Williams would not have been one of those targeted games. But halfway through the season, the storied Ephs program has suffered just as badly as the Jumbos’ (0-4), sharing the bottom spot in the NESCAC with an equally poor record.
For a Williams team that won the NESCAC championship just three years ago, that’s quite a dropoff. But for Tufts, the Ephs’ precipitous decline has opened up yet another opportunity to break the 27-game losing streak that has cast its pall over the program for three years.
Head coach Jay Civetti, however, is taking nothing for granted heading into this weekend.
“They’re fantastic, they’ve got some really, really talented athletes,” Civetti said of the Ephs. “They’re a good team that’s played some really good teams, and I think they’re 0-4 for the first time since 1947. People can say, ‘Oh, they’re 0-4, you’ve got a great chance,’ but it’s still Williams College. I don’t think we’ve won there since 1980.”
To that end, Civetti has been putting the pressure on his players this week in practice to avoid complacency, and emphasized that every player’s job is on the line — an approach born more out of bad results than anything else.
“It can’t really get worse — we’ve had one good drive a game,” Civetti said, referring to the sputtering offense that has the lowest scoring average (10.5) in the conference. “It’s a formula, and we’re trying to find the way to win, trying to put the right guys in positions to be successful.”
In particular, Civetti did not explicitly say whether Jack Doll will be the starting quarterback on Saturday, after the junior was lifted in a three interception performance against Trinity. Freshman quarterback Liam O’Neil relieved Doll against Trinity, but despite Civetti’s coy demeanor, it appears as though Doll will at least be given the chance to start against Williams.
From the players’ perspective, the increased scrutiny can only push every individual to improve his play.
“Competition brings out the best in people,” senior tri-captain linebacker Tommy Meade said. “As a player, you compete with yourself and you compete with your teammates, and that’s what brings out your best and makes you keep improving.”
Williams’ team statistics are remarkably similar to those of Tufts. Like the Jumbos, the Ephs have struggled offensively (11.2 points per game), and they have posted middle-of-the-road marks in terms of yards allowed. Williams has also struggled to run the ball effectively, an offensive area that Tufts started to focus on more against Trinity last weekend.
“We’ve always known that we could run. It’s more of a gameplanning thing,” sophomore wide receiver Jack Cooleen said. “But it’s nice to know that we have it and we can rely on it if we need to.”
Beyond the X’s and O’s, both sides are anticipating a game that could very easily come down to a few critical plays. Tufts has already lost two of those types of games earlier in the year against Bowdoin and Bates. The Williams showdown represents another chance to finally get it right.
“The better team that shows up will win — not the better players, or the better program,” Civetti said. “When you have two 0-4 teams ... the one that plays together and isn’t pointing fingers or looking for excuses will be the one that’s victorious. That’s where not being complacent comes in — we try to draw as much strength as we can from the experiences that we’ve had. You can learn a lot from losing.”