Heartbreaker: Last-minute pick derails Tufts comeback
Published: Monday, October 7, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 7, 2013 01:10
Maybe, in an alternate universe, Jack Doll threw the ball away on 1st-and-goal. Maybe the junior held onto it and went down near the line of scrimmage. Maybe, just maybe, he evaded the pass rush, found an open man and ended the longest losing streak in college football.
Any of those scenarios would make more sense than what really happened Saturday at Zimman Field.
Down 13-10 with under a minute remaining, Tufts was on Bowdoin’s 2-yard line. Doll floated a pass toward the goal line, intended for classmate Greg Lanzillo. The pass was intercepted. Bowdoin senior Tim Wickstrom caught the ball and put a dagger through the Jumbos’ hearts.
Over the last 26 games, Tufts football has experienced its share of anguish, including 10 losses by eight points or fewer. And yet, as they marched down the field in the final minutes on Saturday, the Jumbos had 1,200 fans convinced. After three years of frustration, they were finally going to exorcise their demons.
Then Wickstrom came down with the ball and the Polar Bears took a knee to run out the clock: Bowdoin 13, Tufts 10. That’s the reality the Jumbos must live with.
“What should have happened is we should have won the game,” head coach Jay Civetti said Sunday. “We should have made the play.”
On the previous possession, Tufts’ defense had bent but did not break. Civetti used all three of his timeouts, leaving 2:37 to go when the Jumbos took over on downs at their own 29. From there, they marched to the goal line.
“Jack [Doll] did his job,” Civetti said. “Jack’s supposed to complete the passes and get us into a position to score. He did his job in terms of getting us there. ... We just didn’t finish.”
The game was a defensive battle from the start. Tufts pulled ahead, 3-0, in the second quarter when freshman Willie Holmquist converted his first career field goal, a 30-yarder. But Bowdoin scored the next 13 points.
First, sophomore Andrew Murowchick hit a 30-yard field goal. Then, the Polar Bears drove 73 yards and scored a touchdown with 13 seconds left in the opening half. Senior Zach Donnarumma, who rushed 29 times for 136 yards, capped it with a 1-yard run. Later, in the third quarter, Murowchick hit from 29 yards to make the score 13-3.
The Polar Bears got away with some sloppy play, including seven penalties for 53 yards, five fumbles — three on bad snaps and one on a dropped punt — and an interception. But for much of the game, the Jumbos failed to take advantage.
“Our identity needs to be more consistently there,” Civetti said. “That’s probably the best way I could say it. We can’t just wake up when the game’s on the line.”
After three straight drives of seven yards or fewer to close out the third quarter, Tufts’ offense finally began to click early in the fourth. Starting at his team’s own 31, Doll engineered a 69-yard touchdown drive, highlighted by a 30-yard strike under pressure to freshman Mike Rando at Bowdoin’s 6-yard line.
On 4th-and-goal inside the 1, Doll handed off to freshman Chance Brady, who slipped through the line for his first collegiate touchdown. Holmquist’s extra point made it 13-10 with 11:35 left.
Bowdoin and Tufts traded fruitless possessions before the Polar Bears got the ball at their own 20 with eight minutes to play. That’s when Donnarumma, sophomore running back Trey Brown and junior quarterback Mac Caputi went to work. They picked up four first downs, eating up five minutes in the process.
At the 2:53 mark, the Jumbos took down Brown in the backfield at the Tufts 30, at which point Civetti called his first timeout. Then, junior James Brao sacked Caputi for a loss of five, and Civetti stopped the clock again. On 3rd-and-16, Donnarumma picked up six yards; Civetti called his final timeout.