Tufts football earned their first win this weekend, clobbering the Bates College Bobcats 35–7 in Lewiston, Maine. Both teams came into the weekend with 0–1 records, Tufts having lost to Trinity 26–23 and Bates having lost to Wesleyan 41–10. In their last seven meetings, Tufts has a 6–1 record against Bates. Their only loss came last season, when the team hadn’t gotten their footing yet.
As the score suggests, the game was very one-sided with the Jumbos offense consistently picking up yardage and the defense stifling the Bobcats’ offense.
On the first drive of the game, Bates stalled in three-and-out fashion and was forced to punt the ball away to Tufts. After a few plays, senior wide receiver Jackson Butler came in at quarterback and ran the ball to get inside the Bates 10-yard line. From there, sophomore quarterback Michael Berluti ran the ball into the end zone. The play was called back for a holding penalty against the Tufts offensive line. After getting to the five-yard line, Berluti found senior wide receiver Phil Lutz in the back middle of the end zone. First-year kicker Vaughn Seelicke kicked the extra point through the uprights to put Tufts up 7–0. Lutz continued off of his strong 192-yard performance last week.
At the very end of the quarter, Bates was able to get the ball away from the Jumbos. Butler made a first down catch but had the ball wrestled away from him by junior cornerback Johnny Walker for an interception. This was the only turnover of the game for the Jumbos.
In the second quarter, Bates’ senior wide receiver Mohamed Diawara couldn’t reel in a long pass from sophomore quarterback Liam Foley and the Bobcats were forced to punt the ball away. On the ensuing drive, Berluti found junior wide receiver Jaden Richardson on a 53-yard touchdown pass to make it a two-score game. Tufts got the ball back later in the quarter and mounted a nine-play, 69-yard drive that resulted in Berluti’s five-yard rushing touchdown to extend the lead to 21–0. With two minutes left in the half, the Jumbos forced yet another Bates punt. Lutz picked up a good chunk of yardage to get Tufts to within the Bates 30-yard line, and then a pass to sophomore wide receiver Cade Moore brought the Jumbos to the eight-yard line. The Jumbos ran an option play where Berluti ran the ball to the left side, and then he pitched it back to senior running back Tyler Johnson, who ran it in for the touchdown. Tufts led 28–0 at the half.
In the second half, the scoring slowed down for the Jumbos. Good defense on the punt return pinned Bates within their five-yard line and on the ensuing plays senior defensive back Jayshon Means intercepted the pass from sophomore quarterback Colton Bosselait and gave Tufts good field position for the next drive. With Butler in the Tufts quarterback position again, the Jumbos ran a designed run play for 41 yards and a touchdown for Butler made it 35–0. Late in the third quarter, junior quarterback Matt Crowley came into the game for Berluti with the score being so lopsided.
Bates had a chance to score early in the fourth quarter, but fumbled the ball on the three-yard line, returning possession to Tufts and preventing a score. However, the Bobcats finally broke through with less than three minutes left in the game, as Bosselait ran the ball into the end zone to make the final score 35–7.
Berluti went 18 for 21 on the day with 237 yards in the air, two passing touchdowns, one rushing touchdown and an interception. The versatile Butler had two rushes for 70 yards and a touchdown as well as two receptions. Lutz continues to lead the team in receptions and yards, and leads the NESCAC in receiving yards, with 271 total. Senior defensive back Cam O’Brien had 10 tackles on the day and was vital to holding the Bobcats to one score. Seelicke proved his worth by not missing a single kick in this game — a vast improvement from last season’s special teams woes.
The Jumbos lead the NESCAC in offensive play, with 58 total points scored across their two games. Berluti ranks second in the conference in passing yards based on a very solid start to the 2022 season.
Tufts will face Williams away from home next weekend. The Ephs are 1–1 as well, having played two close games against Colby and Bowdoin. The Jumbos will look to continue this momentum heading into the rest of the NESCAC season.