Tufts football’s offense exploded in a bounceback 49–13 win against the Hamilton Continentals on Saturday. In their third-most productive offensive performance in school history with 606 total yards, sophomore quarterback Michael Berluti led the Jumbos to a dominant performance, taking the lead and never wavering throughout the game. Every facet of the offense was clicking, and their play was complemented by a strong defensive front to get back in the win column.
The Hamilton Continentals are having a less successful season, sitting at 2–4 coming into the game. They have lost five out of their last six games against the Jumbos.
In the first quarter, the Jumbos started off strong, which is something they have said to be a goal throughout the season.
“I think we were a little bit more focused, and we were playing with more intensity. So I think our mindset was definitely a little bit more aggressive and a little bit more intense than it was last week,” Berluti said.
They began with a 10-play 95-yard drive, and senior running back Tyler Johnson finished it off with a 19-yard touchdown to put the Jumbos on the board 7–0. On Hamilton’s opening possession, the team only managed to complete one pass and were forced to punt the ball back to Tufts. Good short passes by Berluti and small yardage pickups from Johnson in addition to a face mask penalty against the Continentals put the Jumbos in good field position. Berluti hit his top receiver, senior Phil Lutz, in the back of the end zone with a perfectly placed pass to put the Jumbos up by two scores. Hamilton was held to a three and out and punted once more. As the Jumbos were driving again, Berluti ripped off a 24-yard run but on the following play fumbled the ball, and Hamilton recovered with their first defensive stop of the game.
Their improved play was short-lived however as Hamilton quarterback Matt Banbury threw an interception to start the second quarter. Junior defensive back Kristian Rosario intercepted the ball on the Tufts 11-yard line to prevent Hamilton from scoring. A combination of good runs from Johnson and passes from Berluti to Lutz took Tufts all the way down the field. Johnson ran the ball in from the 15-yard line for his second touchdown of the day and extended the Tufts lead to 21–0. On their next drive, the Continentals finally got some offensive success on a 43-yard pass to take them into Tufts territory. Banbury ran it into the end zone from the four-yard line to cut into the Jumbos’ lead 21–7. The Hamilton defense got a stop on the following Tufts drive to gain some momentum. Once they got the ball back, however, sophomore defensive back Louis Timmins snatched his conference-leading fourth interception of the season. The pick completely shifted the momentum of the game, and on the second play of the ensuing drive, Berluti hit junior wide receiver Jaden Richardson for a 70-yard touchdown with less than a minute to play in the half. The Jumbos’ lead at halftime was 28–7.
“Everybody knows their role and understands and trusts that the guy next to them will do their job,” Richardson wrote in a message to the Daily.
As the second half began, Hamilton attempted to get off on a better foot but Banbury threw yet another interception, this one picked off by junior defensive back Victor Garza. The Continentals’ defense was able to get a stop but couldn’t muster any offense as the Jumbos’ defense also held strong. Two long passes to Richardson and Lutz got Tufts down the field and into Hamilton territory. Berluti then hit Lutz on a 41-yard touchdown pass to make it 35–7 Tufts. On the following Hamilton drive, quick passes in combination with short rushes took them all the way to the Tufts 30-yard line. They opted to go for it on fourth-and-4, but Banbury was sacked by junior defensive back Jeremy Zuniga and senior defensive lineman Dom Haley. The following possession, a good 16-yard pass to Richardson set up a 51-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Cade Moore. It was Berluti’s fourth touchdown pass of the day in what was a dominating performance by the second-year quarterback.
In the fourth quarter, Hamilton was able to drive down the field with a 29-yard pass followed by a 25-yard run. Hamilton’s Leo Gerst ran the ball into the endzone for the Continentals’ second score of the day. The extra point attempt was blocked by junior defensive lineman Marshall Wiese, however, and the score stayed 42–13. The second team then came in for Tufts, as junior quarterback Matt Crowley and sophomore quarterback Luke Leongas executed the final drive. In combination with sophomore running back Joey Dellumo, the Tufts offense marched down the field once more while killing time on the clock. Dellumo ran the ball in from the one-yard line to finish off the scoring for the day and end the game with a score of 49–13.
The offensive statistics emulate the pure dominance displayed on Zimman Field. Berluti went 20 for 26 with 349 passing yards and four touchdowns. He continues to lead the conference in passing yards and touchdowns. Johnson had an amazing day, rushing 22 times for 148 yards and two touchdowns. Lutz continued his dominance of the conference, tacking on 117 yards to his NESCAC-leading total of 868 yards. Richardson continued to demonstrate that he is a big play threat, catching the ball eight times for 151 yards and scoring his seventh touchdown of the season. He sits fourth in the conference.
This win was crucial for the Jumbos, as it improves their record to 4–3 overall, and puts them at No. 5 in the conference. They will travel to Colby College next Saturday to take on the Mules, who are also 4–3.
“Every game is a big game but certainly the last two. We want to finish the year strong. So we’re definitely gonna be excited, and we’re amped up for it. We want to send the seniors out on a good note,” Berluti said.