The Tufts Jumbos dominated from start to finish on senior day, trouncing the Middlebury Panthers 65–34 in emphatic fashion. In an incredible day, school records were shattered, and the finishing touches were put on a very successful season for Tufts. The Panthers came into the game with a record of 7–1, having only lost to the No. 1 Trinity Bantams. The Jumbos knew they would have a tough task ahead of them if they were going to pull off a win in the final game of the season.
“Our decision making was a little bit more aggressive. You know, the last game there's literally you know, there's no tomorrow, there's no next week, so we were just gonna go and be as aggressive as we can and try to score early,” sophomore quarterback Michael Berluti said.
One of the goals for the Jumbos throughout the season was to start games fast offensively. They certainly accomplished that in this game. After a third down sack by graduate student linebacker Matty Drouillard prevented an extended Middlebury drive, Berluti hit his favorite target, senior wide receiver Phil Lutz, for a 63 yard touchdown to make it 7–0 Tufts.
The defensive line for Tufts put consistent pressure on Middlebury quarterback Cole Kennon, to force poor passes and a punt from the Middlebury offense. Once again, the Jumbos wasted no time scoring as Berluti hit Lutz once again on the third play of the drive for a 44 yard touchdown to double the Tufts lead.
On Middlebury’s turn on offense, senior defensive lineman Michael Butler sacked Kennon on third down to force another Middlebury punt. The Jumbos drove down the field once more on good rushes by senior running back Tyler Johnson but were forced to punt as they stalled just out of field goal range. Tufts quickly got the ball back as Kennon’s first pass of the Panthers’ drive was intercepted by junior defensive back Jeremy Zuniga. Berluti was able to complete his pass to senior wide receiver Jackson Butler for a touchdown at the end of the first quarter to make the score a convincing 21–0 Tufts.
Middlebury was finally able to get some success offensively at the start of the second quarter as they drove 75 yards down the field on 10 plays, capping it off with a touchdown to make the score 21–7. On the other side, the offense for Tufts finally stalled as Berluti’s third down pass fell incomplete for sophomore wide receiver Cade Moore. The defense quickly got the ball back and the Jumbos capitalized. Johnson set up the offense with good field position on a 34 yard rush. Berluti went right back to Lutz for a touchdown to make the score 28–7.
The defense for Tufts continued to hold strong on the next Middlebury drive, but a pass interference penalty gave Middlebury excellent field position, and they took advantage, scoring a touchdown to make it 28–13. The Panthers’ defense forced a punt from the Jumbos and Kennon connected for a touchdown to make it a one possession game at a score of 28–20. They left Tufts with the ball and 1:22 left on the clock in the first half. Three huge rushes by Berluti took the offense all the way down the field. Lutz was unstoppable once again as he caught his fourth touchdown of the game, making it 35–20 going into halftime.
The Jumbos didn’t miss a step coming out of the locker room after halftime, scoring from the second play of the drive. Lutz snatched the ball and ran 70 yards for the score, extending the Tufts lead to 42–20. The defense then stepped up in a big way, as Drouillard got to the quarterback on the first offensive Middlebury play and stripped the ball. He picked up the fumble and ran it into the end zone, making it 48–20. Another sack by junior linebacker EJ Comerford stopped the Middlebury drive once more.
On the ensuing Jumbos drive, they relied heavily on Johnson, feeding him the ball on almost every play. The Panthers’ defense didn’t have a response and the Jumbos offense drove all the way down the field. The drive was capped off once more with a touchdown pass to Lutz. It was his sixth touchdown of the game, the most in a game from any player at any level of college football this season. Middlebury decreased the Tufts lead a little bit after blocking a punt and running it into the end zone to make the score 55–34.
In the fourth quarter, Berluti started to rely on his legs more than his arm as a 38-yard rush set up first year kicker Vaughn Seelicke for a 30-yard field goal, increasing the lead to 24 points. Graduate student defensive back Johnathan Oneal intercepted Kennon’s pass on the next play to give Tufts the ball back. Berluti ripped off a 50 yard touchdown rush to put the finishing touches on a dominant performance. The final score was 65–34 Tufts.
Berluti accounted for 475 yards of total offense and eight touchdowns. He threw for seven and ran for one. He broke the school record for passing yards in a season and led the conference with 2,752. Lutz also broke his own school record for receiving yards with 1,226. He caught the ball 10 times for a total of 237 yards and six touchdowns on the day. Johnson had a great day in the senior game, picking up 167 yards to add to his conference leading total of 800 yards. Seelicke also set a new school record, successfully making the most points after touchdowns in a season in Tufts history.
The Jumbos finish the season at a record of 6–3 and third in the conference. It is the most successful season they have had since 2018, and the statement win will be imperative for the seasons ahead.
“The seniors, they did such an amazing job, being inclusive and you know, really building a special team. ... We knew going into this game we had to get them a win on their last game,” Berluti said.