Homecoming is a special time here at Amherst College. For a short, 48-hour stretch, every student’s stress, concerns and responsibilities get put on the back burner to celebrate in purple and white. Graduates, both recent and distant, flock back to their stomping grounds to soak up some nostalgia.
At the centerpiece of this joyous celebration of all things Amherst, is, of course, the football game. This past weekend, the 4-2 Mammoths hosted the 5-1 Wesleyan Cardinals for a clash of Little Three rivals. Homecoming football games always seem to have an extra sense of energy in the air that’s palpable in the stands and on the field, and this match was certainly no exception. Unfortunately, the Mammoths fell up short in double overtime as Wesleyan kicked a game-winning field goal to make the final score 31-28.
This game had a theme of Amherst coming out hot early, then fading as the half ended. Amherst quarterback Ollie Eberth ’20 looked dialed in on the Mammoths’ first possession, putting together an eight-play, 75-yard drive culminating in a one-yard pass to wide receiver Daniel Dolan ’22. After the Mammoths’ defense forced a punt, Eberth locked in again, this time taking care of things on his own with a 25-yard touchdown scramble. Eberth, showing flashes of a quarterback that should be playing somewhere way more competitive than NESCAC football, was quickly taken back to reality when the team’s next drive was solely made up of a sack, incompletion and interception. The pick by the Cardinals was returned for 22 yards, setting up a 36-yard dash to the end zone for Wesleyan in the last minute of the first quarter.
Amherst’s skid continued into the second quarter, as the offense’s 11-play, 45-yard dink-and-dunk drive stalled at midfield, forcing a punt for touchback. Constant pressure by the Mammoths kept the Cardinals at bay, but Wesleyan would soon get the ball back on Eberth’s second of three interceptions. Wesleyan would capitalize on the turnover, bringing it all the way down to the Amherst one-yard line before punching it in and taking a 21-14 lead. This would mark the second straight quarter with a Wesleyan touchdown in the last 60 seconds.
The fervor of fans at halftime, coupled by whatever pep talk head coach EJ Mills delivered at halftime, seemingly snapped the Mammoths out of whatever funk they had fallen into. Starting the third quarter with the ball, Amherst relied heavily on the run to eat up nearly eight minutes of clock en route to a game-tying touchdown. The defense would rise to the occasion once again, forcing a three-and-out to get the ball back in the offense’s hands. Junior tailback Kellen Field ’21 found daylight on a 28-yard run to set Amherst up inside the 10-yard line. It was Eberth again, using his legs to pull Amherst out front, 28-21.
As soon as the momentum swung their way, it was just as soon be taken away. After Amherst and Wesleyan traded punts, the Cardinals once again struck deep, scoring on a 62-yard pass to tie things up once more. With Amherst failing to cross midfield on three straight drives, Wesleyan was set to win the game on a chip shot field goal in the closing seconds. Blaine Fox ’20 was not ready to head home yet, rushing through the middle to block the Wesleyan field goal, forcing overtime.
The Amherst defense stayed on the field to start overtime, and again they held their ground on the field goal block, forcing Wesleyan kicker Mason Von Jess to miss his second straight kick, both from inside 25 yards. With their game on the line, Amherst put together a puzzling drive. The Mammoths rushed five plays in a row. Despite gaining positive yards on every rush, Amherst decided to kick a field goal on third down. The ball hit the same goalpost Von Jess had struck the drive prior.
Amherst then continued to make questionable plays on the next drive. Eberth, who hadn’t thrown a pass since early in the fourth quarter, took a shot for the end zone only to have it fall in the hands of a Wesleyan defensive back. The Cardinals would finally solve their kicking woes, sending the ball through the uprights to close the game at 31-28.
The Wesleyan Cardinals advance to a 6-1 record to maintain their second-place position in the NESCAC standings, tied with Williams. The Mammoths fall to 4-3 in a three-way tie for fourth with Hamilton and Trinity.
With any and all hopes for a NESCAC championship dashed, the most Amherst can hope to do at this rate is play spoiler against a hopeful Williams team in two weeks’ time. Make sure to come out this Saturday, when the Mammoths will take on Trinity at home on senior day.