Last weekend’s matchup between Amherst and Trinity, winners of the last seven NESCAC conference crowns proved to be every bit as good as advertised.
The undefeated Amherst Mammoths faced off against reigning NESCAC champions Trinity on Saturday in Hartford, Connecticut before a raucous crowd of 3,000.
While the Mammoths battled the entire game, their usually stingy run defense cracked when it was needed most, allowing Trinity to walk away with a 27-16 win and a clear path to the NESCAC title, although Amherst may earn a share.
The Bantams received the opening kickoff but the stout Amherst defense quickly stopped the hosts, who went three-and-out. After a short punt, the Mammoths started their drive with good field position at their own 41-yard line.
The Amherst offense started off red-hot, moving the ball into the Trinity red zone thanks to 26 rushing yards and 18 receiving yards from wide receiver Bo Berluti ’19.
The Mammoths, however, were unable to punch the ball into the end zone and instead sent out senior kicker Andrew Ferrero to try a 34-yard field goal.
The Bantams managed to block Ferrero’s kick, and the game remained in a scoreless deadlock. After exchanging punts, Trinity finally got on the board thanks to a 16-yard touchdown pass by quarterback Seamus Lambert that put the Bantams up 7-0.
Amherst responded with one of its best drives of the season, using a steady diet of running back Jack Hickey ’19 on the ground and quarterback Ollie Eberth ’20 through the air to go 80 yards in 11 plays. Eberth punctuated the drive by tossing a touchdown from five yards out to junior wideout James O’Regan, knotting the score at seven apiece.
Another stop by the Mammoths’ defense gave the ball back to the Amherst offense with about nine minutes remaining in the first half.
Nine plays and 83 yards later, Hickey found the end zone on a three-yard rush to give the Mammoths their first lead of the game at 13-7 after Ferrero’s extra point attempt was blocked.
Lambert and the Bantams responded quickly, as they rapidly advanced down the field thanks to a dominant aerial attack, punctuating the drive with a Max Chipouras touchdown rush from three yards out. The Mammoths did block the extra point to keep the score tied at 13.
Eberth returned to the field, ready to run the two-minute offense to try to give Amherst a lead headed into the half. While the Mammoths were able to cross midfield into Bantam territory, Eberth was picked off for the first time all season, setting Trinity up with good field position with less than two minutes remaining.
The Amherst defense and special teams were up to the task, however, as the Mammoths kept the home team out of the end zone and managed to block a 28-yard field goal attempt right before the end of the half to keep the score tied at 13.
The Mammoths received the second half kickoff and showed some life on offense, marching down the field until they were faced with a 4th-and-four at the Trinity 30-yard line.
Amherst head coach E.J. Mills elected to keep the offense on the field, but Eberth’s pass fell incomplete and the Mammoths turned the ball over on downs.
Lambert took advantage of the missed opportunity and put the Bantams up 20-13 on his second touchdown pass of the day, a 33-yard strike that gave Trinity their first lead since the first quarter.
After an Amherst punt, Lambert led the Bantams back into the red zone, but Avery Saffold ’20 came up clutch with an interception to end the threat.
After the pick, Amherst’s offense took to the field once again and picked up right where it left off, driving into the Trinity red zone with ease.
The Bantams came up with a big stop on third down, though, and forced a 33-yard field goal from Ferrero that made the score 20-16 in the host’s favor with just 7:45 remaining.
After the teams traded punts, Trinity converted a few first downs before Chipouras put the game on ice with a 70-yard touchdown run to extend the Bantam lead to 27-16 with under three minutes remaining. Eberth lost the ball on a strip sack on the ensuing possession, enabling Trinity to kill the rest of the clock and move into a tie for first place in the NESCAC.
Overall, the Bantams rushed for 227 yards on the ground, including 203 yards from Chipouras, against an Amherst run defense that hadn’t allowed more than 116 yards in a single game all season.
While the Mammoths were able to get to Lambert for four sacks, including 1.5 each for Andrew Yamin ’19 and Alex Katchadurian ’20, the visitors weren’t able to come up with the big stop late in the game when it mattered most. The offense was inconsistent, with Eberth being held below a 50 percent completion percentage and Hickey averaging under four yards per carry. The biggest contributor on offense was Berluti, who totaled 165 all-purpose yards on offense, including 142 receiving yards.
Amherst will close its season at home on Saturday, Nov. 10 at noon to face off against rival Williams in the Biggest Little Game in America.
The Mammoths’ record now sits at 7-1, tied for first in the NESCAC standings, but Amherst needs a win over the Ephs coupled with a Trinity loss to Wesleyan next weekend to clinch a share of the title.