Football shuts out Wesleyan in front of full-capacity Homecoming crowd, 23-0

The offense was firing on all cylinders for the Jeffs; in addition to Moseley’s solid performance, Okey Ugwonali ’02 rushed for 138 yards on 28 carries and Quad-captain Derrell Wright ’02 had 109 receiving yards on eight catches.

While the offense’s performance was a welcome improvement from the last couple of games, the Jeff defense continued its domination, recording its third shutout of the year: they have not allowed a touchdown all season. The Cardinals managed just 165 yards of total offense, including losing 10 yards in the third quarter, while the Jeff offense produced 413 yards. Amherst’s 5-0 mark puts them atop the NESCAC standings along with Williams.

As had been the case in Amherst’s two previous games, the Jeff offense played a very sluggish first quarter against Wesleyan. But several good punts by Geoff Bough ’03 and interceptions by Geoff DeWire ’02, Jay Hutchins ’02 and Brian Landolfi ’02 kept Wesleyan from capitalizing off of Amherst’s inability to move the ball early in the game.

Amherst mixed things up on offense in the second quarter by moving Moseley into a rotation at quarterback with starter Jeff Browne ’03. The move, which had been decided on before the game, paid dividends late in the second quarter, when Moseley found wide receiver J.P. Zito ’03 over the middle for a 32-yard gain to the Wesleyan 2. The completion, Moseley’s first at the college level, came on a critical third and 13. Ugwonali, who started the drive with a 24 yard run, found the endzone on a two-yard sweep on the ensuing play. David Bodner ’05 missed the extra point wide right, so Amherst was only able to take a 6-0 lead into the half.

Amherst played inspired football in the second half to seal their 10th consecutive victory dating back to last year. “We just came out in the second half with a mission to put the game away, and we accomplished that goal,” said Wright.

The Jeff defense limited the Cardinals to just 51 yards of total offense in the second half, while the offensive line overpowered the Wesleyan defense, opening up what had been a somewhat stagnant running attack. Led by Ugwonali and Fletcher Ladd ’04, Amherst got 159 of their 245 total rushing yards in the second half.

The success of the ground game created opportunities for Moseley, who took almost all of the snaps for Amherst during the second half and made the most of the opportunity by throwing two touchdown passes. Prior to Saturday, the Jeffs had been held without a touchdown pass for three weeks.

Moseley’s first touchdown pass in his young Amherst career came late in the third quarter, when he connected with a wide-open Quad-captain Matt Flavin ’02 for an 18-yard touchdown.

Early in the fourth quarter, Moseley, the co-NESCAC Rookie of the Week, improved on his Amherst debut with a dazzling 21-yard touch pass that found star playmaker Wright in the corner of the endzone.

Moseley’s two second-half touchdown tosses and a 30-yard field goal by Bodner early in the third quarter accounted for all of the scoring in the second half, putting the final score at 23-0.

With the reemergence of the Jeff offense, it would be easy to overlook the performance of the defense, which has played spectacularly all season. But the defense, like the offense, managed to put together their best game against their toughest opponent. The Jeffs shut out a Cardinal team that had averaged 27.5 points per game entering the contest. Amherst managed seven sacks and three turnovers in yet another dominating performance. Once again, the secondary, which was thought to be a potential liability for the Jeffs in the preseason, showed that they can hold their own with the best in the NESCAC. Paul Whiting ’04 led the team with 10 tackles.

But Head Coach E.J. Mills credited an unlikely source as being most responsible for his defense’s impressive effort against Wesleyan. “The defense was really great,” said Mills. “But the key to the shutout was the punting game. Bough continues to do a great job of pinning the opposition deep inside their own territory.”

Coach Mills was also extremely satisfied with how his team achieved the goals they had set for themselves to be successful against Wesleyan. On offense, the Jeffs managed to put together several sustained scoring drives, while controlling the clock with their dominant ground game. On defense, Amherst took the big plays away from Wesleyan just as they had hoped to. Wesleyan’s longest play from scrimmage was only a 19-yard pass play.

Despite Amherst’s all around dominating performance against Wesleyan, the team still has several questions surrounding it as it prepares to travel to Tufts to take on the 4-1 Jumbos, who are coming off a heartbreaking 21-17 loss to Williams.

The biggest question mark for the Jeffs is at the quarterback position, with the sudden emergence of Moseley. “Certainly Moseley will play next week, and I assume that Browne will play too. I expect we will stick with some kind of rotation, but it is still too early to tell,” Mills said.

Another concern for Mills and the team is that “The Big Game” on Nov. 10 may distract the team from its next two opponents, Tufts and Trinity, now that Amherst and Williams sit alone atop the NESCAC rankings. But with Tufts in second place at 4-1 and the Trinity matchup being the last Pratt Field game for the seniors, it is doubtful that any opponent will be overlooked. As Wright explained, “We’ve really just moved into the tough part of our schedule, so every game from here on out is like a Super Bowl for us.”