Two weeks ago, against Bowdoin College, the Jeffs blew a 21-point lead late in the fourth quarter only to fight their way back to a 34-28 win in double overtime. The toughness and composure Amherst displayed during those overtime periods was also on display in its two most recent wins over Middlebury and Colby Colleges.
This past weekend, Amherst hosted the White Mules of Colby at Pratt Field. Colby entered the game with a 2-1 record, but despite fielding strong teams over the past several years, Colby has had a troubled history when facing Amherst. Entering Saturday’s game, Amherst held a 22-4-1 lead in the all-time series against its Waterville rivals, which dates back to 1903, and had won the last eight meetings between the two schools. The White Mules were unable to shake this misfortune on Saturday, as Colby dropped a 19-10 decision despite outplaying Amherst in the first half.
Colby opened up the scoring in the first quarter following a one-yard touchdown run by tailback Chris Bashaw. Amherst quickly tied up the score on the following possession thanks to Offensive Coordinator Don Faulstick, who smartly called a flea-flicker to take advantage of Colby’s determination to stop quad-captain Fletcher Ladd ’05E. The result of Faulstick’s call was a 54-yard touchdown connection between Marsh Moseley ’05 and quad-captain Jay Wagstaff ’05. This trick play was vital in giving life to a stagnant Amherst offense that struggled mightily to get first downs against a stifling Colby defense. However, Colby’s domination of the game on the field did not manifest itself on the scoreboard. The White Mules entered Jeff territory a couple of times during the second quarter, but the Amherst defense held firm each time, forcing a pair of field goal attempts, only one of which was converted.
Colby took a 10-7 lead into the half, but the complexion of the game would change dramatically when both teams came back on the field for the start of the third quarter. Less than two minutes into the second half, Wagstaff found the end zone again, this time on a 65-yard punt return.
Amherst padded its lead a few minutes later when Dan Kovolisky ’06 sacked Colby quarterback Justin Smith in the end zone for a safety. After a relatively mediocre performance in the first half, the Amherst defense put forth a spectacular effort in the second, holding Colby to just 34 yards of total offense and two first downs. Amherst followed up the safety with a critical field goal from David Bodner ’05 on the ensuing possession to make it a two-score game.
The Amherst offense played much better in the second half, but the improved play did not translate into more points as three Amherst drives in the second half were halted in the Colby red zone.
The White Mule defense deserves great credit for slowing down the potent Jeff attack on Saturday. Amherst came into the game averaging 495.3 yards per game in total offense and 37.3 points per game, but only managed 274 yards of total offense and 19 points in the win over Colby. Amherst relied on a stringent defense, spectacular special teams play and creative playcalling to secure a hard-fought win over Colby.
“We really suffocated them in the second half,” explained Head Coach E.J. Mills. “Colby is a tough, tough, physical team, but we also know that we still have to continue to get better.”
Senior running back Fletcher Ladd led the Jeffs on offense with 105 yards rushing on 25 carries, while senior linebacker Mike Salvatore led the defense by tallying 11 tackles.
On Oct. 9, Amherst traveled to Vermont to avenge last year’s heartbreaking 17-14 loss to Middlebury. This year, Amherst did indeed repay the favor to Middlebury by pulling out a 34-26 come-from-behind victory on the Panthers’ home turf. The story of the game was, without question, the extraordinary play of Ladd. Ladd opened the scoring on an 80-yard touchdown jaunt on the first play from scrimmage, ending the day with a career-best 284 yards rushing, just one yard short of the Amherst record held by Josh Mason ’96.
Ladd’s second touchdown of the day gave Amherst a 28-24 lead late in the fourth quarter. Mills decided to take a safety with eight seconds left in the game rather than risk a special teams mishap that would give Middlebury better field position. Amherst returned a Panther fumble on the ensuing kickoff to round out the scoring.
This Saturday, Amherst will kick off its Little Three slate with a visit to Middletown, Conn. to take on Wesleyan University. Wesleyan (2-2) is currently in the midst of a two-game losing streak, but has plenty of offensive firepower. The Jeffs should know better than to take the Cardinals lightly, since, in 2002, an underdog Wesleyan team surprised visiting Amherst with a 14-13 win. The game will start at noon and will be televised regionally by NESN.