Football’s Defense Proves Dominant in Win Over Little Three Rival Wesleyan
Going into the season, Amherst was well aware that the team’s success would be decided by the last four games on the schedule.
On Saturday, the Mammoths took their first major step towards a NESCAC title by knocking off Wesleyan in Middletown, Connecticut to remain undefeated and stay atop the standings.
The Amherst offense started off slowly, only recording one first down on its first possession and punting the ball away after only four plays.
However, Henry Atkeson ’20 launched a 49-yard punt to down the Cardinals at their own 14 yard line.
The Amherst defense capitalized on the excellent kick, with Andrew Sommer ’19 sacking Wesleyan quarterback Mark Piccirillo in the endzone for a safety to put Amherst up 2-0.
On the ensuing possession, junior quarterback Ollie Eberth came up clutch twice on third down, completing passes to Bo Berluti ’19 and James O’Regan ’20 to keep Amherst’s drive alive.
The eight-play drive culminated in a 15-yard run by Biafra Okoronkwo ’20 to extend the Amherst lead to 9-0 midway through the first quarter.
The teams would trade field goals, including a 41-yard kick from senior Andrew Ferrero, before the Mammoth’s defense was able to stop the Cardinals on a third-and-1, forcing the hosts to punt. Starting at his own 25-yard line, Eberth methodically marched Amherst down the field, highlighted by a 45-yard pass to O’Regan.
Okoronkwo capped the possession off with a seven-yard run, his second touchdown of the day, to allow Amherst to enter the locker room up 19-3.
Neither team got much going on offense to start the second half, with several punts exchanged and the Mammoths unable to make use of an interception by senior Nate Tyrell.
When faced with a fourth-and-8 at the Wesleyan 30-yard line, head coach E.J. Mills rolled the dice and decided to keep the ball in the hands of his quarterback.
Eberth rewarded that trust by tossing his first and only touchdown of the afternoon, a 30-yard strike to O’Regan to increase the lead to 26-3.
Amherst wasn’t done yet, as it added one final score early in the fourth quarter on sophomore Eric Jung’s first career touchdown run. The 33-3 score would hold up and Amherst clinched a crucial road victory.
Eberth was excellent on the day, going 14-24 with 203 passing yards, 59 rushing yards and a passing touchdown.
His favorite target O’Regan finished with seven catches for 134 yards and a touchdown, while Okoronkwo made the most of his 18 carries, totaling 119 yards and two scores.
The Amherst defense was stellar on Saturday, only allowing 101 total yards of offense to a team that came into the game averaging over 350 per game.
The Mammoths were in the backfield all day, recording six sacks including 1.5 by senior John Callahan. This was the kind of defensive performance that every team in the NESCAC was wary of prior to the season.
With just three games remaining on the schedule, every game is of the utmost importance for Amherst.
First up for the Mammoths will be Tufts, which currently boasts a record of 5-1 and sits just one game back of Amherst.
The Mammoths will host the Jumbos next Saturday, Oct. 27 at 1 p.m. in a contest which doubles as Amherst’s Family Weekend.