Holding Our Ground

The Jeffs come into the game reeling from the first inconsistency on their schedule over the past two years: a loss.

Amherst ended up on the wrong side of a 28-13 comeback victory in Hartford last weekend, as Trinity snapped a 14-game winning streak that the Jeffs had started last season.

That loss to the Bantams should figure prominently in this weekend’s game, as it left Williams as the only undefeated team in the conference, at 7-0. An Amherst victory would secure at least a share of the NESCAC title. And on the heels of Amherst’s electrifying, NESCAC-clinching victory in Williamstown at the end of last season, a win would ensure a sour ending for the Ephs’ season at the hands of the Jeffs for the second time in as many seasons.

A plethora of other plotlines also surround the Biggest Little Game in America, as the game features the collision of two offensive juggernauts in the Jeffs and Ephs.

Signal-caller Alex Vetras ’11, whose 15 touchdowns on the season are one short of the school record, took the keys to the Amherst offense in his sophomore year, and, until the outing against Trinity, the final year of his joyride had been stuck in overdrive. He owns the school record for passing with 5,141 yards on his career, as he has established connections with an experienced receiving corps in seniors Andre Gary, Brian Murphy and junior Andrew Reed to average 237 yards per game through the air.

But for all the eye-popping statistics he has compiled this season, his failure to accumulate interceptions has been the most impressive.

The senior tri-captain has a ridiculous 15-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio, and had zipped 221 straight passes through defenses this season without a turnover, until late in the first quarter last weekend at Trinity.

Complementing the Amherst attack is junior tailback Eric Bunker, who has gashed opposing defenses this season for eight rushing touchdowns, while average 5.6 yards per carry. With a ground game that rumbles for over 186 yards per game on average, and two other running backs in senior tri-captain Femi Oyalowo and first-year Ryan Silva who slip past defenders for at least 4.5 yards per carry on average, the Jeffs’ offense is rife with the talent to snap, crackle and pop.

Conversely, defusing the Williams’ offensive threat won’t be easy, as the Purple Cows also boast a ruthlessly efficient passing attack and sizzling running game.

Ephs’ senior quarterback Pat Moffitt is the NESCAC in passing efficiency, as he has strong-armed opposing defenses by connecting on more than 65 percent of his passes, tossing for over 300 yards per game and delivering a conference-leading 21 touchdown strikes. Williams’ committee of running backs packs a punch as well, averaging an imposing 173 yards per game.

Defensively, the Jeffs have not been as dominant as they were a year ago, but a vaunted core of playmakers should help to compensate. Up front, Jeff Katz ’11 and Kevin Ferber ’12 have loomed large on quarterbacks’ minds all season. With a combined nine sacks and 97 tackles, they have the potential of running amok in the Williams backfield. And should they fail to contain the Williams offense, the Jeffs have defensive back Evan Rosenstein, the team leader with 56 tackles, roaming in the backfield and inside linebacker Matt Pieterse ’13 hovering in the middle.

Also noteworthy are the Jeffs’ special teams, which have excelled thus far. Kicker and punter Matt Rawson ’12, winner of the Fred Mitchell award as one of the top-10 kickers in Div. III, accounts for nearly 10 points every game in addition to regularly pinning opponents inside their own 20-yard lines.

The Jeffs’ defense and special teams should prove vital on Saturday, as a single possession could be the difference in the game. Look for both teams to rely heavily on their run games in the early going, in the hopes of limiting possession time for the opposing offense, and shortening a game that could come down to the wire.