Jeffs blank Panthers, ride White Mules to the ground

Amherst slogged it out in the mud and rain against the Middlebury Panthers, pulling out a 15-0 win. Due to the weather, both teams had to rely on a ground attack. The Amherst offense showed its versatility in handing the ball off to a number of different running backs. Running back Ngai Otieno ’06 had 104 yards rushing including one stroll into the endzone in the fourth quarter-Amherst’s only touchdown of the game. Running back Dom Cama ’06 piled up 67 yards while wide receiver Mark Hannon ’07 and tailback Eric NeSmith ’09 got touches as well. But the main source of point production for the Amherst offense came from the kicking efforts of Justin Roemer ’06. Early in the first quarter, when the offense had rumbled down to the Middlebury 15 yard line, the team relied on Roemer to put them on the board with their first score. Late in the third quarter, Roemer was good for three again, putting Amherst up six to Middlebury’s zero.

In a game that was so dependent on the run, it seems fitting to acknowledge the big uglies upfront who paved the way for Amherst’s rushing attack. The play of offensive lineman Parnell Adam ’06, Ryan Smith ’07, Matt Mascioli ’07, Nathan Riccardi ’07, Gavin Weeks ’06 and Dan Guariglia ’08 has been consistent and effective all year in opening up holes and fissures for Amherst running backs to squeeze through.

On defense, Amherst held Middlebury to an embarrassing goose egg. The defensive line was particularly outstanding with Brendan McKee ’07, L.J. Spinnato ’06 and Dan Kovolisky ’06 combining for a total of 20 tackles, including four for a loss. The Middlebury offense only crossed the 50-yard line once during the game and racked up only 40 yards of rushing. Defensive backs Mike Salerno ’07 and Roemer each broke up two passes and senior Nick Zeiler and Rob Grammer ’08 helped to keep the airways impassable for the Panther offense.

Because of the slippery conditions, the ball was popping out of the hands of both teams’ running backs throughout the game, though, only Amherst capitalized on Middlebury’s four fumbles with one recovery by Spinnato. The Amherst defense also technically contributed some points to the effort. In a strategic move late in the fourth quarter to try and better the Panthers’ lot and field position, the Middlebury quarterback ran out of the endzone on an intentional safety. It was a move of last resort and desperation against a superior defense.

Surprisingly enough, the weather conditions for Amherst’s game against Colby were nearly the same as the week before. The Jeffs traveled to Waterville, Me., to take on the scary specter of an undefeated Colby team that made short work of Williams College the first week of the season and has continued to thrash opponents left and right ever since.

Colby came out strong, and an Amherst safety early in the game contributed to a 9-0 Colby lead going into the second half.

The Amherst offensive game plan was more balanced against Colby, with 276 yards rushing and 196 yards receiving. Despite the inclement weather, quarterback Nick Kehoe ’07 was flinging the ball in the air all day with poise and composure, completing nine of 20 pass attempts for 196 yards and two touchdown passes. On the other end of Kehoe’s passes were the quick legs and agile hands of receivers Mike Myers ’08, Justin Macione ’07, Cama and Hannon, who had 142 receiving yards on the day.

In the first and second quarters, the Amherst offense came within scoring range on two drives, progressing to the Colby 14- and 25-yard lines, but failed to come away with any points. Going into halftime the offense regrouped, and Mills emphasized the need to tinker with the game plan: “We had to throw ball to win � to loosen some things up.”

After an entire half of inept offense by the Amherst attack, the third quarter saw all guns blazing as Kehoe connected early to Hannon for a 78-yard touchdown strike that set the tone for the second half. Otieno, NeSmith and Cama combined for 200 yards of rushing on the day, adding points and balancing out the Jeff attack as Amherst scored 28 points in the second half to win 28-9. NeSmith earned NESCAC Rookie of the Week honors after rushing for 76 yards and a touchdown.

Colby was held to 227 yards of total offense during the game. Posting a career high of eight tackles was sophomore defensive back Chris Mottau who, along with inside line backer Greg Muecke ’07, had an interception. When the team needed big plays to stop the Mules’ offense from gaining momentum-or points-the defense came through. Linemen Kovolisky and McKee each had sacks as the defensive line was relentless in their pass rush and Colby quarterback John Smith was continually hurried and persistently rushed throughout the entire game.

The secondary, led by Zeiler, had a total of four deflections which contributed to the anemic 55 yards of receiving the Colby offense compiled. Colby had a difficult time sustaining long drives and was limited to a time of possession of 26 minutes. This was due to the ability of the Amherst defense to stymie long drives with tackles for loss and other key plays.

The linebacking corps of Jake Spadafora ’08, Roemer, Muecke and Kelvin Coker ’06 tallied 20 tackles during the game and were a big reason Colby’s long drives fell apart. As usual, the Amherst defense not only kept the game within striking distance for the offense, but also effectively shut down any Colby offensive success.

On Saturday Amherst faces Wesleyan College for the annual Homecoming game at Pratt Field. Though Wesleyan has failed to win a game on the season, Mills believes that makes them even more dangerous “Wesleyan arguably could be 4-0. They are very athletic on defense, and they throw the ball extremely well,” he said. Wesleyan lost in double overtime to Bates College last weekend, and will be hungry for a win.