SOMERVILLE, Mass. – The Mammoths controlled the pace of play and found the end zone four times in a dominant first half and John Ballard '20 secured a decisive interception with 1:11 remaining on the clock, as the Amherst College football team led from start to finish to earn a 31-26 victory over Tufts University Saturday afternoon at Ellis Oval's Zimman Field to remain in the thick of the NESCAC Championship race.
With the win, Amherst improves to 6-1 on the season, while Tufts falls to 4-3 overall. The Mammoths return to action on Saturday, Nov. 4 when they take on Trinity (7-0) at Pratt Field at Lehrman Stadium in their 2017 home finale. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m.
Coming out strong, the Mammoths found the end zone twice and held the Jumbos scoreless in the first quarter to jump out to a 14-0 lead.
Setting up the Amherst offense with great field position, Matt Durborow '21 registered his first collegiate interception on the Jumbos first pass attempt of the contest to give the Mammoths a short field with 13:44 on the clock in the opening quarter. Stringing together five consecutive plays of five or more yards to get Amherst into the red zone, Ollie Eberth '20 capped off the 41 yard drive, bulldozing into the end zone on a quarterback sneak to give the Mammoths a 7-0 edge.
Continuing their early dominance, the Amherst defense forced back-to-back Jumbo three-and-outs, before the Mammoths tallied their second rushing TD of the game to double their lead to 14-0. A 33 yard catch by Bo Berluti '19 highlighted Amherst's 75 yard march downfield, as Eberth went on to fake the handoff, roll to his right and go untouched to the house for a 14 yard rushing touchdown with 13 seconds remaining in the quarter.
Responding immediately, the Jumbos got on the board 52 seconds into the second stanza following two short gains. Securing the handoff from Ryan McDonald at his own 38 yard line, Andrew Sanders found space up the middle to log the 62 yard touchdown.
With 4:25 remaining in the half, Jack Hickey '19 recorded the Mammoths' third rushing TD of the day following a 36 yard completion from Eberth to Craig Carmilani '18 to move Amherst to the Tufts four yard line. Showing impressive patience, Hickey stalled behind the line of scrimmage and drove through the gap created by the Amherst offensive linemen to put the Mammoths ahead 21-7 behind the four yard rush.
Finding their offensive rhythm, the Jumbos returned the favor on their next possession, with McDonald teaming up with Jack Dolan and Dan de Leon for 24 and 19 yard gains, respectively, to quickly move Tufts to the Amherst 17 yard line. Tufts made it 21-13 two plays later, with Dolan hauling in a 17 yard TD pass to add six points to the board before the Mammoth defense held strong on a two-point conversion attempt by Bryce Adam.
Taking charge in a two minute drill, Reece Foy '18 made the most of the opportunity, connecting with Berluti for a 23 yard gain before hurling a 56 yard touchdown pass to James O'Regan '20 who broke a tackle at the 10 yard line before jogging over the goal line to give the Mammoths a 28-13 lead at the half.
What stood as Amherst's final points of the matchup came with 5:48 remaining in the third quarter, as John Rak '19 drilled a 26 yard field goal attempt through the uprights following a 12-play, 71 yard drive to move the score to 31-13.
Tufts went on to strike twice on the ground in the final 17:17 of the tilt to push the Mammoths to the edge down the stretch. Cutting the score to 31-20, Sanders posted a four yard TD rush with 2:17 on the clock in the third following a 77 yard drive, while Dolan barreled forward four yards with 1:11 remaining in regulation to finish off an 81 yard Jumbo drive.
Down a score, the home team made one final bid to earn the come-from-behind win, taking a chance and recovering the ensuing on-side kick at the Tufts 46 yard line. Ballard came through in the clutch for the Mammoths however, as he intercepted McDonald on the next play from scrimmage to direct Amherst to the victory as Hickey moved the chains on a 34 yard rush and the team took two knees to clinch the 31-16 victory.
- Amherst put up 471 yards of total offense, including 315 passing yards and 156 yards on the ground to finish 8-for-14 on third down opportunities.
- Behind center, Eberth went 14-for-21 for 236 yards and a long of 39 yards, while Foy finished 2-for-4 for 79 yards.
- Hickey averaged 5.8 yards per attempt to lead the Mammoths' running game with 75 total yards and a TD on 13 rushes, while Eberth finished with two rushing touchdowns behind 65 total yards. Hasani Figueroa '18 chipped in 32 yards, while Berluti added 11.
- Racking up a contest-high 132 yards, O'Regan led all receivers, while Berluti went for 99 yards on five receptions and Carmilani added 82 yards on four catches.
- Andrew Sommer '19 made 10 tackles, including seven solo, and added two sacks and a pass breakup to lead the Mammoth defense, while Jack Barrett '19 added a sack and Ballard and Durborow each logged an interception.
- For the Jumbos, McDonald finished 14-for-31 for 179 yards and two touchdowns, while Sanders led Tufts rushing game with 88 yards on seven attempts. de Leon recorded 60 yards through the air on three receptions, while Dolan hauled in four passes for 58 yards.
- Steve DiCienzo and Greg Holt each notched 11 tackles for Tufts, while Micah Adickes registered the home team's lone sack. Tylor Scales chipped in nine tackles, including six solo, while Alex LaPiana and Adickes rounded out the Jumbos' defensive effort with a pass breakup apiece.