SOMERVILLE - Senior QB Ollie Eberth threw a pair of touchdown passes as visiting Amherst College held off Tufts University, 26-16, in a NESCAC football game Saturday at Ellis Oval / Zimman Field.
The undefeated Mammoths (3-0) entered what would turn out to be a wild fourth quarter with a 17-3 lead, which included a 34-yard touchdown pass from Ebert to senior WR James O'Regan in the second quarter.
The teams would combine for three touchdown passes of 60 yards or longer in the fourth, including two by Tufts (1-2) that got them back in the game.
Early in the final quarter, Jumbo graduate Frank Roche caught a pass over the middle from senior QB Jacob Carroll that looked like a good first down gain for the Jumbos. However, it turned into more as Roche fell on his defender and never touched the ground. He bounced up and raced 64-yards for a score that pulled Tufts to 17-9.
However, when Amherst took possession, just four plays into their drive Eberth zipped a pass to sophomore Daniel Dolan who won a one-on-one battle with his defender and went 70 yards for a touchdown. That put the Mammoths up 24-9 at 12:33 of the fourth. Tufts had costly penalty on a third and nine play prior to the touchdown, which gave Mammoths a first down when they would have had to punt.
Incredibly, on the first play of the ensuing Jumbo drive, Carroll threw long to junior Brendan Dolan for a 75-yard touchdown that got Tufts within 24-16 with 12:22 still remaining in regulation.
In all, the three long touchdown passes all came within six plays and 2:22 of clock time.
Amherst would score the final two points of the game when the snap on a punt deep in Tufts' own territory went over freshman punter Patrick Walsh's head and through the back of the end zone for a safety at 9:32 of the fourth.
A pair of interceptions by Amherst senior Avery Safford aided the visitors in a major way. He picked off a pass in the end zone with just 40 seconds remaining in the first half that allowed the Mammoths to go into halftime with a 14-0 lead. His interception in the middle of the field with just four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter deflated the Jumbos' hopes. Senior John Ballard intercepted another Tufts pass with a minute remaining in regulation to seal the deal.
A quickly played first quarter saw both defenses dominating. Amherst scored the first points when sophomore tailback Brandon Huff bulled in from two yards out to complete a 14-play, 88-yard drive at 7:47 of the second quarter.
Later in the second after a Tufts punt gave Amherst the ball at their own 20, it took the Mammoths just two plays to put it in the end zone. Eberth had a 46-yard run to the Jumbo 34, and then he passed for the remainder to O'Regan for a 14-0 Amherst lead with 4:33 left until halftime.
A short Amherst punt that put the ball at the Tufts 40 in the middle of the third quarter resulted in the Jumbos' first points of the game. Junior kicker Matt Alswanger drilled a 40-yard field goal making it 14-3 with 4:23 on the third-quarter clock.
The Jumbo defense forced Amherst to punt on its next possession, but the ball took a weird bounce, deflected off a Tufts player and was recovered by Mammoth senior Trey Jarmon at midfield. Amherst turned that into a 23-yard field goal by sophomore Conor Kennelly for a 17-3 margin leading into the action-packed fourth.
Junior Joe Kelly was a disruptor in Tufts' offensive backfield all afternoon for the Mammoths, finishing with 11 tackles including 2.5 sacks and four quarterback hurries. Amherst got to Jumbo quarterbacks four times overall and limited the Jumbo ground game to 56 yards rushing on 27 attempts.
Eberth finished 11 of 23 for 191 yards and the two scores. Huff led the visitors in rushing with 61 yards on 10 carries and the TD. O'Regan caught six balls for 97 yards and the score.
Jumbo senior Jacob Carroll, one of three quarterbacks used in the game by Tufts, threw for 305 yards and two touchdowns while completing 25 of 39 throws. Dolan was his top target with five receptions for 104 yards and the TD. Junior OJ Armstrong hauled in eight passes for 65 yards. Tufts out-gained the Mammoths 378-350.
Walsh averaged 48.8 yards on five punts for Tufts, including 61-yard and 60-yard boots. Senior co-captain Greg Holt led Tufts with 11 tackles.
Amherst returns home for their next two games, October 5th against undefeated Middlebury (2:00 PM) and October 12th against Bowdoin.