MEDFORD, MA -- The Williams College Ephs have begun the second half of the 2010 season much in the same way that they have handled their opposition in the first half of this year, grinding out a gritty 35-24 come-from-behind victory against a highly physical opponent in Tufts. The win pushes the purple and gold to a record of 5-0, and keeps them up to speed with Amherst, who are also unscathed through the first five weeks.
In today's contest, it was workhorse Ryan Lupo who carried the offensive load for Williams, as he tied the program record for rushing touchdowns with 4 on 39 carries for 180 yards. The senior runningback joins Mark Kossick '97 (vs. Hamilton 10/29/94), Brian Gugliotta '95 (vs. Amherst 11/12/94), and Fred Storz (vs. Tufts 10/24/98) in the Eph record books.
"Ryan was excellent for us all day," acknowledged Eph head coach Aaron Kelton, "but I think it was a struggle for us all day to really establish our running game. As a team, we have to be able to establish our ground game to be successful. We weren't physical enough on the line of scrimmage in the first half of the game...but when we finally settled down and we were able to take control of the trenches and move the football on the ground."
Ironically, it was actually rookie back Alex Scyocurka who helped Williams snap the scoreless tie in the first quarter on their second possession. After sophomore Darren Hartwell's 24-yard punt return put the Ephs on the Tufts 36-yard line, Scyocurka broke through for a 19-yard dash to set up 1st-and-goal. Lupo finished the job from a yard out to give the early advantage 7-0.
The Williams defense looked virtually impenetrable in the opening fifteen minutes, allowing just one first down to the Jumbo offense. However, the pass-catch tandem of senior quarterback Anthony Fucillo and fellow classmate Billy Mahler finally cracked the Williams shell on their first drive of the second quarter. From within Eph territory, the duo connected for an 11-yard gain before striking again for a 28-yard touchdown that tied the game at 7.
Four possessions later, the Ephs special teams unit suffered an setback, as they were charged with a roughing the kicker penalty on 4th-and-15, extending a Jumbo drive that eventually resulted in a field goal. The Williams offense would respond immediately though, this time going to the air for large gains. Senior quarterback Pat Moffitt found senior tight end Jon Carroll for a sizable 26-yard reception to land the Ephs in the red zone, and junior wide receiver Tomas Kearney hauled in an 18-yard toss soon after for the quick six, thrusting the Ephs back into the lead 14-10.
The two veteran quarterbacks would trade interceptions towards the end of the quarter. First it was sophomore Ladd Hamrick who went up and snatched Fucillo's pass attempt at the Williams 5-yard line, effectively ending a 50-yard Jumbo drive that looked to be heading to the endzone. With less than two minutes left in the first half, Moffitt tried to force the action deep down the field and had his toss picked off by Tufts sophomore Sam Diss in Jumbo territory.
Fucillo would proceed to redeem himself for his previous mistake, as he fired back-to-back completions to sophomore Dylan Haas for 38 and 22 yards respectively, the latter a touchdown that ran off the clock and put Tufts ahead again by a score of 17-14. It was the first time all season that Williams had trailed an opponent at the half.
"In the locker room between halves, I basically told the guys to relax and let the game come to them," recalled Kelton. "We were trying to force the issue out there and we needed to settle down and get back to the thing that we did well. We weren't gaining consistent mometnum on the majority of our drives in the first half, but in the third quarter we started to get more of a push going on the offensive line and really were able to establish the running game."
The game did not come as smoothly as the Ephs would have liked to start the second half, as sophomore Austin Crittenden jarred the ball out of Sycocurka's grasp where it was scooped up by Diss, who returned it 35 yards into the endzone to stretch the Jumbo lead to 24-14. Up until that point, no defense had scored on the Ephs in 2010, and it was beginning to look like a Jumbo upset was a very real possibility.
It seemed that this return triggered the Williams offense into action, as they would explode for three straight touchdowns on their next three drives. On the first of these, a 12-yard reception by J.C. Stickney kept the chains moving on 3rd-and-10, and Lupo took care of the remaining 30 yards on 5 carries, including a 10-yard touchdown dash that shrunk the defecit back to down to 3.
Ater a Colin Curzi fumble recovery and a personal foul on Tufts placed the ball on the Jumbo 37-yard line, Lupo and the offensive line once again shoved and churned their way to the goal line, breaking the plane to reclaim the advantage for the purple and gold, 28-24. The final scoring drive of this touchdown trifecta began with a 28-yard hookup from Moffitt to junior B.J. Griffin that marched the Ephs into Tufts territory. The sequence was punctuated on the opening play of the fourth quarter, a 1-yard touchdown dive by Lupo that put Williams ahead for good 35-24.
The Eph defense allowed some yardage in this game, but they did not give up the big play in the closing minutes, and the Jumbos were unable to find the scoreboard for the remainder of regulation. The speedy and aggressive antics of the Williams backfield led the way, as Hamrick, junior Dan O'Mara, and senior Pat Barren shared the team-high in total tackles with 7.
"Our defense put forth a solid effort in this game," remarked Kelton. "We let up a few big plays in certain moments, but we tackled well throughout the game and we did a nice job of holding firm when our offense finally gained momentum.
"The biggest thing is that we have to limit our mistakes," continued Kelton. "Week in and week out we just have too many penalites, so we have to continue to work on being more disciplined and executing better on both sides of the ball to limit those miscues. Next week, we are heading up to Hamilton to take on a tough program. I'd like to see us establish our physicality earlier in that game while staying within ourselves and avoiding costly penalties."
That game will be held in Clinton, NY this coming Saturday at 1:00 PM on Steuben Field, where the perfect season will once again be on the line for the Ephs.
"Our opponent's aim at this point is going to be to take out Williams," concluded Kelton. "We'll have to keep that present in our minds when we take the field next weekend."