SOMERVILLE – Led by an outstanding defensive effort, the Tufts University football team began its 2019 season with a 14-8 victory over Trinity College Saturday afternoon at Ellis Oval / Zimman Field.
The Jumbos handed the three-time defending NESCAC champion Bantams their first opening-day loss since 1995. Trinity's eight points scored were its fewest in a game since 2015. The Tufts defense allowed just six of the points, with the Bantams also scoring on a safety.
Jumbo sophomore DE Jovan Nenadovic, senior CB Miles Shipp and junior LB John DeLuca made huge defensive plays in the fourth quarter to wrap up the victory. Making his first career start, Tufts senior QB Jacob Carroll had a 12-yard touchdown pass to junior RB Mike Pedrini in the second quarter and threw a one-yard TD to senior TE Jack Donohue in the fourth.
The win is the first for the Tufts program against Trinity since 2007, ending an 11-year losing streak.
After a punt by Trinity's Ian McDonald was downed on the Jumbo one-yard line early in the fourth quarter, Bantam linebacker Brian Casagrande tackled Pedrini in the end zone for a safety that pulled the visitors with 14-8 at the 12-minute mark.
On its ensuing possession, Trinity went for it on fourth and one from the Tufts 30 and Nenadovic tackled running back Spencer Lockwood for a loss of two yards to turn the ball over on downs. Then with less than three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Shipp intercepted a Trinity pass at the Jumbo 40-yard line for another turnover.
On the Bantams' final possession with 44 seconds left in the fourth and no timeouts, Jordan Vazzano completed a 34-yard pass to Koby Schofer down to the Jumbo 9. On a second and goal play, DeLuca chased Vazzano down for a sack that ran out the clock for the Jumbo win.
Trinity had taken a 6-0 lead when starting QB Seamus Lambert threw a four-yard touchdown pass to Jonathan Girard with 2:47 remaining in the first quarter. The extra point was missed.
Tufts came back with its first score of the season early in the second. Pedrini caught a Carroll pass out in the left flat and broke a tackle to get into the end zone and give Tufts a 7-6 lead including the extra point by Matt Alswanger with 11:50 to go until halftime.
The Jumbos lined up for a 24-yard field goal late in the second quarter, but a bad snap turned it into an incomplete pass play. Tufts' Michael Mughetto then intercepted Lambert on the next play.
Trinity would miss a 36-yard field goal attempt that would have given them the lead early in the third. Tufts took the ball and drove 80 yards in 10 plays culminating in Donohue's touchdown reception at 6:46 of the third for a 14-6 Jumbo lead. Carroll had a 48-yard completion to OJ Anderson on a third and four play during the drive. Both of Tufts' touchdowns came on third and goal plays.
In the fourth quarter the Bantams had 120 of their 281 total yards, but the Jumbo defense came up big when needed.
Tufts sacked Trinity quarterbacks six times including three by Nenadovic, who finished the game with nine tackles and five TFL's resulting in 15 yards in losses. Senior co-captain Greg Holt led the Jumbos with 10 tackles. Tufts held the Bantams to just two of 15 on third down (13 percent).
Carroll completed 13 of 23 passes for 173 yards and the two scores for the Jumbos. In addition to the long completion to Anderson (team-high four catches for 66 yards), Carroll also had a 44-yard pass to junior Brendan Dolan and a 36-yard completion to graduate Frank Roche. The Tufts offense did not turn the ball over.
Casagrade finished with a game-high 11 tackles for Trinity, while Jimmy Christiano had three TFL's among his eight total stops. Lambert was 15 of 26 for 111 yards passing and was the game-high rusher with 88 yards on 16 carries. Schofer caught five balls for 88 yards. Bantam DeVante Reid averaged 32 yards on two kickoff returns. The Bantams finished with small advantages in total yards (281-280) and first downs (15-13).
The teams combined for 19 punts.