For the first 15 minutes of Saturday’s football game against Trinity, it appeared as though maybe a NESCAC opponent had finally figured out how to stop the potent Williams offensive attack. As the Bantams’ athletic defense mixed up pass coverages nearly every play and blitzed from all angles, the Eph offense was unable to move the ball and looked confused.
But after struggling to begin the game, the Ephmen located Trinity’s Achilles heel in the form of defensive overpursuit. Two quick strikes to this crucial weakness in the second quarter were enough to give the Ephmen a 17-0 win, which extended the team’s winning streak to 11 games and improved its season record to 2-0.
“Trinity provided a solid test for our football team and gave us an idea of where we stand in comparison to the rest of the league,” quaterback Sean Keenan ’00 said.
The first exploitation of the Bantams’ defensive scheme came a few minutes into the second period. Up to that point in the game, the aggressive Trinity linebackers had dictated what Williams could run on offense. But everything changed after consecutive big plays by tailback Fred Storz ’01.
First, Storz took a handoff and began to follow the line blocking to his right before adeptly breaking back left against the flow of the play. Catching Trinity off guard, Storz picked up ten yards on his first effective run of the afternoon. The very next play, the Ephs went against the flow of play again, this time on a screen pass.
Keenan took the snap and began to roll out to his right as the linebackers rotated in pursuit. Keenan then jumped and threw a screen back to his left to a wide open Storz, who proceeded to burst forward for a 35-yard gain down the Trinity sideline on the first large gain of the game.
Now on the Bantams’ 16-yard line, Keenan threw a gorgeous touch pass to the back left corner of the end zone to receiver Matt Student ’01 for the game’s first touchdown. Bob Kaufman’s extra ’01 point, which followed a first quarter field goal, put Williams up 10-0.
After the Eph defense stopped Trinity quarterback Greg Wysocki and the Bantam attack on its next drive, Wysocki nailed a long punt to Williams’ returner Casey Flavin ’00. Flavin allowed the ball to bounce, hoping for a touchback, but the Trinity coverage downed the punt on the Ephs’ one-yard line.
As the fired-up Bantams crowd hoped for a safety to get back in the game, Storz calmly burst out to the five on first down to give Keenan a little cushion in the pocket. The game-breaking play that followed next will rank as one of the best in recent history.
On second and six, Keenan dropped back and ran a play action fake to Storz, and as the blitz rushed on, Storz picked up the linebacker charging up the middle while Keenan ran right. The quarterback spotted Student breaking down the Williams sideline in single coverage and let fly a perfectly thrown ball to hit the receiver in stride. Student caught the ball over his shoulder at the Ephs’ 45-yard line and sprinted untouched to the end zone. The pass play totaled 95 yards, setting the school record for longest offensive play from scrimmage, and put Williams up 17-0 at the half after Kaufman’s kick.
Though the Ephs were not able to pad their lead in the second half, the Williams defense showed why it is at the top of NESCAC, having yet to let up a point. Trinity had difficulty in the first half establishing the pass and converting third downs, and the Ephs didn’t allow anything to change after halftime.
“Trinity’s offense was very potent and presented a lot of problems for us as we prepared last week,” O’Brien said. “But practicing against the best offense in the league is one of the reasons the defense played so well.”
Led by the excellent play of Will O’Brien ’00 at defensive end and Louis Moll ’01 at linebacker, the Ephs punished the Bantam offense, holding it to just 28 yards in the second half and 120 on the game. O’Brien collected eight tackles, four for a loss, and two sacks, while Moll had seven tackles and one sack.
“Because the defensive backs and linebackers provided such good coverage, the defensive line was able to get upfield and pressure their quarterback, especially on key plays,” O’Brien said.
Seniors Nick Weiss, Chris Sweatman and Ed Gondwe were valuable on the line as well, not allowing Trinity’s running game, the strength of its offense, to pick up many yards.
As Wysocki was forced to pass often in the second half, Williams’ secondary also showed that it is the class of the league. Safety Dan DiCenzo ’01 and cornerback Flavin were among those who kept the Trinity receivers from advancing down the field.
Keenan finished with 373 passing yards, completing 22 of 37 attempts with only one interception. Student reeled in six catches for 173 yards, followed by Andy Jones ’00 (seven catches, 55 yards) and Mike Paolercio ’00 (six catches, 43 yards).
“Having such a balanced and talented group of receivers takes the pressure off of Fred and the running game and makes my job easy,” Keenan said.
Storz ran for 93 yards on 30 carries and was equally valuable as a blocker out of the backfield, picking up blitzes and creating time for the passing game.
Next up for the Ephs is Bates (1-1), a resurgent team which beat Amherst in its first game of the year. Though the Bobcats have had little success in the past few seasons, experienced players lead this year’s unit that is strong on both lines.
The Ephs’ home opener at Weston Field will kick off at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.