It may be one of the oldest rivalries in college football, but this year’s Williams-Amherst game will have distinct flavor. Though they have met 115 times, the two teams have had undefeated seasons only twice before – in 1942 and 1964. When the two 7-0 teams enter Weston Field this Saturday, however, one will exit with the NESCAC and Little III crowns while the other will leave disappointed.
History may be on the side of the Ephs coming in – the team has a .582 winning percentage over the Lord Jeffs in the history of the contest. Amherst also has not won on Weston Field since 1985, though the two teams tied 0-0 in 1995.
You can throw all the statistics out the window this weekend, however, as both teams have been thoroughly dominant all-season long. Both teams have rolled over their competition en route to their perfect records, with Tufts being the only team to give both a scare.
The key to winning the game, as Tufts illustrated, will be establishing a run attack. “Tufts ran against [Amherst] just as they did against us,” said Eph head coach Dick Farley. “Unfortunately for Tufts, they dropped the ball.”
Williams has featured a balanced attack on offense for much of the season, but if ever there was a game where the running game will have to step up and carry the brunt of the offensive load as Amherst has yet to allow a touchdown from the air.
That won’t be easy, however, for the banged up Eph running attack. Primary tailback Mike Hackett ’04 has a sprained ankle, though Coach Farley is confident that he’ll be ready to play. Center Dave Fontes ’02 will be in the game though he will be playing with a cast on his arm.
The passing game should not be completely counted out, however, as it has emerged this season to be a major threat for the Ephs. QB Joe Reardon ’04 and WR Ryan Friend ’03 have emerged this season as major offensive forces â€“ Reardon is the NESCAC’s top rated passer this season with a 158.2 QB rating. They’ve contributed nicely to an attack that already featured some talented players in WR Colin Brooks ’02 and TE Sean Collins ’02.
“[Reardon’s] played extremely well this year,” said Farley. “I can only hope he continues to for one more day.”
As intimidating as the Lord Jeff defense is â€“ the unit has allowed only 3.7 points per game and two touchdowns â€“ the Eph defense can more than hold its own.
Amherst has managed a paltry 131.9 yards per game in the air this season. On top of that, the Eph coaching staff knows Amherst QB Marsh Mosely intimately. “We wanted to bring him here badly,” said Coach Farley. “We’ve seen lots of tape and know him fairly well.”
As weak as Amherst’s passing has been, their rushing has been strong. Led by Fletcher Ladd, who has run for over 100 yards in his last two games, the Lord Jeffs have 209.7 yards rushing per game.
“We’ve got a good defense,” said Coach Farley. “We just need to focus on stopping the big play. If [Ladd] gets 20 carries for 100 yards we won’t necessarily lose the game. That being said, he’s probably the fastest tailback we’ve seen this year.”
Ultimately, however, this hard fought game cannot be broken down by looking at rosters and statistics. Both teams will be psyched up for the game, and it is highly possible that a bad bounce or gust of wind could be the deciding factor in the game.
As a result, look for Eph Scott Farley ’03 to play a crucial role in the game. Nobody on the team is as versatile as Farley, who is primarily a defensive back and kicker, but has also thrown, caught and rushed the ball on offense. A strong game by Farley could provide the Ephs with the spark they need to overcome the Lord Jeffs.
In 1951, the sports editor of the Record, George Steinbrenner ’52 predicted that the Ephs would roll over the Lord Jeffs on Weston Field. Steinbrenner was right as the Ephs would go on to win 40-7. This sports editor is not as confident of a blow-out, but, when all is said and done, Williams will emerge victorious 9-7 in the “Biggest Little Game in America.”