Football (6-1) continued its run of tremendous play, defeating Wesleyan (3-4) 37-7 and stretching its winning streak to five games. More importantly, the win keeps Williams’ destiny in its own hands, as a victory on Saturday over undefeated Amherst would give Williams a share of the NESCAC championship. Despite the dominant final score, the game could have turned out very differently if not for some big plays from the defense in the first half.
Wesleyan came out of the gate strong in its homecoming game. Led by quarterback Blake DuBois, the Cardinals went on an impressive drive in the first quarter that ended up with a first down on the Eph 14-yard line. They could not capitalize on the drive, however, because two passes fell incomplete and another went for no gain, forcing Wesleyan to attempt a 31-yard field goal. Defensive back Matt Zanedis ’10 blocked the field goal attempt, keeping the score 0-0.
The Eph defense would need to keep up its stingy play the rest of the half, as the offense looked nervous and stiff. Dropped passes and a stifled running game hurt the Williams offensive attack during the first half. The normally fluid Eph offense stumbled and did not score a single point in its first five possessions.
On the Ephs’ sixth possession, the Cardinals intercepted a pass that left them on the William’s 12-yard line. Wesleyan, however, could not convert as tough defense continued to keep Williams in the game.
Both offenses had difficulty driving down the field, and the contest looked like it was going to become a battle of field position. The Williams defense, however, continued to showcase its remarkable talent, as Zanedis struck again, this time picking off a pass and running it back 40 yards to give Williams a 7-0 lead.
“We were playing good defense all day,” Zanedis said. “Holding them out twice at the 10 yard-line wasn’t easy. The whole defense scored. I just happened to get the pick … This is just what the defense has done the entire season.”
After a quick stop by the defense following Zanedis’s touchdown, the offensive unit took the field. Quarterback Pat Moffitt ’11 connected with wide receiver J.C. Stickney ’12 and running back Ryan Lupo ’10 for big gains that left Williams in the red zone. After quarterback Matt Coyne ’12 drove the team even closer to the goal with short passes and scrambling runs, Lupo rushed the ball in from one yard out with only 16 seconds left to play in the first half, giving Williams a 14-0 lead going into halftime.
“It was really important to get the offense going before we went into halftime,” said Zanedis. “We definitely didn’t want to leave the Cardinals hanging around because they are capable of coming back. The defense had been playing great up to that point so it was nice to get some points on the board.”
Williams received the kickoff, and the offense got right back to business. After a 31-yard run from Lupo, Bryce Bennett ’11 caught a Moffitt pass for a 15-yard completion to bring the Ephs into the red zone. After a one-yard run by Bennett and three rushes by Coyne, Coyne connected with running back Tim Morris ’13 for a two-yard score that put the Ephs ahead 21-0. That score essentially put the game out of reach for Wesleyan. The Cardinals scored after a seven minute, 89 yard drive that lessened the Ephs’ lead to 21-7 to end the third quarter, but any notion of a comeback was quickly squashed. Lupo ran 23 yards for a touchdown to begin the fourth quarter increasing the lead to 28-7. Lupo’s ability to continue to run the ball despite his first half issues keyed the Williams attack in the second half and really opened up the game, leading to a big win.
The biggest game of the year kicks off at noon on Saturday, when the Ephs host the Jeffs on Weston Field for Homecoming with both the NESCAC championship and the Little Three title on the line.