Football (2-3) put an end to its three-game losing streak with a redeeming victory on the road against Tufts on Saturday. The Ephs overwhelmed the Jumbos 25-7 under the leadership of quarterback Tom Murphy ’15, who made his first start last weekend.
“We are a team fighting for wins, and we just needed to relax and let the game come to us,” Head Coach Aaron Kelton said.
The game began with neither team able to make much progress on offense, with four consecutive drives ending in punts. However, the Ephs’ defense came up with a huge play when Ladd Hamrick ’13 jumped on a fumbled punt return, putting the men in great field position. Eph kicker Joe Mallock ’14 nailed a 43-yard field goal to put Williams up 3-0 midway through the first quarter.
“I think the biggest difference about today’s game is that we made big plays,” tri-captain Chris Cameron ’13 said. “[We had] five caused turnovers, whereas we [forced] no turnovers in the past three games.”
Tufts responded with its only scoring drive of the entire game, marching 75 yards down the field while quarterback John Dodds posted seven consecutive completions. A 13-yard touchdown catch by Marty Finnegan put the Jumbos on the board, and Connor McDavitt’s PAT made the score 7-3 in Tufts’ favor.
A 31-yard return on the ensuing kickoff by tri-captain Darren Hartwell ’13 energized the Ephs, leading to a nine-play scoring drive capped off by a three-yard touchdown rush by Tom Wohlwender ’13. Mallock ultimately missed the extra point, but the touchdown was enough to put Williams ahead 9-7.
The men’s defense came out stronger on Tufts’ following drive, forcing a three-and-out that put Williams on its own 20-yard line. Murphy found an open Greg Payton ’14 on the second play of the drive. Murphy launched an 82-yard touchdown strike to the receiver in what was the longest play of the season for the Ephs. Murphy was unable to run the ball in for the two-point conversion, but the Ephs took a 15-7 lead that they kept through the half.
“The long TD pass to Greg Payton was important and showed our team we could have big plays to help us win,” Kelton said.
Murphy found Payton again to kick off the third quarter, this time for a 58-yard play that put Williams at the Tufts’ 16-yard line. Wohlwender finished the drive with a four-yard touchdown scamper, and this time Mallock converted the PAT, moving Williams to a 22-7 advantage over Tufts.
The Jumbos came up with a 20-play drive in response, but McDavitt could not split the uprights on a 27-yard field goal. The Ephs’ defense kept the Jumbos out of scoring range for the remainder of the game, coming up with several big turnovers that kept the men in control.
“Defensively, I thought we were pretty solid all day,” Kelton said. “They flew around and played physical.”
The Ephs’ offense was not able to find the endzone again, but the men added to their lead with a 19-yard field goal by Mallock early in the fourth quarter. Mallock’s kick brought the score to 25-7, and the score held for the remainder of the game.
“Our focus this week was on doing our job and taking care of the little things, and I think that helped in our getting a victory,” Kelton said.
Payton had an enormous game, amassing 158 yards and a touchdown on just three receptions. Murphy also performed effectively against Tufts, completing 10 of 20 passes for 223 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.
“Tom had a good game and will continue to improve,” Kelton said. “He and Adam [Marske ’14] will compete this week like last week to see who will start the game against Hamilton. We have three very good quarterbacks [including Mark Pomella ’16], and we have confidence in all of them.”
Mallock converted two of four field goals and one of two PATs. However, Mallock’s two field goals brought his season total to eight, enough to earn the junior the school record for most field goals in a single season. The record has stood for over 20 years and was previously held by Brian Taptich ’92.
Williams will be playing on the road again this week, when they take on Hamilton at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
While the team is proud of the victory, the men will not overlook Hamilton this week. “We still have a lot to work on as a team, we made a lot of mistakes that we have to correct, but hopefully we can carry this momentum into [this] week’s game,” Cameron said.
“Our attitude will be the same as we head on the field this week: One play at a time,” Kelton said.