Football suffers narrow 16-14 loss against Wesleyan

Co-captain Alex Scyocurka ’14 had 19 rushing attempts for 49 yards in the defeat to Wesleyan. - Photo Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics
Co-captain Alex Scyocurka ’14 had 19 rushing attempts for 49 yards in the defeat to Wesleyan. – Photo Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics

Football (2-4) came up just short last Saturday, losing a heartbreaker to Wesleyan 16-14. The loss snaps the men’s 13-game win streak against Wesleyan and also gives Wesleyan its first outright Little Three title since 1970.

The Little Three is the nation’s oldest continuous football organization without membership change: Beginning in 1910. Williams first played Wesleyan in 1881. The win for Wesleyan guarantees it at least a share of the NESCAC title and leaves the door open for an undefeated season and an outright title if it can beat Trinity this weekend.

On Saturday, the men, who have had shaky quarterback play this season, turned the offense over to Mark Pomella ’16. The sophomore was making his first career start against the lone undefeated team remaining in the league.

This was no easy task for Pomella, who had an up-and-down day, going 19-31 for 121 yards with two interceptions. With a young quarterback making his first start, Wesleyan was able to focus extra attention on the men’s talented running backs, who struggled to amass just over 2.5 yards per carry.

Wesleyan scored first with a 35-yard field goal, opening a 3-0 lead early in the first quarter. The Cardinals struck again early in the second quarter on a four-yard touchdown run, extending their lead to 10-0.

The Cardinals accounted for the games first three scores, as they added another three points early in the second half, further extending their lead to 13-0.

The men were scoreless until the resilient Pomella began to find a bit of a groove, as he engineered the men’s first scoring drive at the very end of the third quarter. The drive was highlighted by a 16-yard pass completion to wide receiver Darrias Sime ’16 and an eight-yard pass completion to tight end Alex Way ’16.

Pomella also flashed some mobility on the drive, as he rushed for 13 yards. The drive was capped off early in the fourth quarter by a two-yard run by Marco Hernandez ’14. After the extra point attempt by Joe Mallock ’14 sailed through the uprights, the men had cut Wesleyan’s lead to 13-7 with 14:55 to paly in the final quarter.

Wesleyan answered late in the quarter with yet another field goal, reestablishing a two-score lead of 16-7. The men, however, would not go down quietly, scoring a late touchdown with 3:52 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Pomella again found his rhythm and led the men down the field with a 10-yard pass completion to wide receiver Greg Payton ’14, a 13-yard pass completion to Way and a 14-yard pass completion to wide receiver Steven Kiesel ’15. Co-captain Alex Scyocurka ’14 finished the drive by rushing up the middle for a four-yard touchdown. Mallock’s kick attempt was good, making the score 16-14.

The men secured one last possession in the game after stopping Wesleyan on downs. Unfortunately turnovers again plagued the team, as Pomella tossed an interception to end the game with Wesleyan up 16-14.

The defense had another strong showing on Saturday, holding Wesleyan to its lowest point total of the season with just 16 points. The defense did not force any turnovers or make any sacks, but they did play solid team defense, limiting Wesleyan to just one touchdown. They held the Wesleyan quarterback to just 50 percent passing and the Wesleyan running game to under four yards per carry. Co-captain Nate Saffold ’14 and James O’Grady ’16 had 12 and 10 tackles, respectively, as they led the defense.

On the day, the team had 15 first downs compared to Wesleyan’s 14. They were also better on third down, converting five of 14 attempts, or 36%, compared to the Cardinals’ five for 16 and 31%.

Way led the team in receiving yards, catching three passes for 26 yards, giving him an average of 8.7 per catch. Payton also had three receptions for 23 yards and an average of 7.7.

On special teams, there were a few standout players. Hernandez had three kickoff returns for 56 yards, giving him an average of 18.7 yards per return. Mallock, the Ephs’ kicker, had seven punts for 285 yards, giving him an average of 40.7. His longest punt was a 52 yard boomer. Mallock was named NESCAC special teams player of the week for his impressive performance.

“We played a good game on defense,” Saffold said. “We bent a few times, allowing them to get into field goal range, but then we held them to only three points. Their only touchdown came when they got the ball on our [four-yard line]. We had a good game plan and played hard throughout the game. It was another game where we were a few plays away from coming out on top. We just have to keep working to make those plays go in our favor this week.”

The men host Amherst this Saturday in their final game and Homecoming matchup for the 128th installment of the “Biggest Little Game in America.” Kickoff is at 12 p.m. on Weston Field. The game will also be the 525th and final game played on the grass surface of Weston Field. Next year, the men will play their games on an artificial turf field with a newly redesgined facility.