Week 8 Preview: Wesleyan vs. Trinity

Week 8 Preview: Wesleyan vs. Trinity

WEEK 7 HIGHLIGHT VIDEO

Two of the NESCAC's hottest teams meet on the gridiron Saturday, Nov. 12 as Wesleyan (6-1) and Trinity (7-0) square off in the 116th-meeting of the "Battle of the Birds" at 12 p.m. The Cardinals enter Saturday's contest riding a six-game winning streak, which is the second longest win streak in the conference behind the Bantam's eight-straight victories, dating back to last season.

Trinity holds a slight edge in the all-time series, 61-53-1, but the teams have exchanged home wins the past two meetings. In 2014, Justin Sanchez '17 broke up the Bantams' two-point conversion attempt with 1:15 to play in regulation as the Cardinals held off a late comeback attempt and prevailed, 20-19. Last year, Wesleyan outscored Trinity 13-7 in the second half, but was held scoreless in the first as the Bantams walked away with a 17-13 victory. In each season, the winning team finished with a 7-1 record. Saturday, a Wesleyan win would give each squad a 7-1 mark.

The Cardinals are coming off a 59-14 rout of archrival Williams College, in which they led 56-14 at halftime. With a 20-0 win over Amherst College earlier in the season, Wesleyan claimed the Little Three title for the second time in the past four years, while making history. The 45-point win over the Ephs is the highest margin of victory in the 122-game history of Wesleyan and Williams, and surpassed the Cardinals previous high of 35 points in 1900. Additionally, the shutout victory over Amherst was the first time Wesleyan shut out the Purple & White since 1988.

Wesleyan has been dominant during its six-game win streak, scoring at least 20 points in each contest and outscoring its opponents 217-43. In addition, the Cardinals have gained 2,506 yards of total offense, while surrendering just 1,239 yards.

Wesleyan boasts a well-balanced attack, in which they lead the NESCAC in scoring defense (8.6 points per game), total defense (214.0 yards per game), time of possession per game (34:13), and kick return average (26.9 yards per return). They also rank second in total offense (416.6 ypg), passing yards (239.7 ypg), rushing touchdowns (19), PAT percentage (93.1%), red zone touchdowns (21-41), and third in scoring offense (33.0 ppg), rushing yards (176.9 ypg), first downs (137) and defensive interceptions (10).

The offensive unit is led by quarterback Mark Piccirillo '19, who was recently named the NESCAC Offensive Player of the Week for his six-touchdown performance against Williams. The sophomore has been incredibly efficient all season and ranks first in the conference in completion percentage (66.3%), second in passing yards per game (199.1) and third in touchdowns (9). He also has not thrown an interception this season, and has been excellent in the running game. Piccirillo ranks fifth in the league in rushing yards per game (54.3) and fifth in rushing touchdowns (5).

Wesleyan's running game is stacked with talent as senior Lou Stevens, freshman Dario Highsmith, senior Devon Carrillo, junior quarterback Gernald Hawkins and junior Jaylen Berry have amassed 805 yards rushing with 14 touchdowns – 11 by Carrillo. The receiving corps is led by junior Mike Breuler, senior Andrew Mehr, Carrillo, junior Eric Meyreles and senior tight end Ben Kurtz. Breuler has five receiving touchdowns in his past two games and recorded his first 100-yard game of his career against Williams. He finished with four catches for 125 yards and three TDs.

Defensively, Shayne Kaminski '18 has been a force and ranks sixth in the NESCAC in tackles, averaging 7.7 per game. He also has 3.5 sacks, along with teammate Grant Williams '19, which ranks tied for 10th best in the league. Senior co-captain Jordan Stone, however, leads the Cardinals and sits in a tie for seventh with four sacks. Additionally, Nate Taylor '18 leads the team and is tied for second in the NESCAC with three interceptions, while Zac Cuzner '17, Elias Camacho '18 and Cole Harris '18 each have two picks.

Trinity remains undefeated in 2016 and has outscored its opponents 260-88 behind the league's best rushing attack and a stifling defense. The Bantams lead the league in scoring (37.1 ppg), total offense (440.3 ypg), rushing yards (231.0 ypg), sacks (28) and defensive touchdowns (3). Defensively, they rank second behind Wesleyan in both scoring (12.6 ppg) and total defense (242.3 ypg), while their 12 interceptions are also second most in the conference.

Trinity's offense is led by junior quarterback Sonny Puzzo, sophomore running back Max Chipouras and wide receivers Darrien Myers and Bryan Vieira. Puzzo ranks third in the league in passing yards (194.6 ypg) and second in passing touchdowns (14), with only four interceptions. He's also a threat in the run game and ranks 14th in the conference with an average of 35.1 yards per game, while scoring three times. Chipouras is second in the NESCAC with 121.1 rushing yards per game, and has seven touchdowns, while Vieira and Myers rank sixth and seventh in receiving yards, respectively, with 65.1 and 65.0 ypg. Myers also has eight receiving touchdowns – second highest in the league – and Vieira has five.

On the opposite side of the ball, senior defensive back Spencer Donahue has a team-high 37 tackles (5.3 tackles per game), while recording three sacks, three forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, two interceptions, two defensive touchdowns, four break-ups and one blocked kick. Junior linebacker Liam Kenneally has a team-high five sacks, and senior defensive backs Paul McCarthy and Archi Jerome have three interceptions each to lead the Bantams. Additionally, sophomore place kicker Eric Sachse has been perfect this season and is 12-of-12 on field goal attempts and 31-of-31 on extra-points.

Entering Saturday's game, only Trinity remains unbeaten while Wesleyan, Middlebury and Tufts all sit at 6-1. Middlebury and Tufts play Saturday at 12:30 p.m. in Middlebury, Vt. The Bantams will claim the NESCAC title outright with a win, while a Cardinals victory would split the crown three ways.


BY THE NUMBERS

Team Stats

 

Wesleyan

Trinity

Points Per Game

33.0

37.1

Points Per Game Allowed

8.6

12.6

Offensive Yards Per Game

416.6

440.3

Passing Yards Per Game

239.7

209.3

Rushing Yards Per Game

176.9

231.0

Yards Allowed Per Game

214.0

242.3

Passing Yards Allowed Per Game

214.0

149.9

Rushing Yards Allowed Per Game

71.9

92.4


Individual Stats

 

Wesleyan

Trinity

Passing Leaders

Mark Piccirillo (1,394 yards, 9 TD, 0 INT)

Sonny Puzzo (1,362 yards, 14 TD, 4 INT)

 

Gernald Hawkins (168 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT)

David Ryan (67 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT)

Rushing Leaders

Mark Piccirillo (380 yards, 5 TD)

Max Chipouras (848 yards, 7 TD)

 

Lou Stevens (239 yards, 1 TD)

Lucas Golon (313 yards, 2 TD)

Receiving Leaders

Mike Breuler (484 yards, 6 TD)

Bryan Vieira (456 yards, 5 TD)

 

Andrew Mehr (317 yards, 1 TD)

Darrien Myers (455 yards, 8 TD)

Defensive Leaders

Shayne Kaminski (54 tackles, 3.5 sacks)

Spencer Donahue (37 tackles, 2 INT)

 

Brandon Morris (51 tackles, 2.5 sacks)

Liam Kenneally (34 tackles, 5 sacks)