Score: Trinity 45, Wesleyan 21
Records: Wesleyan (6-2), Trinity (8-0)
Location: Middletown, Conn. (Corwin Stadium at Andrus Field)
Date: Saturday, November 12th
Time: 12 p.m.
The Lead: The Wesleyan University football team's historic 2016 season came to an end Saturday as the Cardinals fell to in-state rival and undefeated Trinity College, 45-21, despite outgaining the Bantams 412 yards to 267. Trinity claimed the NESCAC title outright with the win – their first since 2012 and a league-high seventh overall.
FIRST HALF HIGHLIGHTS:
- The Cardinals came out strong to start the game. After forcing a Trinity three-and-out, sophomore QB Mark Piccirillo converted back-to-back third downs by avoiding tacklers, before senior RB Lou Stevens capped off the drive with a 29-yard touchdown run. Stevens broke through the line and dashed to the right as he snuck inside the right pylon.
- Wesleyan forced another three-and-out, and started their second drive of the game at their own 48-yard line. The Cardinals marched down the field to the visitor's four, as senior WR Devon Carrillo rushed untouched to the left for another touchdown as the home team took a 14-0 lead with 4:20 to play in the first quarter.
- However, on the ensuing kickoff, Trinity's Darrien Myers took the return 98 yards for the score. The senior dropped back to make a difficult catch, ran to the left before a spin move cut him free as he crossed the field to the right sideline. With only the kicker to beat, Myers sprinted ahead for the score.
- Two players later, Dago Picon-Roura forced a Wesleyan fumble, picked up it and ran 32 yards untouched for a Trinity touchdown to even the score in just 17 seconds.
- The quick turnaround proved to be the difference in the game as Trinity took advantage of the momentum swing. The Bantams would go on to score 21 unanswered points in the second quarter, while Wesleyan punted twice and turned the ball over on downs twice.
- Ahead 28-14, Trinity attempted a field goal from the Wesleyan-7, but the placeholder, Puzzo, tossed the ball over his shoulder to kicker Eric Sachse who ran untouched to the right pylon and converted the trick play.
- With that score, the Bantams would took a 35-14 lead into halftime.
SECOND HALF HIGHLIGHTS:
- Wesleyan had several opportunities in the second half. On its opening drive, the Cardinals drove 61 yards on 11 plays before a fumble on second and goal from the Trinity 1-yard line was recovered by the Bantams in the end zone.
- After back-to-back three-and-out drives that ended in punts, Trinity increased its lead when QB Sonny Puzzo dropped a pass into the hands of WR Bryan Vieira in the right corner of the end zone.
- Early in the fourth quarter, Piccirillo released the ball before the defense got to him and connected with WR Mike Breuler in the left corner of the end zone to snap Trinity's run. The touchdown was Breuler's sixth in the last three games and seventh for the season, as the Cardinals trailed 42-21 with 10:04 remaining in regulation.
- Trinity's defense held Wesleyan scoreless the rest of the way, as Sachse connected on a 27-yard field goal with less than five minutes to play.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS:
- In addition to outgaining the Bantams in yardage, Wesleyan also held a 35:38-to-24:22 advantage in time of possession. However, Trinity forced four turnovers, while not turning the ball over themselves.
- Piccirillo finished 23-of-48 for 224 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. The two picks were the first of the season for the sophomore who shined all year. He also made several plays with his feet and finished with 36 yards rushing, while Stevens led the run game with 63 yards and a score. In his final game of his collegiate career, Carrillo excelled and finished with a career-high 199 total yards (56 rushing, 75 receiving and 68 in punt returns), while rushing for a touchdown.
- Entering today's game, Trinity led the league in total offense (440.3 yards per game) and rushing yards (231.0 ypg). The Cardinals stifling defense held the Bantams to 267 yards of offense and just 118 yards rushing. Junior LB's Cole Harris and Brandon Morris led team with 10 tackles each, while Morris also recorded a sack.
- Puzzo finished 7-of-15 for 130 yards (2 TD, 0 INT) for Trinity, and RB Max Chipouras was held to 62 yards on 15 carries. Vieira led all players with 94 receiving yards, including a 58-yard TD, as he finished with two scores on just three catches.
- Defensively, the Bantams were led by Liam Kenneally who finished with 10 tackles and one interception, while Spencer Donahue finished with nine tackles and a break-up.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE:
- Today marked the 116th meeting of the "Battle of the Birds". Trinity now holds a 62-53-1 lead in the all-time series.
- Prior to the game, Wesleyan University honored and thanked its veteran alums in its annual "Salute to Service" game. In addition, the Cardinals honored their senior class members prior to kickoff; Devon Carrillo, Justin Sanchez, Ike Fuchs, Steve Sobo, Neil O'Connor, Jordan Stone, Andrew Mehr, Zac Cuzner, Lou Stevens, Matt Kuhn, Shane Jenkins, Mitch Ryan, Matt Polacek, Kris Luster, Ben Kurtz, Sebastian Canizares-Fernandez and Corey Phillips.
- The Class of 2017 will go down in Wesleyan lore, as the Cardinals posted a 25-7 (.781) record in four years, including two Little Three titles (2013, 2016) and a share of the NESCAC crown in 2013.
- The 2016 campaign marked the fifth consecutive winning season for Wesleyan as it finished in a tie for third in the NESCAC standings alongside Middlebury.