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Week 8 Preview: Wesleyan (5-2) vs. Williams (5-2)

Photo by Lianne Yun '18
Photo by Lianne Yun '18

Saturday's Little Three rivalry game on Homecoming/Family Weekend marks the 123rd all-time meeting between Wesleyan (5-2) and Williams (5-2). The Ephs hold a commanding 76-41-5 advantage in the series, but it's been all Cardinals as of late, winning four-straight by a combined score of 124-35. Last year, Wesleyan took a 56-14 lead at halftime en route to a 59-14 win to claim the Little Three title outright for the second time in four years (2016, 2013).

The Cardinals are coming off a 21-10 win on the road last Saturday against Bowdoin (0-7) and enter Saturday's game with a perfect 3-0 mark at home and a 2-2 record on the road. In the win over the Polar Bears, junior QB Mark Piccirillo and senior WR Mike Breuler shined once again as they connected eight times for 100 yards and all three touchdowns. Piccirillo finished the game with 282 passing yards on 26-of-35 attempts and 54 rushing yards on 16 carries and set several single-season program records in the process -- total touchdowns (20), touchdown passes (18), pass completions (178), points scored (114) and total offense (2,443 yards). Breuler has now recorded five 100-yard receiving games this season, including two 200-yard performances.

Wesleyan boasts a well-balanced squad that ranks third in the NESCAC in total offense (421.3 yards/game) and fourth in total defense (328.9 yards/game), and third in the conference in scoring defense (16.7 points/game) and fourth in scoring offense (28.9 points/game).

Offensively, Wesleyan is leading the league in first downs (165), passing touchdowns (20), fourth-down conversions (63%), red zone scores (85%), and time of possession per game (32:39). The Cardinals are also second in passing (304.0 yards/game) and rank seventh in rushing (117.3 yards/game). Piccirillo has been incredible in his second year as a starter and leads the conference in yards, completions, completion percentage, and touchdowns. Through seven games, he is 174-for-250 with 2,058 yards and 18 touchdowns. He is also the team's leading rusher with 114 carries for 362 yards and two TDs. His 51.7 rushing yards per game rank seventh-best in the NESCAC. His favorite target has been Breuler, who has statistically been the best wide receiver in all of Division III throughout the year. The senior leads the country in receptions per game (9.9) and receiving yards per game (138.7), while his 10 touchdowns rank 22nd.

Defensively, LB Brandon Morris '19 has excelled all season and currently leads the conference in tackles with 76, averaging 10.9 per game. He also has a team-high four sacks, 6.5 tackles-for-loss, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, and two break-ups. He is joined in the front-seven by senior co-captain Shayne Kaminski who has 50 tackles on the season, 3.5 sacks, and two interceptions including a pick-six. Sophomore DB Ben Thaw currently leads the conference in interceptions with three in just six games played.

Williams, who went 0-8 in 2016, has completely turned things around this fall and enters Saturday's game with a 5-2 record. The Ephs are coming off a 24-6 home win against Hamilton and currently rank sixth in the league in scoring offense (24.6 points/game) and total offense (382.9 yards/game). In the passing game, Williams ranks sixth with 226.4 yards per game and are led by freshman QB Bobby Maimaron. Maimaron is 132-for-220 with 1,566 yards, 12 touchdowns, and five interceptions. His favorite targets have been a pair of classmates, Frank Stola and Justin Nelson. Stola leads the team with 41 receptions and 582 yards including six TD's, while Nelson has 26 catches for 355 yards and one score. On the ground, Williams is averaging 156.4 rushing yards per game to rank fifth in the NESCAC. Senior Connor Harris and freshman T.J. Dozier lead the team with 63 and 64 carries, respectively, while Harris has a team-high 332 rushing yards and Dozier has 278. Maimaron has also been a contributor with his legs and ranks third on the team in rushing with 258 yards and a team-high three rushing TDs.

Defensively, Williams ranks second in the league in scoring (15.0 points/game) and third in total defense (315.17 yards/game). The Ephs have allowed 199.3 yards through the air and 115.6 yards on the ground, and rank second in the NESCAC with seven interceptions. Freshman T.J. Rothman leads the team and ranks third in the league in tackles with 69, while also recording two interceptions and six breakups, and junior Jameson DeMarco has a team-high 4.5 sacks.

In the last three years, Wesleyan has won by scores of 22-0 (2014), 27-7 (2015), and 59-14 (2016). In last year's matchup, Piccirillo went 14-of-19 for 288 yards, five touchdowns, and zero interceptions. He also ran six times for 66 yards and a score. Breuler was the team's leading receiver with four catches for 125 yards and three TD's. Jansen Durham played under center for the Ephs and went 17-of-28 for 159 yards, one touchdown, and zero interceptions, while Steve Bohling ran 18 times for 85 yards.