MEDFORD, Mass. – For the third-straight season, Wesleyan and Tufts played in a thrilling night game as the Jumbos held on to defeat the Cardinals at Ellis Oval / Zimman Field on Saturday, 16-13. Wesleyan (1-1) controlled the clock in the second half and held Tufts (2-0) scoreless in the final 30 minutes of play, but the Cardinals were unable to capitalize.
With the win, the Jumbos regain the lead in this historic rivalry that dates back to 1892 as they improve to 24-23-2 all-time against Wesleyan. The home team has won the last three meetings since 2016, all of which were played under the lights and decided by three points.
FIRST HALF HIGHLIGHTS:
- The first three drives of the game ended in punts as both defenses came out strong.
- After forcing Tufts' second consecutive punt, the Cardinals took over at their own-40. As they made their way down the field, RB Glenn Smith '21 ran for a 5-yard TD that was called back due to a holding penalty. Two plays later, QB Mark Piccirillo '19 was intercepted in the endzone, but this time a holding penalty on the defense gave Wesleyan the ball back. Eventually, the visitor's settled for a 31-yard field goal from Patrick Wolff '21 to take a 3-0 lead early in the second quarter.
- After back-to-back punts, Tufts took over at Wesleyan's 26-yardline following a 20-yard punt return by Bryce Adam. The Cardinals' defense stepped up, however, holding the Jumbos to only three yards as they evened the score with a 41-yard kick.
- On the ensuing kickoff, Wesleyan fumbled the return which was recovered by John DeLuca of Tufts at the visitor 11-yardline. On the next play, QB Ryan McDonald threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jack Donohue to give the home team a 10-3 lead with 10:21 to play in the half.
- The Jumbos forced a three-and-out and took over at their own-34. Nine plays later, McDonald checked down to Dom Borelli who ran 28 yards untouched for the score. Tufts missed the extra point and led 16-3 with 5:52 left on the clock.
- Wesleyan's ensuing drive, highlighted by a 39-yard run by Piccirillo, ended with a 39-yard field goal from Wolff to cut the deficit to 10 with 3:30 remaining.
- Neither team scored the rest of the half as Tufts held a 16-6 lead at the break.
SECOND HALF HIGHLIGHTS:
- Wesleyan received the ball to start the second half and Piccirillo got things going with a 13-yard run to start the drive. Two plays later, he heaved a deep ball to Hallvard Lundevall '20 and the WR drew a pass interference call to put the Cardinals in Tufts' territory. Shortly after, Smith rushed to the left, was tripped up but stayed on his feet for a nine-yard touchdown score to cut the deficit to three. The drive went 73 yards on eight plays in 4:12.
- The Jumbos took over and on their first play of the third quarter, McDonald threw an interception right into the hands of LB Will Kearney '20. Wesleyan was unable to capitalize on the turnover, however, and was forced to punt.
- Following back-to-back punts, the Cardinals took over from their own-48. Wesleyan drove down to the Tufts-6 and went for it on 4th-and-1 but Kevin Quisumbing made a huge stop for the Jumbos as he took down RB Sean Penney '21 behind the line of scrimmage.
- Wesleyan's defense forced Tufts to punt shortly after as the visitors regained possession. Facing another fourth down, the Cardinals went for it again with four yards to gain at the Tufts-32, and this time, they converted as Piccirillo found Lundevall in coverage for a 22-yard gain. A roughing the passer penalty got Wesleyan down to the Tufts-4. However, the drive ended with a missed field goal.
- The Cardinals made a big stop defensively in the closing minutes and forced Tufts to punt with 2:13 remaining in regulation. Starting at their own-15, Piccirillo threw a perfect 45-yard pass to Lundevall near the Wesleyan sidelines as the junior pulled in a highlight reel pass-and-catch. The Cardinals made it to the Tufts-27 but a huge sack by Michael Mughetto put them out of field goal range. Wesleyan was able to get a few yards back but was forced to kick from deep, and the attempt went wide right as the Jumbos were able to run out the clock.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS:
- Wesleyan held a 36:28-to-23:32 edge in time of possession and outgained the Jumbos 334-to-217. The Cardinals, led by Piccirillo, threw for 189 yards and rushed for 145. Piccirillo was 18-33 for 189 yards passing, 0 TD and 0 INT. He also rushed 14 times for a game-high 78 yards. Smith added 56 yards on 18 carries and a score, and Lundevall led all receivers with 91 yards on four catches.
- Tufts gained 167 yards through the air and only 50 on the ground. McDonald was 15-28 for 167 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT. He also led the team in rushing with 16 carries for 23 yards. Dan de Leon led the receiving corps with 53 yards on five catches.
- Defensively, Kearney led Wesleyan with eight tackles, a pass break-up, and an interception. LB Brandon Morris '19 and LB Cole Harris '19 each recorded seven tackles and DL Taj Gooden '21 recorded a sack. Greg Holt led all players with 12 tackles for Tufts and Quisumbing added nine.
- Wesleyan is back in action next Saturday, Sept. 29 with a 1 p.m. contest at home against Hamilton.