MIDDLETOWN, Conn. – The Wesleyan University football team held Trinity College scoreless in the first half but the Bantams got on the board in the final 30 minutes to defeat the Cardinals, 9-0 in the 2018 season-finale. Trinity (8-1) claimed its third-straight NESCAC Championship and league-high ninth overall, while Wesleyan concludes the year with a 5-4 mark.
Saturday's defensive battle marked the 118th meeting of the "Battle of the Birds", in what turned out to be a cold and windy day with snow flurries mixed in. Prior to the game, the Cardinals honored their 17-member senior class which graduates with a 22-12 (.647) record and one outright Little Three title. In addition to the Senior Day ceremony, Wesleyan also honored local veterans during its fourth annual "Salute to Service" game.
FIRST HALF HIGHLIGHTS:
- It was all defense in the first 30 minutes of play as neither team could get much going offensively.
- On the second play of the game, Trinity fumbled on a botched handoff attempt and Grant Williams picked it up for Wesleyan at the Bantams' 28-yard line. However, Trinity's defense sacked Dan Smith on 4th-and-3 as the Cardinals' lost a yard in four plays, turning the ball over on downs.
- On the Bantams' ensuing possession, the visitors drove 50 yards down to the Wesleyan-21 but went for it on 4th-and-6 and Seamus Lambert's pass fell incomplete.
- The next six drives ended in punts.
- With 9:24 remaining in the half, Wesleyan took over at its own-23. The Cardinals put together a 10-play, 41-yard drive down to the Trinity-36 but another failed fourth down attempt resulted in a turnover on downs.
- The half ended with three consecutive punts.
SECOND HALF HIGHLIGHTS:
- It was a similar story early in the second half with three punts on the first three drives.
- With 7:29 on the clock, Trinity took over at its own-49. A 17-yard pass completion from Lambert to Joe Samuelman gave the Bantams a 1st-and-goal at the Wesleyan-5. On the next play, Devante Reid rushed to the right and broke several tackles before pushing his way inside the right pylon for the score. The extra point attempt missed wide as Trinity held a 6-0 lead with 5:13 remaining in the third quarter.
- On Wesleyan's next drive, the Cardinals faced a 3rd-and-13 but Smith threw an excellent 39-yard pass in the air to Matthew Simco who leaped up for the catch. Shortly after, back-to-back penalties made it 2nd-and-30 and the Cardinals were unable to take advantage of the long pass play and punted two plays later.
- Trinity increased its lead to nine on its next drive. Starting at the 1:30 mark of the third, the drive carried over into the fourth quarter and a 22-yard kick by Eric Sachse with 11:50 remaining made it a two-score game. The scoring drive went 52 yards on eight plays.
- After a Wesleyan interception and a Trinity punt, the Cardinals took over with 2:22 remaining from their own 20-yard line. Facing a 4th-and-11, Smith eluded two tacklers and found David Estevez for a first down. However, He was picked off two plays later by Dago Picon-Roura, which sealed the win for Trinity.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS:
- Despite the loss, Wesleyan's defense was excellent and held Trinity scoreless in the first half for the first time since 2014. Additionally, the Cardinals held the league's top offense to just 226 yards of total offense on 125 yards passing and 101 rushing. The defensive line was terrific once again and finished with five sacks to end the year with 29 – a league-best.
- Trinity running back Max Chipouras entered the game averaging 133 yards per game, but was held to only 79 on 20 carries Saturday. Lambert was 10-of-16 for 118 yards, 0 TD and 0 INT. He also rushed 20 times for just 16 yards.
- Wesleyan gained just 175 yards of offense with 150 through the air and only 25 on the ground. Smith finished 13-of-31 for 150 yards and was sacked eight times. Sean Penney rushed five times for 35 yards and Glenn Smith carried the ball seven times for 23 yards.
- Defensively, the Cardinals were led by Brandon Morris who finished with a game-high 11 tackles as well as Cole Harris with nine. Grant Williams, Bobby Nevin and Taj Gooden each recorded a sack, while Nick Richards and Sam Green assisted on another.
- The Bantams' defense was led by Jacob Martillotti with nine tackles and one sack. James Christiano and Devyn Perkins each had 2.5 sacks and Dan Negron added two as well.