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Week 4 Preview – Wesleyan vs. Colby

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

Wesleyan vs. Colby Series

Saturday's meeting between Wesleyan (1-2) and Colby (0-3) marks the 41st game in a series that dates back to 1927. The two programs have played each other every year since the 1988 season, as the Cardinals boast a 23-17 all-time record against their NESCAC foe. Wesleyan has also won eight straight against the Mules, including a 37-6 victory in 2016 and a 41-7 win at home last fall.

In the last meeting between Wesleyan and Colby, the Mules scored first as RB Jake Schwern scored a 22-yard touchdown on their second possession of the game. However, despite holding a 7-0 lead after the first quarter, the Cardinals outscored Colby 41-0 over the next 45 minutes. They held a 559-to-166 edge in total offense as Wesleyan QB Mark Piccirillo '19 went 21-of-26 for 324 yards, 4 TD and 1 INT. He also rushed 14 times for 77 yards. His favorite target was WR Mike Breuler '18 who finished with 10 catches, 200 yards, and two touchdowns. For Colby, Schwern led the way with 53 yards rushing on 15 carries and 1 TD. He also led the team in receiving with seven catches for 48 yards. QB Jack O'Brien was 22-of-45 for 111 yards, 0 TD and 1 INT.

Both teams will look to snap their losing streaks this Saturday as the Cardinals are coming off consecutive heartbreakers against Tufts (16-13) and Hamilton (33-29), respectively. Last week, Wesleyan was stunned by the Continentals in what proved to be a back-and-forth matchup throughout. Leading 29-26 with just under two minutes to play in regulation, the Cardinals were forced to punt at their own 26-yard line when Christian Snell of Hamilton broke through the line, blocked the punt, and landed on the loose ball in the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. Piccirillo led the offense as he went 20-of-36 for 263 yards, 3 TD and 1 INT, including 20 carries for 64 yards and one score. WR Hallvard Lundevall '20 recorded six catches for 92 yards and two touchdowns. Defensively, the Cardinals were led by LB Cole Harris '19 who recorded seven tackles, one sack, and two pass break-ups.

Hamilton is 1-11 in its last 12 games dating back to last season and has given up 30-plus points in each of its first three games this year. Last Saturday, the Continentals lost 31-14 to Middlebury at home, a team that Wesleyan defeated 52-21 in its season-opener. Hamilton and Middlebury were tied at 7-7 in the closing seconds of the third quarter until a field goal by the Panthers with :22 on the clock gave them a three-point lead entering the fourth. The final 15 minutes were all Middlebury as it outscored Hamilton 21-7 en route to the victory. QB Matt Hersch was 20-of-35 for 182 yards, 2 TD and 2 INT. Schwern finished with 82 yards rushing on 29 carries, and WR Ethan Smith led the receiving corps with three catches for 57 yards and one score. Linebackers Marcus Bullard and Patrick Sopko recorded eight tackles each to lead the defense, which allowed 131 yards passing and 202 yards rushing.

Wesleyan's offense currently leads the NESCAC in time of possession (34:19), ranks third in scoring (31.3 points/game), and is fifth in total offense (368.3 yards/game). The passing attack, led by Piccirillo, ranks third with 202.3 yards per game while the running game ranks sixth, averaging 166.0 yards per contest. Piccirillo sits second in the conference in passing and passing touchdowns (5), while Lundevall is fifth in receiving yards per game (65.0) and receiving touchdowns (2). Defensively, the Cardinals are fourth in the NESCAC in yards (292.3/game) and fifth in the NESCAC in scoring (23.3 points/game). They allow 210.3 yards per game through the air and 82.0 on the ground. The Cardinals also lead the league in defensive touchdowns (2) and rank second in sacks (6). Sophomore defensive linemen Taj Gooden and Jackson Eighmy are tied for second among league leaders in sacks with two each, while DB Ben Thaw '20 is tied for the league lead in interceptions (2), and Harris leads the team in tackles (21).

The Mules' offense ranks last in the conference in scoring, averaging just 9.3 points per game, and is ninth in total offense (236.3 yards/game) with only 132.3 yards per game through the air and 104.0 rushing. Colby has amassed just two passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns through three games. Freshman Matt Hersch has played the majority of snaps under center and has 301 passing yards on the year with two touchdowns and two interceptions, while Schwern has been the highlight thus far as he ranks fifth in the conference in rushing (99.0 yards/game) including two touchdowns. Defensively, Colby is second-to-last in the NESCAC in scoring (34.0 points/game) and ranks eighth in total defense (434.7 yards/game). The Mules rank second in the league in passing yards (156.7 yards/game) but are giving up 278.0 yards per game on the ground. Bullard leads the team in tackles with 23 including one for a loss.

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