Saturday's Homecoming game marks the 124th meeting all-time between Little Three rivals Wesleyan and Amherst. The Mammoths, who are the only undefeated team remaining in the NESCAC with a perfect 5-0 mark, lead the series 71-43-9 and defeated the Cardinals 21-17 a year ago at Pratt Field. Wesleyan is riding a two-game win streak and enters today's contest with a 3-2 record.
Last year, the Cardinals traveled to Amherst, Mass. and held a 17-7 lead entering the fourth quarter. However, the Mammoths outscored Wesleyan 14-0 in the final 15 minutes and Amherst's Hasani Figueroa scored the game-winning touchdown run with just 1:27 remaining on the clock. Figueroa ran 51 yards up the middle, untouched, on his way to the score. The Cardinals took over at their own 35-yard line and on 4th-and-1, Mark Piccirillo '19 connected with Evan Hull '19 for an eight-yard gain to extend the drive. However, a sack by Amherst made it 3rd-and-17 and back-to-back incompletions ended the game.
The Mammoths outgained Wesleyan 386-to-189 but the Cardinals controlled the clock, 31:05-to-28:55. Amherst QB Ollie Eberth was 10-of-18 for 140 yards, 0 TD and 1 INT. He also led all rushers with 13 carries for 95 yards and a score. Bo Berluti was the leading receiver in the game with nine catches for 125 yards and Andrew Yamin was a force defensively as he recorded 5.5 sacks and a game-high 11 tackles. For Wesleyan, Piccirillo was 13-of-26 for 133 yards, 0 TD and 0 INT. He rushed 25 times for just 35 yards and scored once. Mike Breuler '18 hauled in four catches for a team-high 62 yards and Brandon Morris '19 led the Cardinals' defense with 10 tackles, one sack, and one fumble recovery.
The last time these two teams met at Corwin Stadium, in 2016, Wesleyan shutout Amherst for the first time since the 1988 season as the Cardinals won 20-0. Wesleyan's defense wreaked havoc all game as it forced five turnovers and held the Mammoths to 176 yards of total offense. Piccirillo started behind center for the Cardinals and finished with 230 yards of offense without committing a turnover. Morris and Yamin both recorded 10 tackles to lead all players.
Wesleyan is coming off a dominating performance over Bates last Saturday in which it won 44-13. The Cardinals outscored the Bobcats 23-0 in the third quarter en route to the decisive victory. Piccirillo was 10-of-15 for 183 yards and three passing touchdowns. He also rushed 11 times for 93 yards and a score. The senior QB did not commit a turnover and threw two touchdown passes to Dario Highsmith '20, who finished with four catches and 80 yards. The offense gained 429 yards while the Cardinals' defense held Bates to 157. Morris led the unit with 10 tackles as Wesleyan allowed just 10 first downs and only 78 yards through the air and 79 on the ground.
Amherst, who defeated Bates 19-7 in the 2018 season-opener, handled Colby last Saturday by a score of 35-9 at home. The Mammoths came out strong as they jumped out to a 28-0 lead with 1:44 to play in the first half. They finished the game with 477 yards of offense with 194 in the air and 283 on the ground. Colby, despite scoring just nine points, finished with 326 yards of offense (212 passing, 114 rushing). Eberth was 11-of-19 for 194 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed four times for 37 yards and a score. Biafra Okoronkwo led all players with 15 carries for 185 yards, including a 70-yard TD early in the first quarter. James O'Regan led all receivers with five catches for 101 yards and a score, and Berluti finished with four catches, 81 yards, and two TDs. Defensively, Andrew Sommer led the way with nine tackles and Zach Allen finished with eight.
Wesleyan enters Saturday's game ranked third in the NESCAC in total defense (275.6 yards/game) and fifth in total offense (379.0 yards/game). The Cardinals are averaging 33.2 points per game, which ranks second in the league while allowing 20.6. Offensively, the unit is averaging 187.4 yards per game on the ground and will face a stiff test against Amherst's top rushing defense that allows just 52.6 yards per contest. Wesleyan leads the league in third-down (50%) and fourth-down conversions (71%), as well as punt return average (12.4 yards/attempt), PATs (100%) and defensive touchdowns (2). Individually, Piccirillo leads the offense and ranks fifth in the conference in passing yards per game (191.6) and is tied for second in passing touchdowns (10). The senior QB also ranks fifth in the NESCAC in rushing, averaging 76.6 yards per game. Defensively, Taj Gooden '21 has shined for the Cardinals and currently ranks second in the league with five sacks as Wesleyan ranks third as a unit with 10.
Amherst ranks second in the conference in both total offense (407.2 yards/game) and total defense (247.6 yards/game) while scoring 27.2 points per game and allowing just 8.8 per contest to lead the league. The Mammoths boast the NESCAC's top rushing attack, gaining 238.0 yards per game on the ground with a league-high 12 rushing touchdowns, but ranks eighth in passing (169.2 yards/game). Amherst also leads the league in time of possession per game (32:56) but has been prone to turnovers with a conference-high nine fumbles and six lost. Eberth is averaging 169.2 passing yards per game, and ranks fifth in the NESCAC in passing touchdowns (7) and is tied for second in rushing touchdowns (6). Berluti has been his favorite target through the air as he ranks fourth in receiving yards per game (68.8). Aside from Eberth, the rushing game also features Okoronkwo and Jack Hickey, who average 76.4 and 63.2 yards per game, respectively. Okoronkwo averages 7.8 yards per carry and Hickey gains 6.1 yards per rush. Defensively, Amherst is led by the 2017 NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year, Andrew Yamin. Yamin leads the league in sacks with 5.5.