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Week 8 Preview - Wesleyan (4-3) vs. Williams (5-2)

Photo by TJ Dowling
Photo by TJ Dowling

Wesleyan vs. Williams Series

For the 124th time since 1881, Little Three rivals Wesleyan (4-3) and Williams (5-2) will face each other on the gridiron this Saturday. The Ephs hold a 76-42-5 lead in the series, but the Cardinals have owned the rivalry in recent years and are riding a five-game win streak against their NESCAC foes. During the 5-0 run, Wesleyan has shut out Williams twice (22-0 in 2014 and 35-0 last year) and have outscored the Ephs 143-21 in the last four meetings.

Last year, the Cardinals cruised to a commanding 35-0 win at home on Homecoming/Family Weekend as their stingy defense held Williams to a mere 127 yards of total offense and only eight first downs. Offensively, Wesleyan gained 455 yards on 272 passing and 183 rushing. Quarterback Mark Piccirillo earned NESCAC Player of the Week honors with a stellar performance in which he scored four touchdowns (2 passing, 2 rushing) and gained 341 yards of offense (272 passing, 69 rushing) without turning the ball over. Defensively, Wesleyan was led by Brandon Morris who had eight tackles and one for a loss. KJ Laguerre recorded a sack, and Ben Thaw and Brett Robertshaw each recorded an interception.

Williams QB, then-freshman Bobby Maimaron, was 7-of-20 for only 51 yards and two picks. He rushed a team-high 10 times as well for just 11 yards. Frank Stola led the team in rushing (32 yards) and receiving (24 yards) but only touched the ball six times. Three Ephs players recorded double-digit tackles as Jarrett Wesner led the way with 13, Austin Thomas had 11 and T.J. Rothman recorded 10.  

Wesleyan is coming off a dominating 24-0 performance against Bowdoin on Saturday in which the Cardinals played on Citrin Field for the first time in school history due to inclement weather conditions. It was a much needed win for Wesleyan as it put the Cardinals above .500. They now sit tied for fifth in the conference standings alongside Middlebury. Wesleyan outgained Bowdoin 368-to-100 and held the Polar Bears to just 20 yards rushing and only six first downs. Piccirillo threw two touchdown passes to Matthew Simco and Hallvard Lundevall, and Glenn Smith rushed for a score while also recording his first 100-yard game of his collegiate career. The sophomore ran 20 times for 105 yards. Defensively, Taj Gooden registered two sacks and Morris broke up two passes.

The Ephs snapped a two-game losing streak last weekend as they defeated Hamilton on the road, 27-17. Williams outgained the Continentals 353-to-289 while gaining 158 yards through the air and 195 on the ground. The Ephs allowed only 64 yards of rushing and held a commanding 40:49-to-19:11 time of possession. They also picked off the Hamilton quarterback four times. Offensively for Williams, Maimaron went 11-of-24 for 158 yards, two scores and a pick. He also rushed 20 times for 97 yards and Carter Begel led all players with 108 yards on 34 attempts including a score. Rothman and Coleston Smith led the defense with six tackles each. Smith also recorded an interception and Luke Apuzzi tallied two.

Wesleyan's offense ranks second in the NESCAC in scoring, averaging 27.6 points per game, and will go up against a Williams defense that allows just 15.6 points and 316.6 yards per contest. The Cardinals are averaging 333.7 yards per game offensively and are led by Piccirillo who ranks third in the conference in passing (174.3 yards/game) and ninth in rushing (63.6 yards/game). The program's all-time touchdown leader has 15 on the season with 12 passing and only four interceptions. His 130.5 QB efficiency ranks second in the league.

On the other side of the ball, the Wesleyan defense ranks third in total defense (271.3 yards/game) and fifth in scoring (19.4 points/game) as it faces a strong rushing team in Williams. The Ephs, ranked third in total offense (363.3yards/game) and fourth in scoring (26.7 points/game), have one of the NESCAC's top rushing attacks as they rank third with 205.9 yards per game including 15 rushing touchdowns. TJ Dozier and Maimaron rank third (82.7 yards/game) and fourth (77.6 yards/game) in the conference, respectively, while Maimaron sits second in the league with eight rushing TD's. The sophomore quarterback is also seventh in passing with 146.9 yards per game, while throwing eight touchdowns and three interceptions. Wesner leads Williams defense with 55 tackles on the year and Cole Harris leads Wesleyan with 46.

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