AMHERST, Massachusetts -- Rich Willard (Johnstown, NY), a senior Co-Captain of the 1997 Amherst football team, was named the ECAC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance against Williams College on November 8. This is the first time Willard has received this honor, though he has been named to the ECAC Honor Roll twice, including after last week's showing against Trinity. The quarterback concludes his collegiate career with four passing records and having challenged three more in yesterday's game.
Willard finished his senior season with the best game of his four-year career as he threw 26-44 completions for 378 yards and five touchdowns. The quarterback sparked the Amherst offense to rally from a 24-7 deficit in the first time the Jeffs trailed all season. Willard drove Amherst down the field in seven plays as he racked up 79 of his 109 first half yards to cut the lead to 24-14 at the half with a 36-yard bomb to Shaun Quigley (Chicopee, MA) in the endzone.
His third touchdown pass of the day gave Amherst its first lead in the game at 31-24 with 5:16 left in the third quarter. Though Williams reclaimed the lead midway through the final stanza, Willard rallied the Jeffs around two more touchdowns on a pair of pure-pass drives. The English major orchestrated a 10-play, 86-yard possession toward Quigley's second TD of the day. He followed up on the next Amherst series with a 34-yarder to the ECAC and NESCAC Co-Rookie of the Week Matt Hall (Lincroft, NJ) for the final touchdown of the game. Instead of going for the tie with a PAT, Hall lined up to hold the kick but threw a two-point conversion pass to Todd Haggerty (Albany, NY) for a precarious 46-45 lead with 1:49 left on the clock. However, Williams mounted a trademark late-game comeback to score the winning field goal with two seconds left in the game for a 48-46 victory. Amherst finished its 1997 campaign with its second straight 7-1 season.
Willard added a pair of records to his football resume with his impressive showing in Williamstown. His five touchdown passes were a single-game best, and they pushed his season total to 16, tying two other quarterbacks for most passing scores in a single season. The senior already held records for most attempts in a career, finishing at 563, and his 378 yards brought his career passing total to 4,387, yet another Amherst-best.
He was also just shy of breaking three other marks as he was one short of most attempts in a single game (45), two shy of most completions in a game (28) and 15-yards off the most in a single game (393). Willard finished the 1997 season with 109-214 completions (50.9%) for 1,736 yards for 16 touchdowns.
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