Game Notes: Amherst (7-0) at Williams (6-1)
Saturday, November 8, 1997 at Weston Field, Williamstown, Massachusetts
This is the 112th meeting of the oldest Division III rivalry and the fourth oldest in the nation. The "Biggest Little Game in America" kicked off in 1884 with a 15-2 Williams victory, from which the Ephs have taken a 61-45-5 lead in the series. In 531 games (309-190-32, 61.2%) over 120 years against NESCAC opponents, Williams is the only one Amherst does not field a winning record against.
|Football Fast Facts|
|Amherst overall record: 524-386-54 (58.3%)|
Record v. Williams: 45-61-5 (42.8%)
Streak: Williams has won last 10 straight
Longest Amherst win streak: 6 from 1981-1986
Last Williams victory: 1996, 19-13 at Pratt Field
Last Amherst victory: 1986, 10-7 at Pratt Field
Biggest Williams win: 1885, 57-0
Biggest Amherst win: 1892, 60-0
Shut Out wins: Williams, 21
Little III Titles: Williams, 40
Three-way ties, 5
Undefeated Amherst seasons: 5
(1877, 1879, 1942, 1964, 1984)
Perfect Amherst seasons spoiled by Williams: 5
(1957, 1961, 1972, 1973, 1996)
Both schools are members of the Little III, a mini-conference started in 1910 that features the two Massachusetts schools and Connecticut rival Wesleyan. The winner of the round robin trivalry takes home the coveted Little III title in each respective sport. Of the 83 titles bestowed since Amherst's inaugural capture in 1910, Williams leads with 40 football crowns, Amherst follows with 25 and Wesleyan claims 12. There have been five three-way ties (1919, 1920, 1936, 1976 and 1978) and one two-way tie between Amherst and Williams (1995).
This is the second straight year where Amherst enters the season finale with an untainted record, looking for the Jeffs' eighth year without a loss and sixth perfect season. But the Ephs enter the match with the game plan of 1957, 1961, 1972, 1973 and 1996: to spoil their archrivals' undefeated status. In each year Amherst rolled to a 7-0 record before Williams leveled a season-ending loss on the Jeffs. With the exception of last year's 19-13 nailbiter, the Ephs handily disposed of Amherst.
Amherst is coming off a 35-8 romp over Trinity as the Jeffs pushed their record to 7-0 for the second straight year. Fueled by 271 yards of offense in the first half alone, Amherst jumped out to a 28-0 lead midway through the game. The Jeff defense asserted its mastery by allowing a mere 87 yards rushing and 54 passing as the Bantams gained less than half of their 331 yards per game average before arriving at Pratt Field. That was the first time all season Trinity had been held under 100 yards rushing, and eight points was the Bantams' lowest offensive output of 1997.
Leading the Jeffs to victory was senior Co-Captain Rich Willard (Johnstown, NY), who made his second dent in the record books as Amherst's career passing leader with 4,009 yards so far in four years. With his second completion of the day, a 15-yarder to wideout Colin Barnacle (Denver, CO), Willard cracked John Kehoe's quarterback best of 3,796 yards, set in the 1969 season. Willard already held the mark for most career attempts, currently at 519 (with 273 completions for 52.6% accuracy).
Powering the offense along with Willard are a trio of senior receivers and a junior running back plowing over opponents. Barnacle, Shaun Quigley (Chicopee, MA) and Todd Haggerty (Albany, NY) have combined for 1,331 of 1,496 Lord Jeff passing yards and 71 of 91 completions, including 12 in the endzone. Darin Byrne (Winchester, MA) also has a TD catch along with his team leading seven on the ground as the second-best runner in the NESCAC. The junior pounds out 88 stripes a game as he has 129 carries for 616 yards so far. Byrne has scored in each of the last five games, including a pair of tallies against Middlebury, Tufts and Trinity.
Stepping onto the field each time with the cheer of "defense wins", Amherst has indeed relied upon that creed as they have held opponents to an average of 180.4 yards a game while the offense tallies 383.6 each match. Only once have opponents rushed for over 100 yards as the Jeffs have leveled 35 sacks and 37 tackles for losses of 419 yards. Co-Captain Seth Zimmerman (Lewistown, PA) leads the Jeffs in tackles for the third straight year with 72 (33 solo), while tackle Devin Moriarty (Springfield, MA) has surprised signal-callers a team-leading nine times for 56 sack yards. Outside linebacker Alex Niefer (Williamsville, NY) throws in another 8.5 sacks for 66 yards, while fellow backer Jake Conca (Attleboro, MA) has stopped opponents behind the line of scrimmage 10.5 times as the Jeffs' second leading tackler. Junior Todd Nichols (Skaneateles, NY) paces the secondary with five interceptions, including his second career pick hat trick against Middlebury in week three.
Much of Amherst's success has been the result of aggressive special teams that have blocked four punts and a field goal while also setting up dangerous field position on five of 29 Lord Jeff touchdowns. Likewise, Amherst has converted into points four of 13 possessions gained by interception and three of ten by fumble recovery.
Amherst continues to lead the NESCAC both offensively and defensively as the Jeffs bring a complete and lethal package to Weston Field. The Jeffs have posted 210 points off 2,685 offensive yards while they have allowed a mere 1,263 stripes and 45 points.
Amherst continues to lead the nation in scoring defense (6.4 ppg) after winning the statistical national title in 1996. Giving up only 180.4 yards per game, Amherst is the fifth best defense in the country, bolstered by their 49.6 yards on the ground (5th) and 79.7 in the air (9th).
The Jeffs enter the match as the second-best team in New England according to the ECAC Weekly Poll. Amherst rose one notch after the Trinity win, while Williams fell from fourth to No. 7 with the Ephs' 28-14 loss at Wesleyan. That was the first Little III loss for the Ephs in 11 years since Amherst's last victory over Williams in 1986.
Thoughts from the Jeffs...
Zimmerman made a lofty prediction in the pre-season: "I truly believe that 10 weeks fom now, we'll be 7-0 going into the Williams game. Eleven weeks from now, I truly believe we will be 8-0, talking about how happy we are with our undefeated season. It's that simple"
"You realize that in eight games in the NESCAC," observed senior offensive guard Rob Schur (Wichita, KS), "the competitiveness is just as strong as anywhere else. With no playoffs, the only thing we have to play for is an undefeated season and to beat Williams. Last year we were so close, we had gotten so far that it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. With this team, we have the opportunity again and we won't let it slip away again."
"The loss to Williams last year," cringed senior outside linebacker Conca , "was pretty painful because the seniors had the opportunity to do something that Amherst hadn't done in a long time. It would have been great to be 8-0. We took seven steps, but there was one more we needed to make the journey complete. As soon as we got there, it collapsed. We're in the process of re-learning how to win, and that loss was a great stepping stone in the process. This opportunity doesn't come around often. This is the second year in a row, and we'll capitalize on this one."
"This is where we wanted to be, and where we thought we should be" noted E.J. Mills of a 7-0 start in his inaugural season as the Lord Jeffs' Head Coach. "But Williams is a great team who knows how to bounce back. It's the biggest fear of any senior class that they'll be the class that lost to Amherst. Williams can beat us and we know we can beat them. That's why we play the game."
This year's game will once again be televised live on the New England Sports Network (NESN) starting at 12:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 8. Over 40 alumni associations will be tapping into NESN's satellite feed for the enjoyment of loyal Amherst and Williams fans all over the world. This is the seventh of nine ECAC/Chevy Dealers of New England Football Games of the Week, for which Tom Larson and Bob Norton will provide the commentary from Weston Field. The game will also be shown in tape-delay on Monday, November 10 at 7:30 p.m.
Last year's matchup pitted 6-2 Williams against the favored 7-0 Lord Jeffs in Amherst, Massachusetts. The teams flip-flopped leads throughout the made-for-television game, in which Amherst claimed its first lead on the Ephs in the '90s. A 29-yard field goal by David Bobruff '97 gave the Jeffs a precarious 13-12 lead early in the fourth quarter, but Williams mounted a 98-yard drive over five minutes toward the game-winning touchdown with 36 seconds left on the clock (see box below). That game was the second in a series of late-game comebacks by Williams to win eight-straight, a streak snapped by fellow Little III foe Wesleyan last weekend with a 28-14 victory in Middletown, Connecticut.
Saturday, November 9, 1996 at Pratt Field, Amherst, Massachusetts
Amherst (7-1) 7 3 3 0 -- 13
Williams (6-2) 6 0 6 7 -- 19
13:34 W Matt Sigrist 24 pass from Peter Supino (Sam Landis kick failed)
5:26 A Rich Willard 11 run (David Bobruff kick)
0:34 A Bobruff 22 field goal
9:38 W Mark Kossick 26 pass from Peter Supino (Landis kick blocked)
11:48 A Bobruff 29 field goal
0:36 W Mike McAdam 2 run (Landis kick)
First downs 20 18
Rushes-yards 36-187 52-110
Passing yards 212 206
Return yards 70 55
Passes 23-13-1 32-15-1
Punts-yards 6-17 2-8
Fumbles-lost 4-1 2-1
Penalties-yards 2-15 6-50
Rushing: A Josh Mason 36-145, Bob DiSabato 9-43, Chris Miller 1-3, Josh Carroll 3-(-1), Rich Willard 3-(-3). W Kris Kahn 23-71, Mike McAdam 8-18, Mark Kossick 2-7, Brandon Davidson 1-6, Peter Supino 1-4, Craig MacDonald 1-4.
Passing: A Rich Willard 23-13-1 212 yards, W Peter Supino 32-15-1 206 yards.
Receiving: A Chris Miller 6-85, Matt Murray 4-63, Shaun Quigley 2-33, Mike Brendler 1-31. W Matt Sigrist 7-126, Mark Kossick 6-66, Kris Kahn 1-11, Mike Paolercio 1-3.
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