First-year tailback Ngai Otieno came out of nowhere to rush for 97 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries
Football Upsets Heavily Favored Williams, 45-35
November 9, 2002
AMHERST, MA - They say new goal posts can cost as much as $8,000. Amherst College will have to find room in its budget. The Jeffs pulled one of their most stunning upsets in recent memory on Saturday, shocking previously undefeated Williams College 45-35 in front of a Homecoming crowd over 8,000 strong, after which the student body uprooted the goal post from Pratt Field's west end zone and marched triumphantly through campus. The victory marked the fourth time Amherst - which finishes its season at 6-2 - has denied Williams a perfect season, having pulled the trick in 1942 (12-6 Amherst), 1964 (20-7 Amherst), 1995 (0-0 tie) and now in 2002.
Plenty of heroes were anointed on Saturday, not the least of which was Amherst senior wideout J.P. Zito (Coral Gables, FL), who posted a career-high seven catches for 179 yards, with touchdown strikes of 33, three and 69 yards from sophomore quarterback Marsh Moseley (New Orleans, LA). First-year tailback Ngai Otieno (Gloucester, MA) came out of nowhere to rush for 97 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries, many of which served to wear down an embattled Ephs defense late in the fourth quarter. And then there was senior cornerback Joe Rubbone (Towaco, NJ), who torched Williams for 11 tackles, a fumble recovery and an interception in his final collegiate game, while junior linebacker Ed Sylvester (Scitutate, MA) and sophomore David Borgonzi (Everett, MA) tallied team-highs of 13 and 12 takedowns, respectively.
Things didn't look so good early on, however, as Williams took the opening kickoff and marched 77 yards on 10 plays for a 7-0 lead that seemed to come all too easy. Undaunted, Amherst erupted with the game's next 17 points. Zito ignited the barrage with the afternoon's first touchdown grab - a 33-yard scud from Moseley - followed by a record-breaking 30-yard field goal by sophomore place kicker David Bodner (Atlantic Beach, NY) and a one-yard touchdown run by junior tailback Fletcher Ladd (Amherst, NH). Ten of the tide-turning points came off of Williams turnovers, as Rubbone fell on a Mike Hackett (Rutland, VT) fumble to set up Bodner's field goal, and Amherst sophomore Matt Birmingham (West Nyack, NY) recovered yet another Williams miscue on the ensuing kickoff to set the stage for Ladd's one-yard rumble.
Williams would close the gap to 17-14 at the half, countering with a marathon seven-minute, 16-play, 65-yard, second-quarter drive that Tyler Shea (Bedford, NH) capped with a one-yard touchdown plunge, the first of three scoring runs for the hulking junior fullback.
That was as close as the Ephs would get.
Inspired by its stellar play in the first half, Amherst posted a trio of game-breaking touchdowns in the third quarter en route to an imposing 38-21 lead. Otieno found the end zone with a one-yard TD run before Zito and Moseley found pay dirt with respective three- and 69-yard hookups, sandwiched around a two-yard TD run by Williams' Shea.
The Ephs countered in the fourth quarter with a five-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Joe Reardon (Alexandria, VA) to classmate Jamaal Mobley (Egg Harbor Township, NJ) and, all of a sudden, it was a 10-point game with 9:59 left in regulation. That was when Otieno iced the game for the Jeffs.
After going three-and-out and punting on its next drive, Amherst regained possession with a clutch interception by senior strong safety Paul Miceli (Glendale, NY) and seemed content to chew time off the clock with a series of handoffs. Otieno seized the opportunity with a 12-yard run, followed by a one-yard dive, before bursting up the middle with a tackle-breaking, zigzagging, 43-yard monster of a touchdown run, his second of the game and just the second of his young career.
Williams would find the end zone once more in the fourth quarter with an 18-yard touchdown pass from Reardon to senior wideout Ryan Friend (Bedford, MA), but it was too little, too late for the Ephs, who watched sole possession of the unofficial NESCAC Championship and the coveted Little Three title fall by the wayside with the loss.
Aside from coughing up five turnovers, Williams' offense was, as advertised, impressive. Hackett led the way with 119 yards on 26 carries, and Shea's four carries for eight yards accounted for three Eph touchdowns. Reardon had a busy afternoon as well, throwing 41 times with 27 completions for 301 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. Mobley was the chief beneficiary with 10 catches for 93 yards and a touchdown. Junior linebacker Graham Goldwasser (St. Louis, MO) had a strong game on defense, tallying a game-high 14 tackles, including 1.5 for loss and a sack.
Amherst's historic day was marked by several historic performances. Having already snapped a single-season school record, Bodner shattered a conference record with his eighth field goal of the season. Meanwhile, with 56 rushing yards on Saturday, Ladd fell just 72 yards shy of Josh Mason's single-season school record of 1,220 rushing yards, set in 1994, and 145 yards shy of the NESCAC single-season record of 1,293 yards, set by Jamall Pollock of Williams in 1995.
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