Goalposts Came Tumbling Down:|
Football Defeats Williams
November 11, 2000
AMHERST, Mass. - Senior Amherst football Tri-captain Brian Daoust (Dover, MA) picked off three passes from Williams College rookie quarterback Jake Moore (Canfield, OH), and fellow Tri-captain Matt Hall (Lincroft, NJ) and junior Derrell Wright (Hudson, OH) each tallied over 100 receiving yards as the Jeffs defeated arch-rival Williams for the first time since 1986, rallying from a 9-0 halftime deficit to earn a 20-12 win and their first outright Little III title in 14 years.
|Amherst celebrates its|
win over Williams
"It's unbelievable, because these kids and this coaching staff worked so hard," said Amherst Head Coach E.J. Mills, who was 0-3 against Williams entering Saturday. "Our kids just wanted it so bad. It's a culmination of a lot of hard work over a lot of years. I just couldn't be happier."
Despite the happy ending the game would start on an ugly note for both teams, with Williams kicker Robert Kaufman (San Diego, CA) missing a 41-yard field goal attempt before the teams traded punts. On the Ephs' third possession, the visitors got going, mounting a 71-yard drive capped by a one-yard TD run from rookie Tyler Shea (Bedford, NH). Jake Moore, who came in for starter Joe Reardon (Arlington, VA) after he had been shaky on the first two series, came up with the big play of the drive, connecting with senior Colin Vataha (Lincoln, MA) for a 57-yard pass to set up the Shea run.
The Jeffs would punt again on their next possession, before the Williams offense marched right back downfield. Moore completed passes on five of his six attempts on the drive, including a 25-yard strike to Vataha, before a big sack by Amherst defensive linemen Ted Hollo (Aurora, OH) and Gregg Stankewicz (Portland, CT) on third-and-three forced the Ephs to settle for a 36-yard field goal by Kaufman. Nevertheless, the Ephs, after scoring on back-to-back possessions, had a 9-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
That lead would last through halftime, as Williams outgained the Jeffs 183-94 in the opening 30 minutes. Half of Amherst's 94 yards came on a 47-yard Hall reception from senior signal-caller Peter Honig (Bronxville, NY) late in the second quarter to get the Jeffs inside the Williams 10, before a third-down sack by Mark Rosenthal (Walpole, MA) forced Amherst to settle for a field goal, which senior Liam Fleming (Braintree, MA) pulled wide to the left.
|Liam Fleming's second|
quarter FG attempt
After an offensively-anemic first half, the Jeffs, with a 0-12-1 record against Williams in the last 13 meetings between the two teams, came charging out of the gates in the second half. After an 11-yard Honig rush and an 11-yard completion to Hall, junior Jeff tailback Okey Ugwonali (Dallas, TX) broke free on a reverse for a 52-yard gain down to the Williams 1, before Honig took it in himself two plays later to close the Jeffs to within two.
"We had the momentum right from the beginning of the second half," said Honig. "It was a real big thing for us to get that touchdown. It definitely gave us a lot of confidence."
|Williams' Jake Moore|
evades the Jeff pass rush
From there, Amherst continued to move the ball well throughout the third quarter, while Williams struggled. Neither team was able to break through, however, so the 9-7 Williams lead lasted into the fourth quarter. On the opening drive of the final period, the Ephs marched the ball 34 yards to the Amherst 43, before Moore coughed the ball up—the third of four Williams turnovers on the afternoon. Amherst junior Kevin Bush (Boca Raton, FL) pounced on the loose ball, giving the Jeffs the ball in good field position early in the fourth.
The hosts didn't waste the opportunity, with Honig connecting with Wright for a 36-yard completion on the second play after the turnover, getting the ball to the Williams 4. From there, a pair of Ugwonali carries got the ball into the endzone, as the Jeffs took the lead for the first time, going ahead 13-9 after missing the two-point conversion attempt, with the passing game leading the way.
"We knew it was there in the first half," said Wright. "We were just having some problems with our timing. Our offensive line did an awesome job giving Pete time to throw and we were getting open in the second half."
After Williams punted on its ensuing drive, the Amherst offense went to work once more, beginning with a 32-yard completion from Honig to Hall. On the second play of the drive, Honig found Wright for 16 yards, before a short rush and an incomplete pass found the Jeffs facing third-and-seven from the Williams 22 with 8:24 remaining. On one of the biggest plays of the game, Honig evaded the Williams rush to hit Wright, wide open over the middle, for a 22-yard score. Fleming's PAT put the Jeffs ahead 20-9.
The game was far from over, since Amherst had held fourth-quarter leads in three of the last four meetings between the two teams (all four Williams wins), as the Ephs came back with a scoring drive of their own, as Moore completed four of six passes to lead Williams inside the Amherst 10. On third down, however, Amherst Tri-captain Dan Lalli (Watertown, MA), who finished with a career-high 15 tackles on the day, stopped Williams senior Ken Ojukwu (Albany, NY) short of a first-down, forcing the Ephs to settle for a field goal, a 25-yarder from Kaufman that split the uprights.
|Dan Lalli posted a|
game-high 15 tackles
The Williams defense held Amherst to three-and-out on their next possession, but the Amherst kicking game, beset with problems all season, came through in the clutch, as sophomore punter Geoff Bough (Los Altos, CA) turned in a 61-yard punt to pin the Ephs deep in their own territory with 2:16 to play. Then, however, Daoust, who had already picked off Moore passes in the second and third quarters, came up with one more on the Ephs' first play of the drive, outleaping Vataha at midfield to seal Amherst's biggest win in 14 years. From there, the Jeffs ran the clock out, taking the 2000 edition of the "Biggest Little Game in America" by snapping the "Biggest Little Winless Streak in America" at a lucky 13.
Daoust led a quintet of exceptional performances by Amherst players, including Lalli's 15 tackles and 100-yard games from Hall, Wright and Ugwonali. Hall finished the day with four receptions for 101 yards, Wright pulled in eight passes for 122, and Ugwonali added 18 carries for 107 yards, as the Jeffs racked up 352 yards of total offense - 258 in the second half.
Williams was paced offensively by Vataha and senior Matt Student (New Milford, NJ), who pulled in eight passes for 41 yards to set a new single-season school record for receptions. Moore finished 13-for-21 for 170 yards, but with three costly interceptions and the game's lone lost fumble, while Honig turned in a solid all-around game, finishing 15-for-31 for 230 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.
|Peter Honig threw|
for 230 yards
With the win, the Jeffs finish the 2000 season with a 7-1 record as the outright champions of the Little III, thanks to the win over Williams and their 9-7 win at Wesleyan on October 21. The squad is also assured of a share of the NESCAC conference title, along with 7-1 Colby College and 7-1 Middlebury, but that pales in comparison to the enormity of finally upending their arch-rivals.
"What can you say?" reflected a jubilant Honig. "We played this game for a lot of people. Not just for our players, but for all the teams that came before us. I'm just so happy that we were the team that could do it."
|Amherst raised their |
helmets in victory
Williams finishes its 2000 campaign with a 5-3 record. With the loss, the Ephs fail to capture at least a share of the Little III title for the first time since the last Amherst win, the 10-7 1986 game that can finally be forgotten, now that the Jeffs have relegated the "Biggest Little Winless Streak in America" to little more than an obscure historical footnote.
stats & play-by-play