By Leon
In one of the wildest offensive shootouts that anyone associated with the Amherst football program can recall, the undefeated Lord Jeffs at last buried a feisty Tufts team this past weekend at Pratt Field, by the unbelievable score of 70-49.

Playing in their next-to-last home game, and in front of families and friends on Senior Day, the Jeffs seemed to be playing in the newest Madden video game. That is, the scoring never seemed to stop, and someone in the crowd was overheard wondering if the scoreboard could accommodate triple digits.

Although it didn’t quite come to that, the affair did have the back-and-forth feel of a basketball game, and the point totals to match.

As for the inevitable statistical onslaught, the game featured 67 first downs and an incredible 1,303 total offensive yards, with Amherst earning more than 350 yards on the ground alone.

Of those, junior running back Eric Bunker chalked up nearly 200 himself, averaging an impressive 8+ yards per carry and scoring four touchdowns, while senior Femi Oyalowo ’11 added a hundred more yards and a pair of TDs.

For individual feats, Tufts quarterback Anthony Fucillo ’11 stole the show with 503 yards — a performance that earned him NESCAC Offensive Player of the Week honors.

Senior Lord Jeff QB Alex Vetras had a record day to remember too, as his 265 passing yards lifted his career total to 4,979, more than enough to put him in first place among Amherst quarterback greats, with two games still remaining in his collegiate career. He also tacked on a one-yard TD scamper, while kicker Matt Rawson likely set some kind of record himself by not only kicking a grand total of 10 PATs without a miscue but scoring a TD on a gimmick play just before the half.

The game kicked off with a bang as Tufts wasted no time in showing off their offensive capabilities, particularly their air game. On the game’s first possession, the Jumbos traveled 76 yards in 12 plays, going up 7-0 at the 10:45 mark of the first quarter. After recovering an Amherst fumble, the Jumbos again turned up the heat, and Fucillo wasted no time in marching the Jumbos to another score, to make it 14-0.

Luckily, Amherst special teams play kept the Jeffs in the game near the end of the first quarter, when senior Andre Gary returned a punt 36 yards for a TD. Rawson’s kick made it 14-7, which is where matters stood going into the second quarter.

Unfortunately for the Jeffs’ defense, Tufts and Fucillo were just getting warmed up. The prolific QB’s 23-yard TD pass, and the point after, put Amherst in a 21-7 hole.

But the Lord Jeffs responded with a drive of their own, as Vetras connected on a 32-yard toss to junior receiver Will Reed that set up a five-yard touchdown scamper by first-year running back Ryan Silva. Rawson made the PAT, and Amherst again trailed by only seven, 21-14.

Staying with what was working, Fucillo once again made it look way too easy against the Amherst defense by driving 70 yards in a heart-stopping 42 seconds. His 65-yard TD bomb again extended the Jumbos’ lead to 14, 28-14.

Like two heavyweight punchers in a slugfest, it was then Amherst’s turn to strike, with Vetras throwing precision passes and Bunker carrying the ball in from the 12 for his first touchdown of the day. Reliable Rawson’s PAT brought Amherst back to within a touchdown, 28-21, before high-powered Tufts returned the favor on a seven-yard TD jaunt by Fucillo. The successful point after made it 35-21, and even the fans were out of breath.

Shortly before intermission, in what may have been the game’s key play, Amherst was able to narrow the gap on a fake field goal and a no-look toss from Vetras to kicker Rawson, whose nimble sprint into the end zone from the three-yard stripe was his first career touchdown. As icing on the cake, Rawson added the PAT to his own touchdown, as the half came to a close with Amherst only down by seven, 35-28.

Either the fake-FG touchdown play, the exuberant home crowd, or something Coach E. J. Mills said at halftime worked wonders for the Jeffs’ morale, as they burst out of the locker room to score four touchdowns in the third period and two more in the fourth. Meanwhile, the Amherst defense showed up, rejuvenated with new pass-rush schemes or merely new effort, to put pressure on Fucillo and limit the Jumbos’ potent aerial attack to a pair of TDs.

Prior to the game, Amherst paid tribute to the 17 seniors on the squad who have compiled a remarkable 23-7 record over their collegiate careers, not to mention an impressive 14 victories in a row (and counting).

But with only two games to play, Amherst will face its two toughest hurdles of the season: Trinity on the road next Saturday and The Game during Amherst’s Homecoming weekend, Nov. 13.

The Bantams have lost just once all season, a close contest at Williams, whose Purple Cows, like Amherst, are undefeated. Meanwhile, football clichés abound about “crunch time,” but the significance of both games goes without saying. For Amherst, a second straight undefeated season and NESCAC title are on the line, and the Jeffs could find themselves in deep trouble if they continue to fall behind early in games. Rawson said as much. “It would be nice to have better starts to our games but last week was a perfect example of our discipline and resilience,” he said. “We have so many playmakers on both sides of the ball, you can’t hold us down for long.”

Issue 08, Submitted 2010-11-03 00:25:52