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Simco Catches Game-Winning Touchdown in Closing Seconds as Wesleyan Defeats Tufts, 20-13

Photo by Steve McLaughlin
Photo by Steve McLaughlin

MIDDLETOWN, Conn. – Quarterback Ashton Scott threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Matthew Simco with six seconds remaining to cap off a thrilling come-from-behind win for the Wesleyan football team as the Cardinals defeated Tufts on Saturday night, under the lights, 20-13.

Trailing 10-0 at halftime, Wesleyan outscored the Jumbos 20-3 in the final 30 minutes en route to a thrilling victory as the Cardinals remain undefeated at 5-0. With the loss, Tufts falls to 2-3 overall.

"I was really pleased with the way we responded in the second half," said Head Coach Dan DiCenzo. "Our offense struggled in the first half but they stayed together, believed in each other, and made big plays in the second half. Our offensive and defensive lines did a great job playing physical and controlling the line of scrimmage in the final 30 minutes. 

"It was an awesome atmosphere tonight, I am fortunate to be apart of this great community at Wesleyan. There is no better place in the country to play a game."

Tonight marked the third-ever night game in Wesleyan history and was reminiscent of the meeting between the two rivals three years ago when Wesleyan scored a game-winning touchdown in the closing seconds before defeating Tufts in overtime. The Cardinals also trailed 10-0 at halftime that night.

FIRST HALF HIGHLIGHTS:

  • After back-to-back punts to open the game, Tufts got on the board on its second drive which started at its own-16. The Jumbos drove 63 yards on 11 plays as Matt Alswanger kicked a 38-yard field goal with 6:24 on the clock.
  • Wesleyan punted on its next drive but Ben Thaw intercepted a Jacob Carroll pass on Tufts' ensuing possession. However, the Cardinals did not capitalize on the turnover and were stuffed on a 4th-and-1 at the visitor-34 yard line.
  • The Jumbos took over with 12:35 remaining in the half. On 4th-and-1 from the Wesleyan-45, Carroll completed a 22-yard pass to Brendan Dolan to keep the drive alive. A penalty cost the visitors 15 yards, but Carroll completed a 37-yard pass to Frank Roche near the right pylon at the Wesleyan-1. On the next play, Dom Borelli powered his way up the middle for the score to give Tufts a 10-0 lead with 8:35 to play.
  • Neither team scored the rest of the half as the Jumbos went into the break with a 10-point lead.

SECOND HALF HIGHLIGHTS:

  • It was a different story in the second half as David Estevez set the tone early with an incredible 36-yard kickoff return followed by a personal foul on Tufts to bring the ball to the visitor-38 to start the half. Six plays later, Scott found Delando Clarke in the back left corner of the end zone for a six-yard score to cut the deficit to three. It took just 2:39 in the second half for Wesleyan to get on the board.
  • There were five punts the rest of the third quarter as the Cardinals held possession entering the fourth, trailing 10-7.
  • In the opening minutes of the final quarter, Wesleyan tied the game when Mason Von Jess connected from 37 yards out with 11:31 remaining.
  • On Tufts' ensuing drive, Carroll was intercepted by Eli Blair-May who returned it five yards to the Wesleyan-48. On the second play of the Cardinals' drive, Scott completed a 28-yard pass to Simco down to the Tufts-23. Wesleyan drove to the visitor 10-yard line but had to settle for a field goal as Von Jess put the home team on top with a 27-yard kick, 13-10.
  • The Jumbos took over and on the second play of their drive, Carroll threw a 65-yard pass to Roche who went down at the Wesleyan-9, quieting the home crowd. However, the Cardinals' defense answered with a big stop, forcing a Tufts field goal as Alswanger hit from 26 yards out to tie the game with 7:16 remaining.
  • Wesleyan took over and two plays later, Scott was intercepted by Brandyn Jones at the Tufts-48. The Jumbos took 4:35 off the clock, going 36 yards on 13 plays down to the Wesleyan-16. However, this time Alswanger missed from 33 yards out as the Cardinals took over with 1:48 remaining.
  • Scott orchestrated an excellent game-winning drive that began at the Wesleyan-20. Moving down the field, the sophomore quarterback threw a 16-yard completion to Dario Highsmith followed by a 14-yard pass to Simco to get down to the Tufts-29. With 13 seconds remaining, Scott dropped back and rifled a pass to an open Simco down the middle of the field as he caught it in stride for the game-winning touchdown. Scott went 5-for-6 for 73 yards on the drive, including two rushes for seven yards.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS:

  • Tufts held a slight 351-to-338 edge in total offense. The Jumbos threw for 297 yards and rushed for 54, while Wesleyan passed for 227 and ran for 111. Both teams converted 16 first downs.
  • Scott finished 19-of-33 for 206 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception, while also rushing 11 times for 39 yards. Glenn Smith rushed for 46 yards on 10 carries, and Simco caught eight passes for 130 yards and a score.
  • Wesleyan's defense was led by Danny Banks and Will Kearney who finished with nine tackles each. Kearney also had a sack and Banks broke up a pass. In all, the Cardinals sacked the quarterback four times for a loss of 22 yards as Nick Livingston led the way with 1.5 sacks of his own. He now leads the NESCAC with five sacks on the season.
  • Carroll finished 22-of-41 for 297 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions while Borelli rushed 14 times for 55 yards for the Jumbos. Roche finished with eight catches for a game-high 154 yards receiving.
  • Greg Holt led the Tufts defense with 12 tackles while Michael Mughetto recorded eight and a pass break-up. Jovan Nenadovic registered the Jumbos' only sack.

UP NEXT:

  • Wesleyan returns to the gridiron next Saturday, Oct. 19 and will play at Middlebury. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.