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Week 7 Football Preview: Wesleyan (5-1) vs. Amherst (4-2)

Photo by Steve McLaughlin Photography
Photo by Steve McLaughlin Photography

Wesleyan (5-1) and Amherst (4-2) meet on the gridiron this Saturday, October 26th for the 125th time in the storied rivalry between Little Three foes. After shutting out the Mammoths 20-0 in 2016, Amherst has rallied by winning the last two games. Both teams are coming off a loss and will look to get back to their winning ways this weekend. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Pratt Field at Lehrman Stadium.

The Cardinals saw their five-game win streak come to an end last Saturday when they lost to undefeated Middlebury (6-0) on the road, 45-21. The 5-0 start was Wesleyan's best to open a season since 2013. That year, the Cardinals finished in a three-way tie for first place in the NESCAC with a 7-1 mark, while also claiming the Little Three title for the first time in 43 years.

Wesleyan currently sits in a tie for second place in the NESCAC alongside Williams while Amherst is tied for third with Trinity. They have faced the same opponents this year, both losing to Middlebury, while the Mammoths lost to Hamilton last weekend by a 40-yard field goal with just four seconds remaining. The Continentals outscored Amherst 14-0 in the fourth quarter to win 31-28 at home.

Entering Saturday's contest, the Cardinals rank fourth in total defense, allowing 332.2 yards per game (ypg), and sixth in total offense (368.3 ypg). They also surrender just 17.2 points per game (ppg) to rank third in scoring defense while putting up 27.8 ppg to rank fifth in scoring offense.

Sophomore QB Ashton Scott has completed 59.9% (88-147) of his passes which is second-best in the conference. He's thrown for 1,187 yards, 14 touchdowns, and just three interceptions while also rushing 76 times for 235 yards and one score. Junior RB Glenn Smith leads the rushing attack with 286 yards (6.5 yards/carry) and three touchdowns, and sophomore dual-threat QB David Estevez has rushed 44 times for 239 yards (5.4 yards/carry) and two scores. The receiving group is led by Matthew Simco, Delando Clarke, Dario Highsmith, and Joe Scancarella. Simco leads the team in both catches (25) and yards (418), and is tied with Clarke for the team-lead in receiving touchdowns (4). Clarke has hauled in 12 catches for 172 yards, Highsmith has 138 yards, and Scancarella has 121.

Wesleyan's defense leads the conference in interceptions (11) and ranks second in sacks (18). Up front, junior LB Nick Livingston is tied for the league-lead in sacks with five while freshman DL Nick Helbig ranks sixth with four. The secondary is led by senior Ben Thaw, junior Julian Ross, and sophomore Danny Banks. Thaw is tied with three others for the league-lead in interceptions with three, while Banks has two and a team-high five pass breakups. Ross has one interception and three pass breakups, and senior linebackers Will Kearney and Chase Pratt led the team in tackles with 42 and 36, respectively. As a unit, the Cardinals have allowed 128.3 rushing yards and 203.8 passing yards per game.

Amherst is ranked fourth in total offense (398.3 ypg) and fifth in total defense (336.8 ypg), while ranking fourth in scoring (28.7 ppg) and tied for fourth in scoring defense (19.7 ppg).

The offensive unit has been one of the best in the conference thus far and ranks second in rushing yards, averaging 181.7 per game, while the passing attack is fourth-best with an average of 216.7 ypg through the air. The Mammoths also lead the league in time of possession per game (35:05) and 4th-down conversion percentage (5-7; 71%). Senior QB Ollie Eberth is 89 for 164 with 1,294 yards passing, 11 touchdowns, and a league-high eight interceptions. He also leads the team in rushing with 381 yards (5.9/carry) including two touchdowns and a lost fumble. Sophomore TB Brandon Huff is second with 289 yards rushing and a team-high four touchdowns, while first-year Louie Eckelkamp has 240 yards and junior Kellen Field has 114. Senior WR James O'Regan leads the team and ranks second in the NESCAC with 626 receiving yards, averaging 104.3 per game, while his six touchdowns are also second-best in the league. He has three 100-yard receiving games this year with a season-low of 74. He has also caught a touchdown pass in all but one game this year; last Saturday in the loss at Hamilton in which he put up a season-high 130 yards receiving. Sophomore Daniel Dolan has 298 yards receiving, Luke Mallette has 169, and Huff has 134.

Defensively, Amherst has caused 20 turnovers this season with a league-high 10 fumble recoveries. Bates and Colby ranked second in the conference with five. The Mammoths are also tied for second in interceptions with 10 and are fourth in sacks with 14. The front-seven is led by junior DL Joe Kelly who has team-highs of 4.5 sacks and three forced fumbles, while also ranking second in tackles with 34 despite not playing the last two games. Classmate and DL Brett Bates is second on the team with 3.5 sacks and sophomore DL Flynn McGilvray has 1.5. Sophomore LB John Schiana leads the linebackers with 31 tackles while junior DB Matt Durborow has a team-high 38 including two interceptions and three pass breakups. Senior DB Avery Saffold leads the team with three pics and classmate John Ballard has two with a league-high seven pass breakups.