Saturday's showdown between in-state NESCAC rivals Wesleyan and Trinity marks the 119th meeting all-time between the programs, with the Bantams holding a 64-53-1 lead in the series. The Cardinals enter the season finale boasting a 7-1 record and sit second in the conference. Trinity, the three-time defending NESCAC Champions, is currently 5-3 on the year and ranks fourth in the league standings. Saturday's kickoff is scheduled for 12 p.m. at Jessee/Miller Field in Hartford, Conn.
The Bantams have won four-straight against the Cardinals but Wesleyan will look to end that streak as it pursues a share of the conference title for the first time since 2013. In order to claim a share of the championship, the Cardinals would need a win and a Middlebury (8-0) loss against Tufts (4-4). The Panthers are playing the Jumbos on the road Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
In last year's meeting between Wesleyan and Trinity, the Bantams prevailed in a defensive battle on a cold and windy day at Andrus Field, 9-0. The loss concluded the Cardinals' season at 5-4 while Trinity captured its third straight NESCAC title with an 8-1 mark. Wesleyan, who was without its All-NESCAC quarterback Mark Piccirillo '19, finished with 175 yards of offense with 150 through the air and 25 on the ground. The Bantams passed for 125 yards and rushed for 101 to finish with 226 yards of total offense. Trinity recorded eight sacks and Wesleyan registered five, but the Bantams forced three turnovers on two interceptions and one fumble recovery.
The Cardinals are riding a two-game win streak with back-to-back victories against archrivals Amherst (4-4) and Williams (6-2), respectively, to claim their third Little Three title outright in the past seven seasons. Both games were won in overtime in thrilling fashion, as Wesleyan spoiled the Mammoths Homecoming Weekend with a 31-28 victory in double overtime before claiming a 27-21 overtime victory against the Ephs a week ago.
Offensively, the Cardinals boast a well-balanced attack in which they rank fourth in scoring (28.1 ppg) and sixth in total offense (366.6 ypg). They are also fourth in passing, averaging 220.5 yards per game (ypg), and fifth in rushing with 146.1. The team's 18 passing touchdowns are second-most in the league and its 4.2 average yards per rush rank third-best. Sophomore QB Ashton Scott ranks second in the league in completion percentage (61.1) and is tied for second in passing touchdowns (17). The dual-threat quarterback also ranks 21st in the conference in rushing, averaging 31.6 yards per game. Sophomore WR Matthew Simco has been one of the top receivers in the league this season and ranks fourth in touchdowns (6) and fifth in receptions (37), yards (628), and yards per game (78.5). Sophomore QB David Estevez does a little bit of everything for the Cardinals as he averages 96.1 all-purpose yards per game, which is ninth-best, and freshman Mason Von Jess has been one of the top placekickers in the league all season. He leads the NESCAC in extra points on 27 of 28 (96%) attempts.
On the defensive side, Wesleyan ranks fourth in scoring (19.9 ppg) and sixth in total defense (350.5 yards/game). The Cardinals are allowing 189.1 yards per game through the air and 161.4 yards per game on the ground while the team's 14 interceptions are second-most and 19 sacks are third-best. Among the leaders defensively have been defensive backs Danny Banks and Ben Thaw. Banks leads the NESCAC in interceptions with four and Thaw is tied for second with three, and junior LB Nick Livingston ranks tied for third in sacks with five. Senior LB Chase Pratt leads the team and is tied for sixth in the NESCAC in tackles (62) while senior LB Will Kearney is tied for ninth with 59.
Trinity leads the NESCAC in six different statistical categories; scoring offense (32.1 ppg), pass efficiency (178.1 QB rating), total defense (261.9 ypg), rushing defense (102.2 ypg), pass defense (159.6 ypg), and pass defense efficiency (104.9). Sophomore QB Seamus Lambert leads the league in completion percentage (63.1%), yards (1,904), yards per game (238), and pass efficiency (182.2). He has thrown for 17 touchdowns and eight interceptions this year. He is also the team's leading rusher with 35.3 yards per game on the ground and two touchdowns. Three Trinity wide receivers rank in the top-10 in receiving yards, led by junior Jonathan Girard (78.8 ypg), senior Koby Schofer (69.9 ypg), and sophomore DeVante Reid (65.6 ypg). Schofer leads the unit with six receiving touchdowns while Girard and Reid have four each. Defensively, sophomore LB Brian Casagrande leads the team and is tied for eighth in the NESCAC in tackles with 61 while senior DB Matt Patry is tied for fourth in interceptions with three. Patry also leads the conference with eight pass breakups.