HARTFORD, Conn. – The Wesleyan football team defeated the three-time defending NESCAC Champions, Trinity, on the road Saturday afternoon in the season finale, 28-20. With the win, the Cardinals finish the 2019 campaign with an 8-1 record and sole possession of second place in the standings.
Wesleyan was excellent on both sides of the ball Saturday en route to its first win against Trinity since 2014 and first over the Bantams on Jessee/Miller Field since 1997. The Cardinals won eight games for the third time in program history and the first time since 1969; last week Wesleyan celebrated the 50th anniversary of that perfect 1969 squad. It's also the first time ever that the Cardinals have finished the season with an 8-1 record as the NESCAC extended its schedule to nine games in 2017.
Wesleyan had a 14-0 halftime lead and held off a second half scare by the Bantams, in which they outscored the Cardinals 13-7 in the fourth quarter. The Cardinals threw a season-high 350 yards against the league's best passing defense. With the loss, Trinity concludes the year with a 5-4 record.
FIRST HALF HIGHLIGHTS:
- Wesleyan received the opening kickoff and on the second play of the game, QB Ashton Scott completed a 33-yard pass to WR Delando Clarke. After several completions by Scott, the Cardinals got down to the Trinity-1 yard line and on 1st-and-goal, RB Sean Penney rushed for his first touchdown of the season to give the visitors a 7-0 lead with 10:15 on the clock.
- The next three drives resulted in punts before Wesleyan took over with 4:44 remaining in the quarter. Once again, on the second play of the drive, Scott and Clarke connected for a big gain as Clarke caught a 25-yard pass. The Cardinals again drove down to the Trinity-1 yard line and on 2nd-and-goal, Penney rushed up the middle for another score with just 19 seconds to go in the first.
- On Trinity's next drive, the Bantams got down to the Wesleyan-13 and went for it on fourth down but QB Seamus Lambert's pass fell incomplete for a turnover on downs.
- The Cardinals punted and Trinity took over in good field position at the visitor-37 yard line but six plays later, Lambert was intercepted by DB Ben Thaw.
- After back-to-back punts, Wesleyan took over with 1:28 left in the half. On the first play, the Cardinals fumbled after a big gain and Trinity took over at the visitor-34. Wesleyan's defense came up big, however, and on fourth down, DL Nick Helbig sacked Lambert for a turnover on downs.
- The Cardinals took over and got down to the Trinity-31 yard line and with three seconds left, attempted a long field goal that came up short as Wesleyan entered the break with a 14-0 lead.
SECOND HALF HIGHLIGHTS:
- Trinity got the ball first to start the second half but was forced to punt after a three-and-out. Wesleyan took over and drove down the field. The Cardinals were stopped in Trinity territory and had their field goal blocked, but a penalty on the Bantams gave Wesleyan the ball back at the Trinity-11. On the next play, QB David Estevez faked a pass to the right, tucked the ball in, and ran to the left for a touchdown to give the Cardinals a 21-0 lead early in the third quarter.
- The Bantams answered on their next drive. Starting at their own-26, Trinity faced a 3rd-and-9 but QB Jordan Vazzano kept the drive going with a nine-yard rush. Two plays later, he completed a 44-yard pass to WR Koby Schofer, and on the very next play, found WR Jonathan Girard in the end zone for a 21-yard score to cut the deficit to 14 with 5:35 on the clock.
- After three consecutive punts, Trinity took over with 11:58 to play in regulation. On the Bantams' first play, Vazzano found Girard with two defenders on him, but Girard pulled in the catch and ran 71 yards for a touchdown. The extra point attempt was blocked by Thaw as Wesleyan led 21-13 with 11:42 to play.
- The Cardinals responded nicely on their next drive. On 3rd-and-7, Scott completed a 16-yard pass to WR Hallvard Lundevall. Three plays later, on 3rd-and-1, RB Glenn Smith rushed up the middle and went 47 yards untouched to put Wesleyan on top 28-13 with 8:19 remaining.
- Trinity came right back with a touchdown drive of its own as Vazzano threw a 29-yard score to Joe Samuelman to cap off a six-play, 75-yard drive in 2:20 as the home team trailed 28-20 with six minutes to play.
- Wesleyan was forced to punt on its next drive and Trinity took over with 3:25 on the clock. Five plays later, Vazzano was intercepted by Thaw at the Wesleyan-27 yard line.
- The Cardinals' offense took care of the rest as Estevez gained a first down on 3rd-and-1 to allow the visitors to kneel and run out the clock.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS:
- Wesleyan outgained Trinity 476 to 312. The Cardinals threw for 350 yards and rushed for 126, while Trinity totaled 244 yards through the air and 68 on the ground. Wesleyan also held a commanding 36:16 to 20:44 advantage in time of possession.
- Scott went 20 of 32 for 306 yards, zero touchdowns, and zero interceptions. He connected with WR Matthew Simco seven times for 133 yards, marking Simco's third 100-yard receiving game of the year. Smith led the rushing attack with 72 yards on 12 carries and a score, while Estevez added 11 carries, 36 yards, and a touchdown, and Penney rushed twice for two yards and two scores.
- Defensively, Helbig and Thaw were excellent for the Cardinals. Helbig recorded a team-high seven tackles and a season-high 3.5 sacks to conclude his freshman season with 7.5 sacks. Thaw finished with five tackles, two interceptions, two pass breakups, and one blocked kick. Wesleyan, as a team, recorded six sacks.
- Vazzano took over in the second half and went 6 of 10 for 71 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. Girard led the Trinity receivers with four catches for 124 yards and two scores, and Tijani Harris led the team in rushing with 15 carries and 44 yards.
- Brian Casagrande and Aidan Kennedy totaled eight tackles each for the Bantams defense and Sean Smerczynski recorded seven and one sack.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE:
- Wesleyan's 18-member senior class concludes its career with an impressive 25-10 (.714) record including two Little Three titles outright and one three-way share of the crown.
- The team's 8-1 record is its best since 2014 and also marks the eighth-straight winning season for the Cardinals.