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6 Things to Watch Saturday

This post was written by lead writers Joe MacDonald and Adam Lamont.

Middlebury quarterback McCallum Foote’s Assault on the Record Books:

Last week Middlebury Foote broke former Middlebury quarterback Donnie McKillop’s short-lived NESCAC record of 62 career touchdown passes, which McKillop set in 2011 as Foote’s predecessor.

Foote has a long way to go if he is going to break McKillop’s single-season NESCAC record of 2967 yards of total offense in one season. Last year Foote racked up 2928 total yards, and with two games to go this season he has 2064 total yards. It may seem like too much to ask for 450+ total yards in the next two games from Foote, but in what will be his final action as a collegiate quarterback, Foote still has a shot. The Panthers match up with Hamilton and Tufts in their final two games, two squads with a grand total of zero wins on the season.

Hamilton’s pass defense ranks third in the league at 181.8 yards allowed per game, but they have faced some run-heavy attacks, have been behind early, making the pass unnecessary, and have yielded a nearly 62 percent completion rate.

Tufts, meanwhile, has been dissected, conceding a 60 percent completion rate to opposing quarterbacks, and two weeks ago was raided for 342 yards and 2 touchdowns by Williams quarterback Adam Marske.

Can Foote throw for 450 yards a game? Absolutely. He did it last year against Hamilton, tossing the rock for 456 on the road. This year he will be at home, still clinging to an outside shot at a shared NESCAC title, and the weather doesn’t look bad for Foote and his receivers. Temperatures should sit around 50 (practically tropical for November in Vermont) and if there is a light rain it likely won’t start until the 4th quarter or after the game has concluded.

Foote also threw for 459 this year in the loss at Amherst, three short of Donnie McKillop’s single-game Middlebury record set in 2008.

As for Tufts, Foote racked up a cool 389 passing yards in last year’s battle with the Jumbos.

With a repeat of last year’s aerial assault on Hamilton and a few scrambles to net a couple yards, Foote could find himself holding yet another record by season’s end.

Trinity’s Defense Could Dominate Amherst:

Nobody is going to confuse this year’s version of Trinity’s defense for some of the previous iterations that could submit the opposition to its will. While Trinity still has plenty of talent on that side of the football, if the Bantams do shut down Amherst, much of it will be because of the ineptitude of the Lord Jeffs’ offense. At 5-1, the Amherst defense has put the team on their back with the offense struggling, including last week against Tufts putting up only 17 points (albeit with six turnovers). I expect Trinity’s offense to put up at least two touchdowns, but not much more than that, putting the onus on Amherst’s offense improve upon recent performances.

The Amherst offense looked bad against Wesleyan until the fourth quarter when the passing attack opened up. Amherst is not settled at quarterback with freshman Alex Berluti receiving some snaps behind starter Max Lippe. Each has their limitations that Trinity can exploit. Lippe makes slow reads and is interception prone—look out, Trinity has 12 interceptions in six games—and Berluti as a freshman relies more on natural athleticism than anything to make plays. This Trinity defense has only held one team to single digits, but last week made Foote work for everything he got before Middlebury’s game winning drive. They also forced him into mistakes and missed throws as Foote completed less than 50 percent of his passes and had two interceptions. If Trinity controls the line of scrimmage on first and second down shutting down the run, Amherst could be in for a long afternoon. The Amherst offensive line led by senior Rob Wasielewski has to create holes for Kenny Adinkra, who is averaging only 55 yards per game, while the team averages just 3.2 yards per carry. Expect big games from linebacker Michael Weatherby and Defensive End Nathan Cyr for Trinity as the Bantams shut down Amherst.

Number of Incompletions Jesse Warren Throws:

Warren has been ridiculously efficient this year, throwing the football. On the season he is completing 75.3 percent of his passes, a number that would rank first among all Division I FBS quarterbacks. Among Division III schools, the Cardinals trail only Heidelberg in quarterback efficiency. Granted Wesleyan is a run-first team that uses the pass sparingly—Warren’s season-high passing attempts is 22. Perhaps not coincidentally, that was Warren’s least efficient day against a very good Colby secondary that held him to 12 completions on 22 attempts. In the last three weeks, however, Warren has been mind-bogglingly good with an 84.3 completion percentage with three incompletions against both Amherst and Bates and only two against Bowdoin last week. Warren doesn’t have to make a lot of tight throws and detractors will argue he is a product of Wesleyan’s success running the ball more than anything, but very few people will complete three out of every four passes they throw, regardless of the scheme.

This week Warren goes against a Williams defense that has been the team’s strength especially up front where James Howe has been the most dominant defensive player in the conference the last two weeks with 7.5 sacks. Warren, however, spreads the ball around—with Josh Hurwitz his most targeted receiver—which should keep him out of pressure at times by not keying on any one receiver. Most likely this week Warren will again throw the ball fewer than 20 times, but I’m expecting him to rush a couple of his throws, given the outside pressure the Ephs can bring, and have at least 5 incompletions for the first time this season. It seems absurd typing that as a prediction when most quarterbacks have 5 incompletions in a quarter, but this is where we are with Jesse Warren right now.

Yards Per Rush for Bates:

Bates faces a must win against Bowdoin in order to have any shot at retaining their CBB title after losing 21-3 to Colby last weekend. The Bates offense was completely stifled by the Mules and now faces a stout Bowdoin defense with a run-stopping front seven. Bates does not pass the ball very often in their triple option, though Tim LaSpada attempted 23 passes last weekend, while trailing for much of the game. Unfortunately for Bates the clear weakness of Bowdoin lies in defending the pass, so unless Bates opens up the playbook, the Bobcats will have to win a matchup of strength on strength, something they failed to do against Colby. Bates only averages 3.6 yards per carry so they are not an explosive offense, but a consistent three yards and a cloud of dust that could wear down a Bowdoin defense dealing with injuries.

Slotback Shawn Doherty started the year off strong, punctuated by a huge 182-yard day against Tufts in week two, but in his last three games he has averaged only 2-yards per carry for a grand total of 50 yards. Running back Ryan Curit returned after a week’s absence, but managed only 38 yards against Colby. Quarterback Matt Cannone averaged less than 2-yards per carry as well against Colby and Nick LaSpada fared little better, throwing the ball 23 times for 176 yards and 2 interceptions. The onus is on the Bates offensive line to push back a good Bowdoin defensive front seven that is without its two all-league players from 2012 Griffin Cardew and CJ Johnson because of injuries. Don’t expect either team to score more than 20 points in what promises to be a grind-it-out game.

Performance of Colby QB Justin Ciero:

This sophomore can do it all. As a freshman last year, Ciero played in every game for the Mules, leading the team in rushing and passing. He used his legs to accrue nearly 500 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground, while airing it out for just over 1000 yards. The Mules finished last season on a good note, winning three out of the last four. After starting off this season in winning fashion, Colby hit the skids and lost three straight. But the Mules and Ciero are back on track, winning two straight, over which period Ciero has racked up 557 total yards, 2 passing touchdowns, 2 rushing touchdowns, while throwing just one pick.

In six games this season Ciero has already surpassed last year’s passing total, as he currently sits at 1009 yards, in addition to 348 more on the ground. He still needs to learn to take care of the ball slightly better as Ciero has given thrown the ball to the other team seven times already.Ciero’s favorite target is clearly junior wide receiver/running back Luke Duncklee, who has 45 receptions on the season. Perhaps spreading the wealth a bit more evenly could help him take care of the rock. Regardless, Ciero is an exciting player and clearly The Mule of this Colby offense

Wesleyan Coach Mike Whalen’s First Win Over Williams:

Head Coach Mike Whalen started coaching football as an assistant at Wesleyan, his alma mater, in 1983. In 2004, Whalen became head coach of the rival Williams Ephs, where he pounded his old squad, going 6-0 during his tenure, and generally beat up on the NESCAC, compiling a 38-10 record and earning NESCAC Coach of the Year honors in 2006 when the Ephs went undefeated. Now back at Wesleyan for his fourth season as head coach, he looks to get his first career victory over the Ephs. His first season in Middletown in 2010 saw the Cardinals suffer a 45-7 whooping to the Ephs, who went on to win the NESCAC title. The past two seasons Whalen’s squads have suffered defeats by 2 and 12 points against Williams.

Prior to this year, Whalen held a .500 record as the Cardinals’ head coach. But now, with his recruits in place and his tough, multi-weapon ground game fully in action, the Cardinals are 6-0 and Whalen is in great position to start a winning streak against Williams like the one he had over Wesleyan during his time as the Ephs’ head man. More importantly, a win would leave Wesleyan one-win short of a NESCAC title and an undefeated season.

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