WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – Suffice it to say, it was not happy Homecoming game for the Williams faithful who packed the stands at Farley-Lamb Field only to watch the Ephs fall to 0-7 in a 59-14 loss to the Wesleyan University Cardinals (6-1).
All but three of the game's points came in the first half, as Wesleyan came out firing on all cylinders with five consecutive touchdown drives on their first five possessions. The first three of which all came in the first six minutes of the game; a Williams fumble on their own 18 allowed Wesleyan to score touchdowns within fifteen seconds of each other.
Wesleyan, however, did not play flawless football and racked up 69 penalty yards in the first half, including a roughing the passer penalty that gave the Ephs the boost they needed to answer the Cardinals' back-to-back scores. Following a consistent rushing attack by Steve Bohling and a clutch third down pass to Adam Regensburg, Jansen Durham lobbed a beautiful 16-yard pass over the shoulder pass that was hauled in by Kellen Hatheway in the end zone to put the Ephs on the board with 4:46 left in the first.
The Eph comeback was quashed almost immediately, however. On the second play of the ensuing drive, Mark Piccirillo connected with Mike Breuler deep down the left sideline for a 50-yard Wesleyan touchdown pass.
The Ephs' next drive stalled deep in Cardinal territory, and Adam Regensburg's 34-yard field goal attempt was wide left. Wesleyan then scored their fifth straight touchdown on a twelve-yard scramble by Piccirillo to cap a 5-play, 80-yard drive.
Wesleyan's first punt of the game came halfway through the second quarter, as the Eph defense appeared to find a bit of its footing. A fumble by running Steve Bohling on the very first play of the ensuing Williams drive gave the ball back to the Cardinals. Two plays later Wesleyan receiver Devon Carrillo was in the end zone and the Cardinals had a 42-7 lead
Williams scored their second and final touchdown of the game on the next drive. A couple of first-down passes from Durham, first to Noah Sorrento and then to Adam Regensburg, set the Ephs up on the Wesleyan 16. Jansen Durham faked a Statue of Liberty play and the defense bit on the fake, giving Durham a hole to rush through on the right side and into the end zone.
The Cardinals' offense continued to click and four consecutive connections between Piccirillo and Devon Carrillo totaling 53 yards resulted in two first downs and then a Wesleyan touchdown.
On their next possession the Ephs were again victimized by a fumble deep in their own territory. Piccirillo then threw his fifth touchdown pass of the day, this time for 29 yards to Mike Breuler. At the half Wesleyan led 56-14.
The final scoring play of the contest was a 38-yard field goal by Wesleyan's Ike Fuchs with 10:33 left in regulation.
The disparity in score was not reflected on the stat line, however: Williams gained a respectable 329 yards of total offense and accumulated 19 total first downs. Jansen Durham went 17-28 for 191 yards, while first-year Steve Bohling set a career mark with 85 yards rushing on 18 carries and junior Adam Regensburg contributed 77 yards receiving on ten catches. Eph Ben Anthony led all Eph tacklers with nine, while Christian Dumont and Austin Thomas combined for the team's only sack.
Wesleyan put up 508 yards of offense, but their incredible success with scoring is largely thanks to their ability to convert Williams turnovers into points: 24 of their points resulted from Williams fumbles, two of which were recovered inside the Ephs' own 20-yard line. Williams head Coach Mark Raymond pointed to this fact, citing execution rather than effort as the bane of the Ephs' performance: "Their effort doesn't disappoint me -- these guys always give great effort – but I wish we had executed better. We had some unforced errors that hurt us."
Mike Piccirillo played an outstanding game, completing 14 of his 19 passes for 288 yards and 5 touchdowns, while also leading the Cardinals in rushing yards with 66. Devon Carrillo also contributed two touchdowns on the ground out of the wildcat formation. Mike Breuler led the Cardinal receiving corps, hauling in four passes for 125 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Following their shutout of Amherst two weeks ago, Wesleyan's victory over the Ephs hands them this season's Little Three title, their first since 2013 and just their second since 1970.
"We got beat today by a better football team," Coach Raymond said after the game. "They have some great players and made some great plays. I told our guys to just keep grinding."
Next week, Wesleyan will close out their season looking to contest the NESCAC title with the undefeated Trinity College Bantams, while Williams will travel to arch-rival Amherst hoping to avoid their first winless season since 1947.