Getting two interceptions from Justin Sanchez '17 (#3, photo lower left), the final one with 1:07 left which he returned 18 yards to the Amherst 38-yard line, Wesleyan outlasted host Amherst, 20-14, to secure its first victory over its Little Three rival since 2002, and set up an opportunity for its first outright Little Three title since 1970 when Williams comes to Middletown Sat., Nov. 2. Before that, however, the Cardinals will look to stay undefeated when they travel to Bowdoin Sat., Oct. 26.
At Amherst, the Lord Jeffs drove 82 yards with the opening kickoff to go ahead, 7-0, at 11:02 of the first quarter, but the Wesleyan defense, with the help of Sanchez's first interception at 7:49 of the third period after Amherst reached the Wesleyan 34, along with a first-quarter Devon Carrillo '17 pickoff in the endzone to stiffle another Amherst drive and a blocked field goal by Donnie Cimino '15 in the second period, kept Amherst off the board for more than 50 minutes. In the meantime, the Cardinals racked up four scoring drives to move out to a 20-7 lead early in the fourth quarter, and got some outstanding defense along the way to come away with the victory. Sanchez, who also had a team-high seven tackles on the day, was named NESCAC Defensive Player of the Week.
Kevin Hughes '14 caught five of Jesse Warren's '15 14 completions on the day, including a key 42-yard TD at 13:47 of the fourth period, which proved to be the deciding points. Hughes caught the ball just inside the Amherst 20 along the right sideline and juked his way past some would-be Lord Jeff tacklers for the TD. On the day, Hughes had 81 receiving yards and Warren amassed 150 yards passing on 17 attempts.
Wesleyan trailed by a point at halftime, 7-6, behind a pair of Sebastian Aguirre '14 (#94, photo lower right) field goals, the first a chip shot from 25 yards out at 3:34 of the first period after Wesleyan failed to get a first down on a 3rd-and-1 run at the seven. His second, at 7:37 of the second period, cleared the crossbar from 41 yard out, a career best. Aguirre also upped his consecutive PAT mark to 24 and was honored by the NESCAC for the second time this season as Special Teams Player of the Week.
Wesleyan took the lead for good by getting its running game in gear during a five-play, 38-yard drive set up by good field position as Wesleyan punter Josh Hurwitz '15 hit a 52-yard punt and Amherst started at its own 10 following a holding penalty. Amherst was forced to punt on 4th-and 11 at the nine and a short kick gave the Cardinals outstanding field position. Five runs later, three by LaDarius Drew for 31 yards and the five-yard TD scamper, Wesleyan held a 13-7 margin at 9:45 of the third quarter.
When Amherst made it 20-14 at 5:16 of the fourth period, going 55 yards on eight plays, Wesleyan punted and Amherst began at its own 19. Hurwitz had eight boots for a solid 37.8-yards average with half his kicks nestling inside the 20. Amherst crossed midfield on the march before Sanchez grabbed an errant pass and gave Wesleyan the ball. Though Wesleyan failed to convert on 4th-and-1 at the Amherst 34, a final Amherst incompletion with :02 left ended the game.
Joining Sanchez with seven tackes in the game was Alex Davera-Russo '16. Nik Powers '15 had six tackles, two for a loss including the Cardinals' only sack in the contest.
Wesleyan was outgained in the contest, 355-310 as Amherst also had 19 first downs to Wesleyan's 14. Still, Wesleyan had a substantial edge in time of possession, 35:56 to 24:04 as the Cardinals picked up 160 yards on the ground, more than double Amherst's average amount allowed of 71 coming into the game, to 115 by the Lord Jeffs. Amherst threw the ball 44 times to Wesleyan's 17.
With the win at Amherst, Wesleyan has equaled its best start in 20 years at 5-0. The 1993 Cardinals also went on to defeat Bowdoin to open their year with six straight victories.