SOMERVILLE - Playing their first-ever night game at home, the Tufts University football team came from behind for a 17-14 NESCAC victory over Wesleyan as senior Chance Brady rushed for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
Brady, who totaled 151 yards on 22 carries (6.9 yards per rush), scored on runs of three yards at 12:10 of the fourth and on a 31-yard scamper at 5:24 as the Jumbos (1-0) overcame a 14-3 deficit.
Through three quarters, the visiting Cardinals had silenced the excitement of the night game crowd of 6,500 at Ellis Oval / Zimman Field. The Jumbos had taken a 3-0 first-quarter lead on a field goal by senior Willie Holmquist, but a pair of second-quarter touchdown runs by senior Devon Carillo and sophomore QB Mark Piccirillo put Wesleyan on top 14-3 at the half.
The Wesleyan defense stymied the Jumbos during the first three quarters. Including the 10-play, 71-yard drive that led to Holmquist's 36-yard field goal at 3:06 of the first quarter, Tufts had only 137 total yards of offense through the third quarter.
Likewise, the Tufts defense buckled down and forced three Wesleyan punts in the third quarter to go with a missed field goal by the visitors early in the fourth keeping the margin at 14-3.
Right after Cardinal Ike Fuchs missed that 35-yard field goal attempt at 14:23 of the fourth, Brady ripped off a 33-yard rush to the Wesleyan 47. Three plays later, senior QB Alex Snyder passed for 39 yards to senior receiver Mike Randoto the Wesleyan 10. Brady took it from there, closing the Jumbos to within 14-10 with the three-yard run.
After the teams traded punts, another Wesleyan punt traveled just 23 yards and Tufts received the ball at the Cardinal 45-yard line. Brady rushed three times, starting with an 11-yard gain and finishing with a 31-yard touchdown jaunt putting the hosts up 17-14.
The Tufts defense stood strong on the next Wesleyan possession, including a sack by Micah Adickes and two quarterback hurries by Zach Thomas. The Cardinals were forced to punt from their own 36, and Tufts was able to run out the final three minutes on the clock to secure the win.
Wesleyan had fumbled on its second play of the game with Tufts DT Doug Harrison causing and recovering the blunder. The Jumbos weren't able to turn it into points as Holmquist missed a 44-yard field goal attempt.
The senior kicker would make amends with the 36-yarder later in the first quarter. The Jumbos converted a third and 17 on the drive with a 55-yard pass from Snyder to Rando. Tufts' defense held Wesleyan to 51 yards and no points in the opening quarter.
That would change in the second. Piccirillo, who had 273 yards of total offense in the game (189 passing, 84 rushing) led a 10-play 51-yard touchdown drive giving Wesleyan the lead. The Cardinals rushed on the final eight plays of the possession resulting in Carillo's two-yard score at 9:58 of the second.
Following a Tufts punt which gave Wesleyan the ball near midfield, Piccirillo passsed for 29 yards to Sebastian Canizares-Fernandez converting a third and 10. The quarterback then took it to the end zone himself from 23 yards out and suddenly the visitors led 14-3 with 6:50 to go until halftime.
The Cardinals missed a chance to put more points on the board before the half when Fuchs was wide left on a 30-yard field goal attempt. Wesleyan had driven 75 yards on 10 plays in 4:10 to set up the kick. Piccirillo connected on a 37-yard pass to Mike Breuler during the possession.
The third quarter was dominated by the defenses as the teams combined to punt seven times. However, the home crowd would come to life under the lights in the fourth as Brady led the Jumbos back.
Piccirillio was 20 for 32 passing for the 189 yards. Breuler had four catches for 60 yards. Piccirillo's team-high 84 rushing yards came on 18 carries. Kris Luster averaged 30.3 yards on three kickoff returns and Carillo had 11.8 yards per punt return. Jordan Stone paced the visitors defensively with eight stops, including 1.5 behind the line of scrimmage.
Tufts remains at home next week to host Bates on Homecoming. Wesleyan opens its home schedule against Hamilton.