Monday, December 9, 2013
In the preseason, Colby College football coach Jonathan Michaeles said he hoped sophomore quarterback Justin Ciero wouldn't run the ball as much as he did last season. As a freshman, Ciero led the Mules with 136 carries for 497 yards.
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
Where: Andrus Field, Middletown, Conn.
Last season: Wesleyan 31, Colby 28
Key players: Colby — QB Justin Ciero, WR Luke Duncklee, T Paul Gallagher, LB Henry Nelson, CB Jason Buco, S Zach Padula. Wesleyan — RB LaDarius Drew, RB Kyle Gibson, QB Jesse Warren, DB Devon Carrillo, LB Alex Daversa-Russo, DL Nik Powers.
Outlook: For the second week in a row, Colby faces one of the top offensive teams in the New England Small College Athletic Conference. Wesleyan leads the league in yards per game (503). Drew and Gibson are both in the top four in the league in rushing, averaging 197.5 yards per game together. Colby has the top rushing defense in the league, at 39.5 yards per game allowed. Offensively, Duncklee is second in the league with 13 receptions, for 96 yards and three touchdowns.
While Ciero isn't running the ball as often, through two games, he's on pace to lead Colby in carries and yards again. Ciero leads the Mules with 24 carries for 79 yards, and is on pace to finish the season with 96 carries.
It's not by design, Michaeles said, although he's not discouraging his quarterback from running, either.
"I think it's been how the games have unfolded. When push comes to shove, we want guys to be in position to make plays when plays are needed. (Ciero) has proven throughout a year and a game that he can make plays," Michaeles said. "It's human nature to lean on him a little bit."
Michaeles pointed out that when Ciero carries the ball, it frees up a running back as an extra blocker. On Saturday, against Wesleyan, a team that's defended the run well this season, that's a plus.
"That's obviously something we consider," Michaeles said. "Any time you can add one more blocker with a running back, (Ciero's) dynamic as a running back. We have an advantage and a better chance to gain yards."
• • •
For the second week in a row, Colby faces one of the top offenses in the New England Small College Athletic Conference. Last week, the Mules took on Middlebury's talented passing game. On Saturday, Colby must contend with Wesleyan's punishing ground game.
The Cardinals are second in the NESCAC in rushing, averaging 274 yards per game, and feature two backs, LaDarius Drew (215 yards) and Kyle Gibson (197 yards).
"They're physical, and they don't try and hide what they're doing. They're going to run the ball. They'll run play action pass off of it. They're very sound fundamentally," Michaeles said.
If the Mules try to stack the box to stop the run, Wesleyan (2-0) can and will throw the ball. Quarterback Jesse Warren has completed 75 percent (27 of 36) of his passes, for 418 yards and six touchdowns.
"Our defense just has to keep them contained and fly to the ball, but naturally, that's what they want you to do so they can hit you with the big one in the play action pass game," Michaeles said. "That's where the secondary guys have to be disciplined and keep it in front of them."
While Colby has defended just 59 rushing attempts, tied with Wesleyan for the fewest in the NESCAC, the Mules have allowed just 79 yards on the ground, 1.3 yards per carry.
"Hopefully we can continue to do that. It's playing the gaps, getting 11 (men) to the ball, and playing physical," Michaeles said.
Linebacker Henry Nelson leads Colby with 17 tackles.
• • •
For the rest of the season, it's nothing but Eastern Collegiate Football Conference games for Husson. The seven game stretch begins Saturday, with the Eagles' Homecoming game against Castleton.
"Castleton's a very good team," Husson coach Gabby Price said. "They played in the conference championship game last season.
This season, the Spartans were hit hard by a series of suspensions, including preseason All-American wide receiver Brandon Boyle, who was cited for retail theft last month in Rutland, Vt.
Oak Hill High School graduate Ben Foss, a senior tight end, leads Husson (1-2) with five catches for 64 yards.
• • •
Using the triple option offense is working for Bates. The Bobcats lead the NESCAC in rushing, with 607 yards in just two games. Shawn Doherty lead the league with 273 yards, averaging eight yards per carry. In last week's 20-16 win over Tufts, Doherty ran for a career-high 182 yards, earning NESCAC Offensive Player of the Week.
Bates (1-1) plays at Williams (0-2) on Saturday.
Travis Lazarczyk -- 861-9242