I imagine most folks will be watching the HUGE Amherst-Williams football game on Saturday at bars or in person, but just in case, we will be liveblogging and live-tweeting the game (as well as the other NCAA contests this weekend, which is one of the most action-packed, from a sports perspective, in recent Williams history). A liveblog/discussion post will go up tomorrow morning. It would also be fun if folks would post descriptions of scenes, or better yet photos, from the bars where they are watching! If you won’t be on campus, remember to check here for telecast locations near you or tune into NESN on DISH Network or DirecTV. Now on to the preview.

The starting point for those new to the rivalry should, of course, be 2007’s amazing College GameDay broadcast. This older thread contains a lot of links about the rivalry, many of which are still valid. Some of the highlights include ESPN.com stories from 2007 and 2000, as well as this 2007 column by ESPN’s Chris Fowler. Also be sure to bone up on The Walk, the best post-game football tradition in the country.

Williams previews the game here, Amherst previews it here, the Berkshire Eagle here, MassLive here. Eph football video shows can be found here.  Additional late-breaking previews: North Adams Transcript, Berkshire Eagle parts one and two.    

This game is one of the biggest games of the last 30 years for Amherst: it represents a chance to go to 8-0 for the first time in decades; a chance to beat Williams for the first time in any current player’s time on campus; and a chance to beat Williams on Weston Field for the first time since, incredibly, 1985. If Amherst loses, on the other hand, an amazing 7-0 season will suddenly feel hollow, having to “share” (but of course it won’t feel like sharing) the NESCAC crown with their hated rival. To say that the Jeffs will be extremely fired up is the understatement of the year. Of course, the Ephs don’t want to be the group to lose the home winning streak, or be the first group of guys to be unable to “walk” since 1995 (and in some sense, that group got a pass as they were forced to compete on a basically unplayable Weston Field), so they will be equally fired-up.

Williams vs. Amherst represents the immovable force vs. the unstoppable object.  Amherst is ranked first in New England, Williams second. Williams has the top scoring offense in the league; Amherst has the top defense. Williams excels at protecting the quarterback; Amherst has the most sack-happy defense NESCAC has seen in ages. Williams leads the conference in rushing by a wide margin; Amherst did the same, for rushing defense. The other side of the ball should be equally interesting. Williams’ defense and Amherst’s offense were inconsistently early in the season, but both have really excelled over the last few weeks. Williams, in particular, has improved as some of its injured players have returned to health.

Key players for the game: Williams has gotten big plays on defense this year from reigning NESCAC player of the week Matt Zanedis ’09, Dan Canina ’12, Mt. Greylock alum Dylan Schultz ’12, and future star Chris Cameron ’13, who along with Amherst’s Sam Clark ’13 is vying for honors as the top frosh defender in the league. Amherst thrives on a collection of fast, athletic pass rushers / run stoppers up front, including returning first team all-conference defensive ends Eric Pender ’10 and Edwin Urey ’10; lightning-quick back-up Kevin Ferber ’12, 24-year-old D-I transfer and former pro baseball player Jeff Katz ’11, (all of whom are among the league leaders in sacks and tackles for losses) and leading tackler Mike Taylor ’10. Amherst has a very experienced secondary, featuring three senior starters led by NESCAC interception leader Fred Argir ’10, but teams have had more success passing than running this year against the ‘Hurst.

On offense, Williams relies on a steady ground game from NESCAC rushing leader Ryan Lupo ’11 and an experienced offensive line (three senior starters), complemented by a dual-quarterback attack of passing threat Pat Moffitt ’11 and running threat Matt Coyne ’12 (the latter of whom is almost guaranteed to be involved in some sort of trick play this game). Moffitt and Coyne have two large targets in J.C. Stickney ’12 (emerging as the next superstar receiver at Williams) and captain / inspirational leader Nick Caro ’10 [this just in: Caro will not play due to injury, a big loss for the Ephs]. The X-factor / big-play guy for the Ephs is super-speedy “slash” Bryce Bennett ’11, who came into Williams as a quarterback and is now a KR/WR/RB/QB. The Ephs will need at least one big play from Bennett to beat the ‘Hurst. Amherst’s rushing attack has been uncharacteristically ineffective this year, but they’ve compensated with an offense that can throw to a deep stable of fast and tall receivers. They are so deep at that position that you really can’t key on any one guy, but speedster Andre Gary ’11 gave the Ephs fits last year, Brandon Bullock ’10 has big play capability as well, and twins Andrew and Will Reed ’12 have both emerged as go-to players in recent weeks. Amherst’s QB duo mirrors that of the Ephs, as they also start an experienced junior (Alex Vetras ’11) who handles the bulk of the passing duties, along with a mobile sophomore (Brian McMahon ’12) who provides a spark off the bench.

If the Ephs have an edge other than at running back, it is on special teams, where Williams has the best kicker (Scott Sobolewski ’10) and punter (Will Cronin ’10) in NESCAC. For Williams to win, it will have to turn the game into a physical battle up front to gradually wear down Amherst’s smaller, faster front seven, shut down Amherst’s running attack completely so they are forced to be one-dimensional on offense, and win the field position battle behind its experienced kickers. Go Ephs!

Miscellaneous game notes:

  • New England legend Doug Flutie will be the color man for the game. Speaking of local legends, one name on the Amherst roster that will be familiar to New England football die-hards is special teams ace Gordie Lockbaum, son of the Holy Cross legend and former Heisman candidate.
  • NESN has an interview with Eph coach Mike Whalen here.
  • Check out this great story on Dave “The Tank” Shawan ’72, creator of “The Walk”

    The Walk in 1971. Photo by Gregg Peterson.

    The Walk in 1971. Photo by Gregg Peterson.

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