Football edged in overtime at Tufts in thrilling season opener

Joe Schmidt '20 (Josh McKee photo)
Joe Schmidt '20 (Josh McKee photo)

Tufts University's backup quarterback Ryan Hagfeldt recovered his own fumble in the end zone for a touchdown and the Jumbos' defense made it stand up in a 35-28 overtime win against the Hamilton College Continentals in the 2017 opener for both teams at Tufts' Ellis Oval/Zimman Field on Saturday afternoon.

Despite the loss, Hamilton had a number of outstanding individual performances. Wide receiver Joe Schmidt '20 caught eight passes for 214 yards and tied a program record with four touchdown receptions. Kenny Gray '20 was 22 of 44 passing for 365 yards and the four TD tosses to Schmidt with no interceptions. Schmidt's receiving yardage and Gray's passing yardage are the most in at least 15 years for the Continentals. Tyler Hudson '19 finished with 19 tackles, including 14 solo stops, and recovered a fumble in his first game at linebacker. Hudson's tackle total is the most by a Hamilton player since Mike MacDonald '13 racked up 21 against Wesleyan on Oct. 1, 2011.

Christian Donahoe '20 added three catches for 102 yards and Marcus Gutierrez '18 was the Continentals' leading rusher with 38 yards on just nine carries. Cole Burchill '19 was credited with 13 tackles (11 solo), including one sack, and Colby Jones '19 added 11 tackles (nine solo). Hudson and Alex Ganter '20 had one-half sack apiece, and Justin Leigh '20 broke up three passes. On special teams, Zach Altneu '18 made both of his extra-point attempts and Billy Wagner '20 averaged 39 yards on nine punts. Wagner pinned the Jumbos inside their own 20 twice.

Ryan McDonald led Tufts with 359 yards of total offense. McDonald was 26 of 35 passing for 267 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for 92 yards on 20 carries and another score before he left the game with an injury. Tylor Scales paced the defense with nine tackles and Micah Adickes sacked the quarterback twice.

The Jumbos gained 481 yards on offense and Hamilton boasted 413. Tufts had a big advantage on the ground with 163 yards to the Continentals' 48. The teams combined on 21 penalties for 151 yards.

On the winning drive, Hagfeldt (6-14, 51 yards) completed two passes for 20 yards and the Jumbos had fourth-and-goal from the 1. Hagfeldt tried to sneak the ball over the goal line and fumbled, but recovered in the end zone for the go-ahead score. Matthew Alswang added the extra point. At that point it was Hamilton's turn to try and score from the 25-yard line. The Continentals were awarded a first down and the ball at the 11 after a defensive holding call, but after a 2-yard loss, an incomplete pass and a 6-yard run, it was fourth-and-long at the 7. Tufts forced another incompletion and clinched the victory.

Hamilton tied the score with 4:20 left in the fourth quarter on a 29-yard TD catch by Schmidt and an Altneu PAT. A 37-yard pass from Gray to Donahoe was the key play of the game-tying drive. A 51-yard field goal try to win the game by Jumbos kicker Zach Thomas sailed wide left as time ran out in the fourth quarter.

Tufts grabbed the lead on its opening drive on an 11-yard run by McDonald on third-and-goal 3:03 into the first quarter. The Continentals responded with a touchdown on their third offensive play as Gray and Schmidt hooked up for a 70-yard score just 86 seconds later. A two-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful and Hamilton still trailed, 7-6.

The Jumbos gained 13 yards on their next drive and the Continentals' quick-strike offense struck again. Gray completed passes of 5 yards to Sam Robinson '20 and 16 yards to Trevor Pinkham '19 before he found Schmidt for a 51-yard touchdown and a 13-7 lead with 6:08 left in the first.

Hamilton held on to its six-point lead until the second play of the second quarter when Winton Blount caught a 27-yard scoring toss from McDonald and Alswang added the PAT for a 14-13 edge. Tufts increased its lead to eight points on a 16-yard pass from McDonald to Jack Dolan with 2:13 remaining in the second. The Jumbos took their 21-13 cushion into the locker room.

After a scoreless third quarter, the Continentals drew even thanks to special teams. Tufts was punting from its own 33 but Ganter blocked it and Hamilton took over at the Jumbos' 26-yard line. Gray passed to Donahoe for 13 yards on third-and-6 and completed a 9-yard TD toss to Schmidt on the next play with 12:21 left in the fourth. Will Budington '21 caught a two-point conversion pass from Gray as he was being tackled and the score was tied at 21-21. Andrew Sanders put Tufts back in the lead with a 31-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-1 with 6:29 to go. The longest scoring drive of the game was the first one by Tufts and took just 3:03 off the clock.

The Continentals take on Amherst College for their home opener at Steuben Field on Saturday, Sept. 23 at 1 p.m.