Hamilton College defensive back Christian Snell '22 blocked a punt and recovered the loose ball in the end zone with 1:34 left in the fourth quarter, and the Continentals held on for a 33-29 win against the Wesleyan University Cardinals at Wesleyan's Corwin Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Cardinals drove from their own 25 to the Hamilton 40-yard line in the final minute but a desperation heave by Wesleyan quarterback Mark Piccirillo was intercepted by Ian Esliker '21 in the end zone for a touchback with 11 seconds remaining.
The Continentals (1-2 NESCAC) racked up 357 yards of total offense including a season-high 164 yards rushing. Joe Park '22 gained 104 yards on 18 carries in his second collegiate start. Kenny Gray '20 threw for 193 yards and ran for 56 more. Gray completed 18 of 31 passes and tied a career-high with four touchdowns. Joe Schmidt '20 had six receptions for 79 yards and Will Budington '21 caught his first two touchdown passes.
Hamilton's special teams played exceptionally well as Sam Thoreen '22 made 3 of 4 extra-point attempts including the one after Snell's touchdown that ensured the Cardinals couldn't tie the score with a field goal. Billy Wagner '20 placed three of his five punts inside the Wesleyan 20 and Sam Robinson '20 averaged 26.0 yards on two kick returns and 13.3 yards on four punt returns.
The Continentals' Cole Burchill '19 led all players with 11 tackles and Colby Jones '19 added 10 stops. Sean Tolton '19 finished with eight including his third career sack.
The Cardinals (1-2) posted 26 first downs, were 15 of 22 on third down, and ended up with 413 yards of offense. Wesleyan was bogged down by 110 yards in penalties. Piccirillo threw for 263 yards on 20 of 36 passing and led the Cardinals with 64 yards on the ground. He had three touchdown passes and ran for another. Hallvard Lundevall caught six passes for 92 yards and two scores. Cole Harris and Zak Foster were credited with seven tackles apiece. Harris added a sack and broke up two passes.
Wesleyan held a slim 21-20 edge after three quarters but Hamilton regained the lead 39 seconds into the fourth when fullback David Kagan '20 caught a running back screen from Gray and ran 8 yards for a touchdown. A two-point conversion pass fell incomplete and the Continentals were up 26-21.
Piccirillo found Lundevall for a 5-yard touchdown with 10:22 to go and then Piccirillo ran in it for two points and a 29-26 advantage. Both teams had the ball twice before Snell's heroics.
Christian Donahoe '20 gave Hamilton the lead on a 26-yard touchdown catch with 10:21 left in the first quarter when he broke a tackle near the right sideline and ran the rest of the way to the end zone untouched. Joe Scancarella's 37-yard TD reception 45 seconds into the second quarter helped the Cardinals draw even.
Budington outjumped a defender in the right corner of the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown catch that put the Continentals back in the lead with 3:30 remaining in the second. Wesleyan came right back on Lundevall's 15-yard touchdown catch just 40 seconds before the half. Patrick Wolff's PAT tied the score at 14-14.
Budington put Hamilton in the lead for a third time as he was left wide open for a 6-yard touchdown catch with 12:51 to go in the third quarter. The extra point was no good, and the Cardinals went in front for the first time on Piccirillo's 1-yard run with 2:04 left in the third and Wolff's PAT. The drive went 80 yards in 16 plays and took more than eight minutes.
The Continentals host Trinity College at Steuben Field on Saturday, Oct. 6 at 1 p.m.