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Wesleyan hands Amherst College first loss, 20-14

AMHERST — The battle of the undefeated collided Saturday afternoon as Amherst College quarterback Max Lippe came up just short in a last minute drive in front of the homecoming crowd at Pratt Field.

Wesleyan caused four turnovers and blocked a 19-yard field goal, holding the Jeffs to just two touchdowns and giving Amherst its first loss of the season, 20-14.

Lippe led a flawless first drive for Amherst, completing 5-of-7 passes, including a 4-yard touchdown pass to junior wide out Gene Garay. The drive lasted just under four minutes and head coach E.J. Mills was pleased with his team up 7-0.

Wesleyan “is a man team, and early on we got them on some things offensively,” Mills said. “They began to play even more conventional and we felt we could capitalize.”

Wesleyan responded with a long and methodical drive, capped by an easy 25-yard field goal by Sebastian Aguirre.

Following Wesleyan’s field goal, Amherst’s turnover woes began when Lippe threw a red zone interception with 31 seconds left in the first quarter. The drive looked very similar to the opening possession, but Lippe’s attempt to find Jake O’Malley landed in the hands of Wesleyan’s defensive back Justin Sanchez.

Wesleyan later took advantage of a second-quarter Amherst fumbled. The Cardinals drove deep but Amherst’s defense held. Aguirre settle for a 41-yard field goal as Wesleyan led 7-6 at halftime.

“Our defense continued to give us a chance,” Mills said. “There were times when they could have gotten seven, and they came away with just three. Our defense kept it close, but the turnovers killed us.”

In the third quarter, Wesleyan took a 13-7 lead on a LaDarius Drew 5-yard touchdown run. Drew ran for 84 yards on 25 attempts. Jesse Warren, who was 15 of 17 for 150 yards, gave the Cardinals a 20-7 lead just a few minutes into the fourth quarter when he connected with wide receiver Kevin Hughes on a 42-yard pass down the Wesleyan sideline.

Amherst came back as Lippe led a fourth-quarter drive into Wesleyan territory. Lippe connected with O’Malley for a 5-yard touchdown strike to pull within 20-14.

“We felt like we could throw on” Wesleyan, Garay said. “We had some opportunities, and just couldn’t convert — we killed ourselves with turnovers today.”

Lippe threw for 195 yards on 20-of-35 passing and two touchdowns. With 2:52 remaining, Lippe took over from his own 19-yard line. With a combination of completions to Garay and O’Malley, Amherst moved to midfield with just under two minutes left.

But on a second-and-12 from the Amherst 43, Lippe threw another interception to Sanchez. The fourth turnover of the day sealed the win for Wesleyan (5-0, 5-0 NESCAC).

“I think the throw was just a miscommunication,” Mills said. “Max thought to throw it inside, and our wide out popped his route outside. That shouldn’t happen in a situation like that, but I have to give Wesleyan a lot of credit.”

Amherst (4-1, 4-1) plays at Tufts on Saturday at 1 p.m.

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