Football gets first win of the season
- Football suffers controversial loss
- One Giant of a Super Bowl
- Head football coach resigns after 23 years
Over the past two Saturdays, the Colby College football team has left two gritty efforts out on the field. One performance resulted in the first victory for the Mules in the 2009 season, while the other left Colby with the familiar taste of missed opportunity in another frustrating, late-game loss.
Two weeks ago, on October 10, the football squad traveled to Connecticut to battle Wesleyan College in an overtime thriller, while the rest of the Colby student body returned home for a quiet Fall Break. Fortunately for the masses, the Mules came out the victors by the score of 16-13.
The beginning of the game belonged to Wesleyan (2-2). The Cardinals bolted out to a 13-0 halftime lead after mistakes on Colby special teams left Wesleyan with two short drives, starting at the Colby 18 and 23-yard lines. The Cardinals needed three plays to go the 18 yards, scoring on a touchdown run by its quarterback Joe Giaimo. The 23-yard drive ended in six plays on a quick 1-yard run from running back Greg McDonough, although Wesleyan kicker Matt Alexander missed the ensuing extra point to bring the lead into the half to only 13. This special teams miscue turned out to be one of the keys to the game.
Another key was the defensive intensity that Colby brought to the table in the second half, swinging the momentum in favor of the Mules. Wesleyan did not come close to scoring on a Mule defense that only allowed 163 yards of total offense for the entire afternoon. Senior safety Chris Copeland was a maniac, all over the field, leading the charge with a collegiate-high 17 tackles. Copeland now has a team leading 47 tackles in just four games.
While the defense morphed into an iron curtain, the offense took off the lead weights holding it down in the first half. Quarterback Nick Kmetz '12 led the Mules on a 59 yard scoring drive, hitting tightend Spencer Merwin '12 over the middle of the endzone to cut the margin to 13-7 early in the fourth quarter. After Wesleyan flopped on another offensive drive, the Cardinal punter Kyle Weiss did his job and boomed a punt to pin Colby back at their own 11. The Colby offense took this daunting field position and turned it into a methodical, time-consuming 17-play, 89-yard drive to tie the game on a Michael Cuqua '10 2-yard scoring run. Other highlights on the drive were a 15-yard run by Kmetz on a 3rd-and-12 situation and an 8 yard pass to Merwin on 4th-and-4 at the Wesleyan 43-yard line. Maintaining long drives has been Colby's strength this year.
"We just have a more cohesive system this year. I believe it is a combination of a more mature offensive line and the consistency of our skill players week in and week out," Head Coach Ed Mestieri said.
The offense was not rewarded with a victory just yet. Kicker Dave Bendit '13, just like the Wesleyan kicker before, missed his extra point sending the game into OT.
In OT, Colby and Wesleyan swapped uneventful offensive drives until Peter Scheve '10 made the defensive play of the game. Giaimo was about to make a first down on a quarterback sneak when Scheve jarred the ball loose and Colby recovered the fumble. On the first play from their new offensive possesion, Conner Walsh '12 rushed right on the first play of the drive for 17-yards to all but seal a close field goal attempt for Bendit. After three more rushing attempts all eyes were back on Bendit, but this time he nailed the 22-yard field goal to send Colby home with its first win of the season.
This past Saturday, October 17, Colby hosted Amherst College (4-0) and its number one scoring defense. The Lord Jeffs only allowed 11.3 points per game. Colby knew that they would have to hang tough and convert some offensive drives because Amherst is known for their ball control on offense. This season, the Lord Jeffs have just two turnovers and lead the conference in turnover margin (plus-8).
The score remained close initially. The teams traded touchdowns in the first half and the score remained tied 7-7 until the end of the third quarter. Unfortunately, another special teams error put the Mules back on the defensive. Craig Bunker on Amherst blocked a Colby punt and returned it four yards for a touchdown to put the Lord Jeffs up 14-7. The Mules did fight back, scoring on their next drive, but missed the extra point to tie and effectively lost their momentum. "Special teams has been a problem all year," Mestieri said. "We've left points on the board. Our ineffectiveness in the kicking game has also been a major issue with respect to field position. Those are the hidden yards."
Amherst shut the offense down from that point on and went on to win 23-13.
Ultimately, the win against Wesleyan College, especially in the overtime manner, is a huge step for Colby when it has come so close to victory against both Williams College to open the year and Amherst last Saturday. Colby will refuse to let these close losses take away their mental approach.
"Losses against the leagues 'Elite' are discouraging," Mestieri said. "But there is no room for self-pity. We are resilient. The quality of leadership and determination of our players is such that we will move forward and continue to work hard to rectify the mistakes that we are making."
Colby football will move into the second half of its season when the Mules travel to Clinton, NY this Saturday, October 24, to take on Hamilton College.