Football: Mules Thwart Bates Comeback; Final Score 34 to 27
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In the last minutes of Saturday's game the Colby College football faithful at Harold Alfond Stadium held their collective breaths. Bates College (0-6) was making a furious comeback and had a first down at the Colby five-yard line with one minute to go in the game. The Bobcats were behind by only one touchdown with the scoreboard reading 34-27. It took four excruciatingly close plays, but the home crowd was able to exhale a sigh of relief as the Mule defense denied Bates the endzone and sealed the CBB victory with a goal line stand, moving Colby to 3-3 overall.
"Make no mistake, Bates is a quality team with a quality offense," co-captain and linebacker Roger Bel '10 said. "A lot of things began going their way, but just when momentum began to swing, we made a pivotal stop."
Initially, the game looked like it was going to be a rout of Bates. The first three and a half quarters belonged to the Mules. The Colby offense was aggressive early on, spearheaded by the rushing efforts of Dan Prunier '10 who ran for 92 yards on 17 carries. The offensive line was executing to perfection and large running gaps were frequent in the first half. Colby went up by the score of 21-0 at halftime by rushing touchdowns from Prunier, Michael Cuqua '10 and Conner Walsh '12. Balancing the offensive attack, sophomore quarterback Nick Kmetz (14-for-20, 214 yards passing, 30 yards rushing) had another stellar afternoon and converted some key third and fourth down passes to keep drives alive. Kmetz's receiver of choice on that day was Patrick Burns '11, who had his best game of the season, catching six balls for 104 yards.
While the Colby offense was effective, the first half defense was dominant. The Mules extended their shutout streak to six consecutive quarters at halftime and allowed just 13 yards total on the ground to Bates. The Mules now rank second in rushing defense in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) with 46.8 yards per game.
"Our team is a very complete run-stopping force," Bel said. "We have guys at every position looking to get in on the plays inside."
D-line play was highlighted by Casey Sullivan '10 who had a sack to go along with five tackles and Lamont Henry '10 led all linebackers with six tackles.
By completely shutting down opposing teams running offense, Colby forces opponents to become one-dimensional.
"Philosophically, we are structured to stop the run, and we have very good personnel executing the schemes," Head Coach Ed Mestieri said.
Chris Copeland '10, who is on his way to a NESCAC first team selection, relishes the ball moving out into the secondary. Against Bates, safety Copeland had another great day, compiling a team-leading 11 tackles and a clutch interception before the half.
Coming out of halftime, the Mules continued to manhandle the Bobcats. Colby pushed the lead again to 34-13 in the fourth quarter when Kmetz scored on a 1-yard run. With six minutes remaining in the game, it appeared Colby had nothing to worry about.
Suddenly, the control that Colby had exerted over the Bates offense quickly slipped away.
"At halftime I spoke to the team about being in unchartered waters," Mestieri said. "I think it is human nature to let down to some extent." Mestieri became a self-fulfilling prophecy whether he wanted to or not.
On consecutive drives, in just over three minutes, Bobcats' first-year quarterback Trevor Smith threw 15-yard and 20-yard touchdown passes to cut the margin to 34-27 with 1:36 remaining. Colby gave up two 15-yard penalties on the drives and also allowed Bates to convert two fourth down plays.
Bates then effectively executed an onside kick on its ensuing kickoff and threw for two long passes, setting up its first and goal at the five-yard line.
In its four plays, Bates attempted three passes and one run: all were denied. Play calling on the Colby side was focused on making the Bates first year quarterback uncomfortable.
"We had a heavy blitz on," Bel said. "However, it was only effective because of the strong coverage scheme of the secondary." Colby kneeled the ball on offense to run out the clock and end the game. To crush a huge momentum swing like Bates had on Sunday tells a lot about the Colby team.
"A win is a win," Bel said. "Saturday over Bates was one of the more educational wins of the season, as we learned a lot about ourselves."
Colby is now 3-3 after starting the season 0-2. Due to the win against Bates, in two weeks the Mules will have the opportunity to compete for the CBB championship when they play Bowdoin in Brunswick, Maine. This Saturday, November 7 the Mules host their final home game against Tufts University at 12:30 p.m.