Second-half turnovers sink Bobcats’ chances
|Judd Smith ’10 finds a hole in the Bowdoin defense en route to some of his 59 rushing yards. (Phyllis Graber Jensen photos)|
LEWISTON, Maine — Bates turned the ball over on six consecutive possessions in the second half, including five interceptions, and Bowdoin took advantage by scoring 31 unanswered points in a 31-7 NESCAC football victory on Saturday at Garcelon Field.
Bowdoin (2-5) and Colby will meet next week with the CBB title on the line. Bates (0-7) will finish its season at Hamilton next Saturday at 12 p.m.
Bates outgained Bowdoin with 318 yards of total offense to the Polar Bears’ 227, and held the ball for 10 more minutes, but for the second time this season a ball-hawking Bowdoin defense was the winning difference. (Bowdoin opened the season with a win over Williams, thanks to eight forced turnovers by the Ephs.)
The host Bobcats dominated the first half, holding the ball for nearly 20 of the 30 minutes and outgaining the Polar Bears 206 yards to 119. But a shocking end to the second quarter put the teams in a 7-7 tie at halftime. Bowdoin received a punt at the Bates 40 with 1 second remaining in the half, and Bowdoin sophomore quarterback Oliver Kell hit Nick Tomaino for a Hail Mary touchdown in the back right corner of the end zone as time expired.
Bates’ fortunes spiraled downward from there. On the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter, Bowdoin’s Lamont White jumped in front of Bates QB Brandon Colon’s (Manchester, N.H.) sideline pass and scampered 35 yards untouched for a 14-7 lead. Colon was picked off on Bates’ next possession by Kevin Raymond, giving Bowdoin the ball back at the Bates 40, and the Polar Bears assembled a 9-play, 40-yard scoring drive capped by Kell’s 5-yard scoring jaunt.
|Brandon Colon ’08 is congratulated by teammates after his 1-yard touchdown run gave Bates the lead in the second quarter.|
Another turnover followed immediately after, on Bates’ next play from scrimmage, when a fumble by Bates junior running back Shawki White (Danville, Ill.) was recovered by Tim Colton at the Bates 47. Bowdoin drove as far as the Bates 11 before settling for a 28-yard field goal by Bowdoin kicker Nolan McNair, giving Bowdoin a 24-7 lead halfway through the third quarter.
Colon was benched White picked off Colon for a second time and Matt Leotti made it four pickoffs for the Bates senior.
First-year QB Ryan Larsen (Hull, Mass.) came on in relief of Colon and completed his first pass to sophomore Tom Beaton (West Newbury, Mass.) for a gain of 9 yards. But on the next play, a Larsen pass was tipped by a Bates receiver and fell into the hands of Kevin Zikaris, who returned it 35 yards and a 31-7 Bowdoin lead with 10:54 left in the game.
Adding a final touch of frustration for the Bobcats, Bates amassed a 14-play drive in the waning minutes of the game, only to give up the ball at the Bowdoin 1-yard line on a muffed snap, preserving the 24-point margin for Polar Bears.
Kell was 6-for-16 passing for 111 yards, and also rushed for 31 more. Four of his completions went to Tomaino, who had 72 receiving yards. Nicholas Tom led the Bowdoin ground attack with 52 yards on 14 carries.
Zikaris amassed 17 tackles in the game, to go with his interception and touchdown, to lead the Bowdoin defense.
Bates sophomore Judd Smith (Milton, Mass.) gained 59 yards on 11 carries, while junior Greg Thornton (Norwell, Mass.) added 47 yards on 14 carries. Colon finished 16-for-28 for 158 yards and also ran for a 1-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Five Bates receivers had three or more receptions: sophomore Matt Gregg (5), senior Ross Van Horn (4), Beaton (4), sophomore Sean Wirth (4) and senior David Philbrook (3).
Bates senior DE Anthony Begon (Peabody, Mass.) had a career-high 13 tackles, including 4.5 for a loss, as well as a sack, a fumble recovery and a quarterback hurry.