Football Preview: Bobcats seek to even record at Tufts
Bates at Tufts; Saturday, Sept. 27, 1 p.m.
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The Bates Bobcats seek to even their record at 1-1 this Saturday against Tufts University at Ellis Oval/Zimman Field in Somerville, Mass. The Bobcats, coming off a 10-point defeat at the hand of the Trinity Bantams in last weekend’s season opener (17-7), search for their first win against Tufts in 24 years. Following their victory over Wesleyan (20-14), the Jumbos hope to continue their offensive rhythm (425 total yards). Both teams will look to define their position in the league in this pivotal NESCAC matchup. Bates can be 1-1 for the first time since the 1999 season, and Tufts would likely need to win in order to eventually gain its first NESCAC title since the league formally became a playing conference in 1999.
|Matt Gregg ’10 caught 5 passes for 82 yards in last season’s 35-20 loss vs. Tufts.|
Tufts overcame a 14-7 halftime deficit in week 1 by scoring 13 unanswered points in the second half, sealing a 20-14 victory over Wesleyan. Tufts, led by senior tailback Will Forde, hit the ground running racking up 247 yards rushing on 48 attempts. Forde alone gained 133 yards on 27 carries and scored two touchdowns. Junior quarterback Anthony Fucillo, starting his first game under center, contributed 178 yards (11-22) and a touchdown in the passing game as Tufts rolled up 425 total yards of offense. Senior linebacker Ryan Crisco had 10 tackles as the Jumbo defense bounced back from a Wesleyan opening-drive touchdown to pitch a second-half shutout.
Bates traveled to Hartford, Conn., to suffer a season-opening loss to four-time NESCAC champ Trinity College 17-7. The Bantams got off to an early 10-0 lead in the first quarter, but the Bates defense settled down and held Trinity to 7 points in the final three quarters. Junior safety Kyle McAllister lead the way for Bates with 13 tackles, a fumble recovery, and an interception, earning him NESCAC Defensive Player of the Week honors. Making his first start at outside linebacker, sophomore Myles Walker added 12 tackles as the Bobcats held Trinity to just five third-down conversions. The Bates offense, headed by the quarterback tandem of Ryan Larsen and Ryan Katon, threw for 164 of the team’s 199 total yards of offense. Katon accounted for 101 passing yards, completing 13-23 passes including a 20-yard touchdown strike to senior wide receiver Mark Flaherty (4 catches, 46 yards).
KEYS TO THE GAME
Jumbos offensive coordinator Jay Civetti had his offense running on all cylinders in Week 1 against Wesleyan. Tufts’ offense had seven plays of 15 yards or more, including runs of 30 and 27 yards as well as completions of 25 and 26 yards. Bates will need to eliminate big plays by slowing down the running attack of Will Forde and junior Darren Ferguson. Ferguson comes into Week 2 averaging 10.5 yards per carry as the back-up to Forde. If the Bobcats can reduce the big play and keep the Tufts offense in second- or third-and-long situations, quarterback Anthony Fucillo — who completed only 50 percent of his pass attempts (11-22) but averaged 16.2 yards per completion — may be less effective with play-action pass.
The Bates defense created big plays of its own last week with nine tackles for loss totaling -20 yards and two sacks for -12. The Bobcats will look to their defense for momentum and energy, as captain Coleman Peeke and junior standout Kyle McAllister search for victory No. 1. The Bates offense is searching for their big play threat. Despite only two plays of 15 yards or more, the Bobcats have a good core of targets in the passing game to take shots downfield. Anchored by tight end Sean Wirth, who led the Bobcats in touchdown receptions in 2007, Larsen and Katon have Matt Gregg, Mark Flaherty, and triple threat Tom Beaton to create plays in the passing game.
Bates will need to limit their turnovers against the Jumbos in order to be effective. Last week the offense committed one turnover in the passing game, an interception by Larsen. Ball control will help produce momentum for this relatively young offense. Tufts running back Will Forde, while gaining 133 yards on the ground, fumbled twice last Saturday, neither of which Wesleyan could recover. If the Bobcats defense can capitalize on such plays and continue creating turnovers, it could help a young Bates offense establish great field position.
Bates special teams should be aware of Tufts kick returner Pat Bailey. Bailey had kick-off returns of 57 yards and 33 yards against Wesleyan. The battle of field position will begin with the Bobcats containing Bailey’s big-play ability and continue with an effective kicking game. Bobcats punter Gavin Segall-Abrams comes into Saturday averaging 31.6 yards per punt — raising this number could be crucial in helping the Bates defense stop a Jumbo offense whose average drive is seven plays for 42 yards.
The Bobcats will look to increase their third-down efficiency against the Jumbos by running the ball more effectively. Senior Greg Thornton, the leading rusher for Bates in 2007, will likely shoulder most of the rushing load against Tufts. The Bobcats averaged 1.5 yards per rush against the Bantams, so raising this number will put offensive coordinator Matt Dence and the Bobcats in more manageable third-down situations.
The Jumbos went 7-12 on third down against Wesleyan, but will meet a Bates defense who held Trinity to just 5 of 13 conversions on third down. Stopping Tufts on third down could play a central role in the field position game. The Jumbos struggled in the punting game, averaging just 30 yards per kick.