Football Preview: Bobcats host Colby for Homecoming Weekend
Football Game Preview: Colby College Mules (3-2) at Bates College Bobcats (0-5)
October 25, 2008 – 1 p.m.
Watch and listen to the game live on BatesCast.com! Al Harvie ’65 and Ryan Horvath ’10 will have the call live at Garcelon Field.
|Running back Greg Thornton’s role in the Bates offense may expand in the event of typical Bates-Colby weather conditions.|
Week six of the NESCAC football season has arrived and with it comes the first leg of the Colby-Bates-Bowdoin Championship, otherwise known as the CBB. The Bobcats at times have shown significant signs of promise, but special teams woes and inconsistency have them still in search of their first victory. In week five Bates appeared poised to beat an admirable opponent in Middlebury. Bates managed to jump to an early 14-7 lead in the second quarter. Senior running back Greg Thornton took the toss from the quarterback, rolled out and found Tom Beaton for a 23-yard scoring strike to tie the game at 7-7. On the subsequent drive, following a Middlebury fumble that was caused by Tyler Kuehl and recovered by Chris Hertz, first-year quarterback Ryan Katon hit Matt Gregg for a 19-yard touchdown pass to gain the lead 14-7. The Bobcats showed early signs of promise against the physical Panthers, but a late first-half field goal and 21 unanswered second-half points for Middlebury dashed Bates’ hopes.
In week six the Bobcats face in-state rival Colby College for a shot at the CBB title. The CBB championship began as the Maine State Championship Series pitting every Maine college football team against one another to crown a state title. However, when the University of Maine at Orono became a Division I program, the series was reduced to Colby, Bates, and Bowdoin, creating the CBB Championship. This particular storied rivalry between Bates and Colby goes back 110 years and is the 11th longest rivalry in Division III football. The rivalry is notable for making the pages of Sports Illustrated in 2006, with an image of running back Jamie Walker ’07 pushing a Colby pile in the driving rain and omnipresent mud, as Colby defeated Bates 10-7 in four overtimes, the longest game in NESCAC history. Colby leads the all-time series 63-41-6 and seeks its first outright CBB title since 2005. Bates is eager for its first CBB title since 2002.
Bates is stands at 10th in the conference in scoring, at 10 points per game, and although Colby garners a record of 3-2 they join Bates as ranking last in the NESCAC in first downs. The offensive line for the Bobcats has been a strong point. Anchored by senior right guard John MacKenzie and junior left tackle Dave Myerson, the O-line has only allowed opponents to get to Bates quarterbacks three times this season, often giving Katon ample amounts of time to find his corps of receivers: junior tight ends Matt Sherburne and Sean Wirth and junior wideouts Matt Gregg and Tom Beaton. Gregg leads the team in receptions and Beaton is second on the team in total offense. The rushing attack is led by senior running back Greg Thornton, who leads the team with 132 yards rushing through five games. He is complemented by sophomore running back Judd Smith, who has established himself as an effective short-yardage back for the Bobcats.
The Bates defense has displayed an abundant amount of ability to keep the Bobcats in games. The Bobcats are fourth in the NESCAC in red zone defense and held opponents to 37% on third downs. In week five the defense was led by senior captain Coleman Peeke, who recorded a game-high 14 tackles from his inside linebacker position against Middlebury. Peeke is a strong run stopper on a defense with lots of potential, and the captain currently sits at 12th in the NESCAC with 7.4 tackles per contest. Sophomore outside linebacker Myles Walker leads the Bobcat defense with 8 tackles per game, and ranking sixth in the NESCAC. Junior free safety Kyle McAllister follows right behind Walker at ninth in the league with 7.8 tackles a contest. He is joined in the defensive secondary by junior Bill Jennings, who has built an impressive resume through five games for the Bobcats. In addition to leading the team in all-purpose yards, he is ninth overall in the conference in that category, and he’s third in the NESCAC in kick return average, third in interceptions, and sixth in passes defended. Leading a balanced, sixth-ranked pass rush is junior defensive end Rich McNeil, with 2.5 sacks. The Bobcat defense has proven to be a formidable match for NESCAC opponents, but still strive to display the longevity to close out games.
The veteran-laden Colby Mules come to Lewiston with an impressive 3-2 record, having posted wins over Middlebury, Wesleyan and Hamilton, though they have a negative scoring margin. The Mules rank ninth in scoring at 11 points a game and sixth in the conference in scoring defense, allowing 18 points per game. The Mules offense is led by sophomore quarterback Patrick Burns, who ranks 10th in the conference with 65.8 yards passing per game. Leading the rushing attack for Colby is junior running back Dan Prunier, who is sixth in the NESCAC with an average of 57.4 rushing yards per game. But Colby has been bothered at times by offensive line play. The Mules rank last in the NESCAC in sacks allowed, letting opponents get to Burns 17 times through five games.
Colby has the 10th-ranked passing defense in the NESCAC (261.6 yards per game) and the second-ranked rush defense (74 yards per game). The Colby defense is led by a corps of seniors: linebacker Gardiner Parker and defensive backs Tom Daley and defensive back Chris Copeland are tied for the team lead in tackles per game at 6.2 apiece. Copeland is also the team leader in interceptions and passes defended.
Keys to the Game
The Bates-Colby rivalry has been known to attract challenging weather conditions. In each of past four seasons, this game has seen some sort of precipitation, the worst being the aforementioned four-overtime game in 2006. Naturally, the Farmers Almanac predicted rain again for Saturday (Saturday’s forecast called for 70% chance of rain on Thursday). Bates will need to take special care to hold onto the ball in the case of inclement weather. The Bobcats are last in the NESCAC with a turnover margin of -1.2. Additionally, the Bobcats may try to exploit the weary pass defense of Colby. If the weather hinders that, they may have a tough time running on a defense that only allows 74 yards per game. Statistics indicate this to be a daunting task, as the Bobcats field the ninth-rated rushing offense in the league.
Bates punter Gavin Segall-Abrams will try to fight through his league ranking (10th) and help the Bobcats establish positive field position early. Colby boasts the top-rated kicker in the NESCAC in senior Victor Gagne, who has made 4 of 5 field goals on the season and also ranks third in the conference in punting.
When games are close, in can be the tiniest details that sway momentum and/or the outcome. Especially in heated rivalry games when the intensity is up, players can be subject to snap decisions and commit penalties that are costly. Fortunately, Bates is first in the NESCAC in avoiding penalties, only getting flagged 17 times through five weeks of play.