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Football comes up just short in thriller at Williams, 31-26

Brandon Colon '08

Graham Raymond '08

Tom Beaton '10

Matt Gregg '10

Ross Van Horn '08

Greg Thornton '09

Todd Wilcox '08

Kyle McAllister '10

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- Williams College came back from a 20-0 second-quarter deficit with 25 unanswered points and held off the visiting Bates College Bobcats in a 31-26 decision Saturday at Weston Field.

Williams (1-2) took a 25-20 lead early in the fourth quarter, but Bates got back on the scoreboard with a 27-yard touchdown connection from Brandon Colon to Tom Beaton with 7:51 left in the fourth quarter. But Nick Caro scored on a 51-yard touchdown pass from Pat Lucey with 5:41 left and the Ephs held on for the win.

Bates (0-3) senior quarterback Brandon Colon (Manchester, N.H.) passed for 172 yards and a career-high three touchdowns without an interception, while the Bobcats also put together their best running attack of the season with 121 yards on the ground, but Williams answered with 530 yards in total offense, including 348 passing yards and four touchdowns by Lucey.

Perhaps experiencing a bit of an emotional hangover from their 46-40, three-overtime loss to Trinity last weekend, the Ephs struggled to move the ball early in the game.  The Bobcats, on the other hand, moved the ball extremely well early.  After gaining great field position in the first quarter due to a Williams special teams penalty, Bates executed a play-action bootleg that caught the Eph defense off-guard, leading to a completion within the Eph 25-yard line.  A 20-yard slant complete to Tom Beaton brought the Bobcats down to the Williams 5-yard line, where sophomore tight end Sean Wirth (Barrington, R.I.) put his 6-foot-7 frame to good use by hauling in the Bobcats' first touchdown of the day, and Wirth's first as a Bobcat, on a fade to the corner.

Lucey, the NESCAC Offensive Player of the Year in 2006, didn’t look quite himself in the first half, ending Williams' first possession with a bad interception into double coverage and overthrowing targets most Williams fans are used to seeing him hit.  Lucey appeared to be getting back to form after hitting his favorite target Ryan Powell across the middle for a 21-yard gain into Bobcat territory. But he followed up by an interception in the end zone by Bates sophomore defensive back Bill Jennings (Marshfield, Mass.). Jennings returned the tipped pass for 38 yards. 

The play seemed to spark the Bobcats, as on the next play junior running back Greg Thornton (Norwell, Mass.) snapped off a 32-yard run down to the Eph 30-yard line. Colon then threw his second touchdown of the day, as sophomore receiver Matt Gregg (Milton, Mass.) beat his man to the end zone to cap a two-play, 62-yard scoring drive for the Bobcats.

Bates missed the PAT after a botched snap, but aside from that the Bobcats seemingly could do no wrong for most of the first half. After finally moving the chains with some consistency, a 35-yard field goal attempt by Williams was spoiled by junior Coleman Peeke (Exeter, N.H.). Peeke’s block bounced right into the hands of Bates senior Graham Raymond (Westfield, Mass.), who raced into the end zone untouched for a 71-yard score.

The play highlighted some field goal difficulties that have plagued Williams now in two straight games, as Williams also missed two PATs.

Facing a 20-0 deficit in the second quarter, Williams finally built some offensive momentum on a screen pass to senior Kevin Flynn that would go for 35 yards and a score.  Flynn had a huge first half, compiling 138 all-purpose yards.

Flynn didn't stop there either, opening up the second half with a 41-yard kickoff return to the Bobcat 45. From there Flynn and Morrissey combined for a lot of tough yards leading to an 8-yard touchdown strike from Lucey to senior Craig Sundberg.

The Williams defense took the field with greater urgency in the second half, stuffing the Bobcats’ first series on three straight plays and forcing a punt. A Bates’ special teams blunder a series later gave the Eph defense another opportunity, as the Bates’ return man signaled for a fair catch on his own 3-yard line. After a backfield tackle by Eph Jordan O’Reilly, Bates was forced to punt again after going three-and-out.  Flynn returned the punt 15 yards and ran for 20 yards on consecutive plays to bring Williams down to the Bobcat 20.

On fourth and 10 and trailing by seven, Lucey scrambled out to his right before throwing a desperate pass to Sundberg in the front corner of the end zone for the score. Williams would have evened the score if not for their second missed PAT of the game.

Williams took the lead for the first time with 10:54 to go in the game. After a 29-yard completion to sophomore Nick Caro brought the Ephs to within striking distance, Williams ran six straight times, ending in a Brian Morrissey score.

Even with all the momentum against them and on the wrong end of a 25-20 score, the Bobcats answered back. A 23-yard Colon pass to senior tight end Ross Van Horn (Highland Park, N.J.) helped bring them to the Williams 27-yard line, where they were unable to move the ball for three downs. Again though, Bates came up with the big play: on 4th and 10, Colon found sophomore receiver Tom Beaton (West Newbury, Mass.) uncovered in the end zone to give the Bobcats a 26-25 lead. A two-point conversion pass attempt by Colon failed to give Bates a three-point edge.

Ephs junior Brian Egan had a huge first down pickup on the Ephs’ ensuing drive.  On third and five Egan caught a swing pass out by the sideline before lowering his shoulder and barreling through a Bates defender to keep the drive alive. On the next play Lucey found Nick Caro down the right sideline for a 51-yard score and a 31-26 lead with 5:41 to go.

A Bates punt gave the Ephs the ball back, and they wouldn’t relinquish it for the rest of the game. As time ticked away, the Ephs’ Morrissey rattled off a 33-yard run down to the Bobcat 6-yard line, icing the game for Williams. Morrissey finished the day with 130 yards on 24 carries and a TD.

Bates plays on the road for a second straight game next Saturday at Wesleyan University (1 p.m.). Williams will play at undefeated Middlebury at 1:30 p.m.

Thornton finished with a career-high 69 rushing yards on 15 carries for Bates, a 4.6 yards per carry average, while junior Shawki White (Danville, Ill.) added another 41 yards on just five carries (8.2 ypc). Van Horn led Bates receivers with 5 receptions for 61 yards, followed by Beaton (3-50, 1 TD) and Gregg (3-46, 1 TD).

Senior team captain Todd Wilcox (Brentwood, N.H.) had a team-high 11 tackles, while sophomore safety Kyle McAllister (Exeter, N.H.) added 10 tackles and one interception, giving him a team-high three on the season.

BOX SCORE: Williams 31, Bates 26

-- Williams College Sports Information