|Bates triple-threat Tom Beaton and the Bobcat offense seek to find the end zone multiple times this Saturday at Wesleyan.|
Go to this link for Wesleyan's live webcast of the game.
Four years ago, in foul weather that forced the game to be moved to Trinity College's synthetic turf field, the Bates football team beat Wesleyan 30-29 in overtime to notch their first victory of the 2005 season.
This Saturday, this time at Wesleyan's Corwin Stadium at Andrus Field, the Bobcats will again vie for their first victory of the season in what could be equally challenging conditions. The forecast for Saturday afternoon in Middletown, Conn., calls for temperatures in the 40s and rain.
The host Cardinals are one of five teams in the NESCAC currently owning a 1-2 record, with a season-opening 7-3 win over Tufts followed by a 26-14 loss at Hamilton and a 16-13 home loss in overtime against Colby last Saturday.
Wesleyan's defense has been its most impressive unit thus far, allowing a fairly stingy 15.0 points per game and ranking second in the NESCAC in total defense (265.3 ypg). Like Bates, Wesleyan's pass defense has been statistically stout, just a hair behind Bates at fourth in the NESCAC. Their pass rush has also been effective, with 11 sacks thus far. But the Cardinals have been more successful than the Bobcats to date at stopping the run, ranking fourth with an average of only 73.7 rushing yards against.
While Bates' rushing offense has become a threat the opponent must respect, the Bobcats are still struggling to stop the run on the defensive side of the ball, allowing a conference-high 196.3 rushing yards per game. But on the bright side, they may have already faced the best the schedule had to offer: coincidentally or not, Bates' three opponents to date are the conference's three leading rushing offenses. Wesleyan, however, is averaging a respectable 111.0 rushing yards per game, and has scored five touchdowns on the ground. Senior Shea Dwyer has been a big-play threat, averaging 68.7 rushing yards per game with a 5.3 average per carry. Vince Miller is the other part of a two-headed rushing attack, with 62.0 per game and 4.0 per carry yardage averages.
Bates has big-play threats on its own offense, starting with Tom Beaton, who is leading the team in rushing thus far as the team's Wildcat quarterback, and also averages over 40 receiving yards per game. Beaton is fourth in the conference in all-purpose yards (123.7 ypg). Bates' passing game could use a jolt, however, with sophomore Ryan Katon establishing a consistent rapport with tight end Sean Wirth (8.0 receptions per game and 70.3 yards per game, fourth and ninth in the NESCAC, respectively) but little else. Matt Gregg has 16 catches thus far, but the senior wideout has been limited to under eight yards per catch, and hasn't broken free for more than 16 yards on a single play. Given enough time to throw, Katon will need accuracy and his ability to move in and out of the pocket to get the Bates offense humming.
Wesleyan's offense has proven to be run-oriented, and there's little reason to believe that will stop against Bates this weekend. The Bobcats therefore may be confident enough in their three-man defensive backfield (safety Kyle McAllister and cornerbacks Cam Evans and Kyle Starr, with Bill Jennings still out with an injury from Week 1) to load extra men into the box and control the run. On offense, the Bobcats will likely try to maintain its healthy balance between running and passing, while hoping to see more drives finish off in the end zone.