Bowdoin Polar Bears (2-4) at Bates Bobcats (0-6)
November 7, 2009 at Garcelon Field
|One of the leading receivers in the conference, senior tight end Sean Wirth is likely to see his share of Trevor Smith's passes come his way Saturday against Bowdoin. (Photo by H. Jay Burns)|
With a potent offense led by a star quarterback that is counterbalanced by an occasionally porous defense, Bowdoin resembles Bates’ last home opponent, Middlebury.
Bowdoin senior quarterback Oliver Kell, who set the NESCAC single-season record for total offense in 2008, is having an even better season in 2009. In last Saturday’s 43-39 loss to Wesleyan, Kell completed 35 passes for 472 yards with 513 yards of total offense, breaking Bowdoin’s single-season records for passing yards and touchdowns during the game, and established new single-game records for completions, passing yards and total offense. Kell has thrown for 2,012 yards and 15 touchdowns so far this season. Kell’s receiving corps begins with NESCAC reception leader Pat Noone, a sophomore wideout. Noone is currently averaging 10 receptions and 136 receiving yards receiving per game. Justin Starr has 29 receptions and nearly 600 yards receiving (with a 19.8 yards per catch average) on the year, while freshman Jon Gren has 41 catches for 323 yards.
Tailback Nick Tom averages 50.8 rushing yards per game, while Kell and James Lathrop also tote the ball effectively.
On defense, Tyler Tennant leads Polar Bear tacklers with 49 thus far. Laurence Duggan (5.0 sacks) and Ian Vieira (4.5 sacks) lead the NESCAC’s third-ranked pass rush. Despite difficulties against the pass that have helped trigger three wild shootouts already — a 50-35 win over Middlebury, a 45-31 loss to Trinity and a 43-39 loss to Wesleyan — Bowdoin’s D has come up with 10 interceptions and recovered 10 fumbles on the season.
The Bobcats posted some of their most dizzying passing numbers in years in last week’s 34-27 setback at Colby. Rookie quarterback Trevor Smith, making his first start for Bates after Ryan Katon was injured the prior week against Middlebury, completed 31 of 51 passes for 361 yards. Smith threw for three touchdowns, all in the fourth quarter, and was intercepted only once. At day’s end, he was the surprising new owner of two Bates single-game passing records: his 361 yards surpassed the old record of 355 set by Steve Bucci '93 against Trinity in 1991, and his 31 completions exceeded the old record of 28 set by Brandon Colon '08 against Colby in 2004.
Considering that Smith got better as the game wore on, the question is tantalizing for Bobcat fans: what’s next for Smith and the Bates offense? More of the same would be more than welcome, and the Polar Bears have struggled to stop the pass and been involved in more than their share of shootouts this season.
Bates and Bowdoin share the bottom of the conference when it comes to allowing points — both are at 28 points a game. But while Bates is ranked third in the NESCAC in defending the pass and 10th in stopping the run, Bowdoin is somewhat the other way around, ranked ninth in pass defense (259.5 yards per game) and sixth against the run.
Statistically, the Bobcats appear to be more like a .500 team than a winless one. The Bobcats are fifth in the conference in first downs (105) and fifth in first downs allowed (106). The Bobcats turn the ball over less than the opponent (+0.33 average margin per game) and possess the ball more than the opponent (30:58 per game, third in the league). In the last three weeks, they have lost leads in the final 18 minutes of the game against both Wesleyan and Middlebury, and they came within six yards of tying the game last week against Colby. The ultimate cause of the losses are different in each game, but the Bobcats have no choice but to continue to bear down and play as hard as ever in hopes of beating Bowdoin for the first time since 2003.