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Smith's record passing spurs wild comeback attempt at Colby

T. Smith





B. McAllister



WATERVILLE, Maine -- Colby College survived a wild comeback by the Bates College football team in the final six minutes and a record-setting performance by first-year quarterback Trevor Smith to give the Mules a 34-27 victory Saturday at Seaverns Field at Harold Alfond Stadium.

Bates falls to 0-6 and will attempt to keep its hopes alive for a piece of the CBB title when its hosts Bowdoin at 12:30 p.m. this Saturday. The Mules are 3-3 overall and play their final home game next Saturday at 12:30 p.m. against Tufts University.

In his first start for the Bobcats, Smith broke two of 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.

Bates trailed 34-13 with 5:59 left in the game, but furiously fought back with two straight touchdowns and then had a chance to tie the game with a 1st-and-goal at Colby’s 5-yard line with 1:30 to play. Colby’s defense stiffened and forced two straight incomplete passes and then stopped a run to force fourth down. The Bobcats missed on a final pass play into the end zone to senior wide receiver Tom Beaton (West Newbury, Mass.). Colby, with Bates having no timeouts left, kneeled to run out the rest of the clock.

Colby appeared to have the game in hand at 34-13 when sophomore quarterback Nick Kmetz scored on a 1-yard scoring run on a fourth down play with 5:59 left in the fourth quarter. The Mules started on their own 45-yard line after a 34-yard kickoff return by Dan Prunier. The Mules converted on two big fourth downs on the drive. Kmetz hit Patrick Burns on a 17-yard pass play on a 4th-and-15 to give the Mules the ball at the Bates 13-yard line. Kmetz then scored on a 1-yard run on fourth down after the Mules were stopped on two straight plays at the 1-yard line. David Bendit kicked the extra point for a 34-13 lead.

Bates converted two fourth down plays of its own on the next drive. Smith (Malvern, Pa.) hit senior Sean Wirth (Barrington, R.I.) on a 4th-and-5 play to keep the drive alive. Five plays later, Smith threw a 20-yard scoring pass to sophomore wide receiver John Squires (Swampscott, Mass.) on a 4th-and-1 play to cut the margin to 34-20.

After Colby gave up the ball on downs at the Bates 31-yard line, the Bobcats moved quickly down the field thanks to two 15-yard penalties on Colby. Smith found Beaton for a 15-yard scoring strike with 1:42 left in the game and suddenly it was a 34-27 lead for the Mules.

The Bobcats’ special teams came up big when they recovered the onsides kick at the their own 44-yard line with 1:36 still to play in the game. Smith stayed hot and found Wirth on a 16-yard pass play to the Colby 35 and then on the next play hit junior Evan Tierney (Carlisle, Mass.) on a 30-yard pass play to the Colby 5-yard line. The Mules’ defense then finally slowed the Bobcats down and took over on downs.

The Mules wasted no time with a touchdown on their first drive of the game. Prunier, with fullback Roger Bel leading the way in the I-formation, ran in from 2 yards out for the score and Bendit had the extra point for a 7-0 lead with 7:16 left in the first quarter. Kmetz hit Burns on a 47-yard pass play to help set up the score. Kmetz also converted a 3rd-and-11 play with a 14-yard run early on the drive and later hit Connor Walsh on an 18-yard pass play to the Bates 2.

After Bates was forced to punt again, the Mules took over on their own 40-yard line and mainly used their running game to go up 14-0. Colby wide receiver Matt Hellinger caught a key 3rd-and-15 ball for a first down early in the drive, but the Mules mainly went to runs the rest of the way. Walsh ran in from 5 yards out for the touchdown, yet it was Prunier who had the bulk of the work to set up the score. He had five rushes for 42 yards on the drive.

Colby went up by three scores at 21-0 with 4:21 left to halftime. The Mules drove 83 yards on 10 plays, capped off by a 1-yard scoring plunge by halfback Michael Cuqua. Tight end Nat Carson, Andrew Graham, and Burns all had catches on the drive. Kmetz set up Cuqua’s touchdown with an 8-yard run to the Bates 1-yard line.

While Colby’s offense was efficient with passing and running, the Mules’ defense was dominant in the opening half. Colby had its first shutout since the 2004 season with a 16-0 win over Hamilton last week.

Senior safety Chris Copeland may have made the defensive play of the game when he intercepted a ball in the end zone when Bates had a 1st-and-goal in the final minute of the first half. Instead of cutting the lead with a touchdown or a field goal, Copeland’s pick helped the Mules’ defense make it six straight quarters without giving up a point.

Bates stopped the Colby defensive scoreless streak at six quarters with a touchdown on the opening drive of the second half. The Bobcats got a 1-yard scoring run from first-year running back Patrick George (Gloucester, Mass.) that capped off a 65-yard, 11-play drive that took 5:09 off the clock to make it 21-7.

Colby pushed the lead to 27-7 when Kmetz hit Bel on a 5-yard scoring pass, but the Mules missed the extra point with 2:30 left in the third quarter.

The Bobcats refused to give up and came back with a seven-play, 63-yard scoring drive. Smith hit senior Matt Gregg (Milton, Mass.) on an 18-yard scoring pass that came on fourth down. Smith also had passes to Wirth (26 yards) and Beaton (6 yards) on the drive. A pass interference penalty on Colby also helped Bates on the drive.

Colby’s run defense, ranked fourth nationally coming into the game at 53.6 yards per game, allowed a net of only 13 yards on the ground to Bates. The Mules have given up minus-1 yards of rushing over the past two contests.

Kmetz was 14-for-20 for 214 yards and also ran for 30 yards. Prunier had his best game of the season with 17 rushes for 92 yards. Burns caught six passes for 104 yards.

Smith, in his first career start, was outstanding with 31 completions out of 51 attempts for 361 yards and three touchdowns. Together with Beaton's one pass completion, Bates set another team record for pass completions with 32, topping the old mark of 30 set against Norwich in 1968. Beaton caught 10 balls for 121 yards, Gregg had 79 yards on eight grabs, and Wirth finished with six catches for 81 yards.

Copeland had the big interception before halftime and led the Mules with 11 tackles.

Junior linebacker Myles Walker (Needham, Mass.) and sophomore linebacker Brett McAllister (Exeter, N.H.) each had 10 stops to lead Bates. Sophomore defensive end Tyler Kuehl (Plymouth, N.H.) made five tackles, all solo and all for a Colby loss of yardage.

STATS: Colby 34, Bates 27