Football debuts with positive signs in loss at Trinity

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Trinity College was a little too tough on both sides of the ball for the Bates College football team in their 2012 season opener on Saturday, as the Bantams pulled away for a 37-16 win, their 44th straight at Jessee/Miller Field.

Perennial NESCAC power Trinity (1-0) outgained Bates (0-1) 266-103 on the ground and 161-17 through the air. Evan Bunker, who tied for the NESCAC rushing lead last season, ran for 146 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries to pace the Bantams.

Bates did a number of things well, committing no turnovers in the game and coming up with a few big plays on defense and special teams and translating them into an early 3-0 lead and a pair of touchdowns that closed a 21-3 deficit into a 21-16 game late into the third quarter.

The Bobcats will travel to Somerville, Mass., to play at Tufts next Saturday at 1pm. Bates' home opener is Oct. 6 against Williams, during Parents & Family Weekend.

Bates' offense got off to a decent start, picking up 44 yards on the opening drive thanks to a 25-yard run by junior Ryan Curit (South Portland, Maine) and an 11-yard gain by senior captain Patrick George (Gloucester, Mass.). The drive stalled out at the Trinity 21, where sophomore Mac Jackson (Hood River, Ore.) caught a 3-yard pass from senior quarterback Trevor Smith (Malvern, Pa.) but was stopped two yards short of the first-down marker.

But the Bobcats got the first break of the game with 8:42 left in the first quarter, when Crick fumbled the ball away on the first play of Trinity's second possession, and Bates recovered at the Bantam 19. A pair of gains by George took Bates to the 3-yard lin, but a Bates penalty set the Bobcats back five yards. A pair of Smith incompletions sandwiched a 2-yard rush by junior Shawn Doherty (Mansfield, Mass.), so on 4th and goal from the 6, junior kicker Charlie Donahue (Plymouth, N.H.) was called upon to score the first points of the season wit a 23-yard field goal, the second of his career.

Momentum swung back Bates' way after Trinity took over the ball at its own 10, following a 40-yard punt by David Kurey (West Chester, Pa.). Bunker gained 10 yards to put the Bantams at the 19, but on 3rd and 1, senior Evan Dowd (Longmeadow, Mass.) stopped Budness three yards behind the line of scrimmage, giving them a 4th and 4 situation at their own 16. Bantam punter Kyle Pulek was dragged down by sophomore Mike Tomaino (Gloucester, Mass.) back at the 5-yard line. Bates' offense took full advantage, with George punching the ball in from a yard out on 3rd and goal, and Donahue's point-after closed the gap to 21-10.

Trinity threatened late in the second stanza, but Bates sophomore linebacker Josh Freedland (Marblehead, Mass.) stopped Burgess a yard shy on 4th-and-3 from the Bates 32 with 21 seconds left on the clock.

Pat George '13 rushed for 51 yards and a score against Trinity, who led the nation last year in run defense. (File photo by Phyllis Graber Jensen)

Bates held Trinity to a three-and-out to open the third quarter, but the Bantams returned the favor on Bates' first possession. Trinity returned a Kurey punt to the Bantam 46, but on their first play of the new drive, sophomore linebacker Gilbert Brown (Gloucester, Mass.) picked off a pass by Burgess three yards from the line of scrimmage, and Brown returned the ball 46 yards before he was taken down at the Trinity 3. It took six plays, including a roughing the passer penalty called on Trinity, but the Bates offense again took advantage of such field position, with Smith getting the ball over the goal-line from inside the 1. Curit, however, was stopped on Bates' two-point conversion attempt, keeping the score at 21-16.

Bates picked off Burgess on a second consecutive possession, as sophomore cornerback Mike Kelleher (Saugus, Mass.), making the start in his collegiate debut, caught a pass at the Bates 29, 22 yards downfield. Trinity's defense stuffed the Bobcats, however, and after the Bantams got the ball back at the 50, it took them six plays, including consecutive Michael Budness runs of 21 and 16 yards, for Bunker to run the ball in from the 9 for a 27-16 lead.

Trinity held Bates to just two yards of offense after Smith's touchdown, while pulling away on a one-yard scoring play by Budness and a 25-yard field goal by Tim Costello.

Dowd had nine tackles, including one for a loss and a pass breakup for the Bobcats, tying junior safety Andrew Kukesh (Exeter, N.H.) for the team lead in tackles. Brown and senior Josh Chronopoulos (Tyngsboro, Mass.) had seven tackles apiece. First-year defensive back Michael Lee (Bealeton, Va.) was in on six tackles and also broke up a pass.

George rushed 13 times for 51 yards and a touchdown, and also returned four kickoffs for 82 more yards. Smith rushed for 19 yards, including the touchdown, and completed 5-of-16 passes for 17 yards. Sophomore Lani Eversage (Swansville, Maine) returned three kickoffs for 46 yards and made three special-teams tackles.