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Football Preview: Unbeaten Cardinals pose a stiff challenge

Matt Cannone '15 rushed for 59 yards and passed for 33 in Bates' 14-10 win at Williams on Oct. 5, 2013. Photo by Jose Leiva/Bates College.

Coming off its second nail-biting victory in as many weeks, the Bates football team prepares for another road test, this time at an undefeated Wesleyan team which has won its three games by a combined score of 128-15.

Wesleyan leads these rivals' all-time series 27-4, with Bates' last victory over the Cardinals coming in 2005. In each matchup of the past four seasons, Wesleyan has come away with the win by a margin of eight or fewer points.

The Particulars

What: Bates College at Wesleyan University

When: Saturday, Oct. 12, 1:00 p.m.

Where: Corwin Stadium at Andrus Field | Middletown, Conn.

Live Stats: Wesleyan Portal | Video:  Wesleyan Webcast

Twitter: @BatesSports | Facebook: Bates College Athletics

All-Time Series: Wesleyan leads 27-4

Last Meeting: Wesleyan 24, Bates 22 (Lewiston, Maine | Oct. 13, 2012)

Bates Facts & Figures

• The Bobcats rank first in the NESCAC in rushing offense with 280.3 yards per game. The team has totaled 211 carries for 895 yards and a 4.2 yard per carry average. Bates has rushed for over 230 yards in each of its three games this season, with 290 vs. Trinity, 317 vs. Tufts, and 234 at Williams.

• Against the Ephs, senior Shawn Doherty compiled 118 all-purpose yards with 71 yards on the ground on 11 carries and a kick return for 47 yards. The slotback ranks second in the NESCAC in rushing (114.7 yards per game) and leads the conference in all-purpose yards (180.3 yards per game).

• Senior running back Ryan Curit rushed for 77 yards and a touchdown at Williams. He ranks sixth in the NESCAC in rushing (91.3 yards per game).

Tucker Oniskey has knocked down six passes at the line of scrimmage thus far this season, and ranks first in the NESCAC in pass breakups. He is also tied for the league lead in forced fumbles (2).

• With the game-clinching interception, junior linebacker Josh Freedland notched his second career INT. Freedland also registered two sacks in the game – the first two of his career – as well as five tackles, a forced fumble, and a pass breakup.

• Senior captain Andrew Kukesh made eight tackles (five solo) at Williams and is tied for first in the NESCAC with 11.0 tackles per game.

• Junior linebacker Adam Cuomo recorded his first career interception against Williams to go with eight tackles (five solo). He ranks fourth in the conference with 10.0 tackles per game.

• Junior quarterback Matt Cannone scored his first career touchdown on a 1-yard run in the second quarter against Williams.

• First-year quarterback Nick LaSpada made his season debut against Williams completing 1 of 2 passes for seven yards.

Bates Last Saturday

The Bates football team scored the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter for the second straight week and defeated Williams for the third straight year on Oct. 5, winning on the Ephs' home Weston Field by a 14-10 score.

Senior Ryan Curit capped a 14-play, 66-yard drive with his two-yard touchdown jaunt with 10:42 left in the game, and the Bobcats held on to the lead with the help of two interceptions down the stretch, by junior linebackers Adam Cuomo and Josh Freedland.

After a complete pass to Richie Beaton up to the Bates 18, the Ephs had two shots to score with 11 seconds left. The first Tom Murphy pass was incomplete out the back of the end zone, and the second resulted in Freedland's interception, giving Bates the ball with three seconds to go. Junior quarterback Matt Cannone took a knee for the final play of the game, completing another gratifying comeback victory for the Bobcats.

Curit led Bates on the ground with 77 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries. Senior Shawn Doherty carried 11 times for 71 yards while Cannone compiled 20 keepers for 59 yards and a touchdown. Cannone also completed 3 of 6 passes for 33 yards.

Freedland added five tackles (four solo), two sacks, and a forced fumble to his game-clinching interception. Senior captain Andrew Kukesh and Cuomo each totaled eight tackles to lead the Bobcats.

For the Ephs, Murphy completed 13 of 37 passes for 150 yards while Alex Scyocurka rushed 24 times for 112 yards. Ernest Higginbot and James O'Grady paced the hosts with 11 tackles apiece.

Wesleyan Last Saturday

Shutting out Colby for the first time since 1980 and for the third time in its 19 all-time victories vs. the Mules against 17 losses, Wesleyan racked up 354 yards of total offense to just 152 by Colby on its way to a decisive 41-0 victory on Oct. 5.

Wesleyan amassed 266 yards on the ground and had two 100-yard rushers as juniors LaDarius Drew (29-135, 1 TD) and Kyle Gibson (14-110, 1 TD) both accomplished the feat. Cardinal QB Jesse Warren competed 12 of 22 passes for just 88 yards, but hit Jon Day with a seven-yard TD toss and Jay Fabien with a five-yard TD offering as he has now thrown eight scoring passes this season with no interceptions.

Wesleyan limited Colby to two first downs in the first half while accumulating a 21:15-8:45 edge in time of possession, leading to a 17-0 lead. In the game, Sebastian Aquirre connected on a pair of field goals, the first from 24 yards out to get Wesleyan on the board at 12:41 of the opening period. That resulted from an interception by Myers Beaird off a Colby pass at the Mules' 15-yard line when Nik Powers hit the arm of the Colby QB.

Alex Daversa-Russo was the Cardinals' top tackler on the day with five stops as Wesleyan ran 75 offensive plays to 55 by Colby and ended the game with an 11:42 margin in time of possession.

Wesleyan now stands 3-0 for the 18th time in program history and for the second year in a row.

Last Year's Meeting

Wesleyan got out to a 14-0 halftime lead, and a few big plays in the second half allowed the Cardinals to stay ahead of hard-charging Bates and remain undefeated, 24-22, in a nail-biter on Oct. 13, 2012 at Garcelon Field.

Backup running back Kyle Gibson rushed 32 times for 141 yards for the Cardinals, in relief of starting tailback LaDarius Drew, who ran seven times for 29 yards on Wesleyan's first series before leaving the game with an injury in the first quarter. Wesleyan QB Jesse Warren completed 14 of 22 passes for 163 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions.

In contrast to their run-heavy attack of the past two weeks, when they cleared 300 yards on the ground in wins over Tufts and Williams, the Bobcats were held to a relatively modest 126 yards on 42 rushing attempts. Quarterback Trevor Smith had half of those carries for a team-high net of 47 yards, while slotbacks Shawn Doherty and Ryan Curit both found the end zone and combined for 105 yards from scrimmage. Smith put the ball in the air a season-high 38 times, completing 19 passes for 233 yards with two interceptions. The Bobcats had 24 first downs in the game, compared to 18 for Wesleyan.

Wide receiver Kevin Davis had a second straight big game for the Bobcats, finishing with career highs of eight catches and 144 yards, including five receptions for 71 yards in the fourth quarter alone.

Josh Chronopoulos had a then game- and career-high 13 tackles (11 solo), including three for a loss, to go with a forced fumble and an interception. Andrew Kukesh made nine tackles, and John Durkin made seven, including three for a loss.