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Football Preview: Bates (2-4) looks to win CBB series at Bowdoin (2-4)

Matt Cannone completed 10 of 12 passes and rushed for 72 yards in last year's 17-10 win over Bowdoin. (File photo by Sarah Crosby/Bates College)

LEWISTON, Maine -- The Bates football team has a chance to win its second outright CBB title in three years this Saturday, if the Bobcats can beat Bowdoin for a fourth straight year.

Bates (2-4) is re-energized after Homecoming Saturday's thrilling 34-28 overtime win over Colby. The triple-option offense kept Colby on its heels with seven backs carrying the ball four or more times, and clicked well with a resurgent passing game, bolstered by the tandem of quarterback Matt Cannone and wide receiver Mark Riley. Bates' defense was deceptively tough, though it was victimized by a handful of big passing plays, and Bates' special teams executed their best all-around day of the season.

Bowdoin (2-4) lost its second straight game in a 35-0 rout at Wesleyan. Three of Bowdoin's four losses have come by 23 or more points. The Polar Bears won 33-20 at home over Tufts in Week 3, followed by a 30-24 win at Hamilton in Week 4.

The game matches the two lowest-ranked offenses in terms of average yardage per game. Bowdoin is last in the NESCAC in total defense (402.2 yards per game), while Bates (346.7) is seventh.

The Particulars

What: Bates College at Bowdoin College

When: Saturday, Nov. 1, 12:30 p.m.

Where: Whittier Field | Brunswick, Maine

Live Stats | Video: Northeast Sports Network (Bowdoin portal)

Twitter: @BatesSports | Facebook: Bates College Athletics

All-Time Series: Bowdoin leads 66-43-7

Last Meeting: Bates 17, Bowdoin 10 (Lewiston, Maine | Nov. 2, 2013) 

Bates Last Saturday

Freshman slotback Frank Williams helped tie the game with 33 seconds left in regulation on a 3-yard touchdown catch on fourth down from Matt Cannone, then scored the game-ending touchdown with a 25-yard reception from Cannone in the first overtime period, as the Bates football team defeated Colby 34-28 in a wild game before a Homecoming crowd last Saturday at Garcelon Field.

Bates held Colby without a gain on three downs to begin overtime, and the Mules then missed a 42-yard field goal attempt wide right, keeping the score at 28-28. Bates took over at the Colby 25 and on 2nd-and-10, Cannone hit a wide-open Williams over the middle inside the 5, and the freshman slotback trotted into the end zone to end the game, sending the crowd into hysteria.

It was the first overtime game for Bates since the 2006 Bates-Colby game in Lewiston, when the Mules prevailed 10-7 in four overtime periods.

Cannone completed 18 of 32 passes for career-highs of 203 yards and four touchdowns for the Bobcats. Colby quarterback Gabe Harrington also threw four touchdown passes, two each to Ryder Arsenault and Nick Joseph. Both scoring connections with Joseph went for over 50 yards. Harrington completed 13 of 38 passes for 234 yards and was under heavy pressure for much of the second half, throwing while hurried on 11 occasions in the game and getting sacked twice.

Bates overcame Colby leads of 14-0 in the first quarter and 21-7 in the third quarter in the win.

Bowdoin Last Saturday

Behind a suffocating performance from its defense, Wesleyan took a 35-0 win over Bowdoin on Saturday in Middletown, Conn.

Wesleyan (5-1) held Bowdoin (2-4) to just 170 yards of total offense on the day, and quarterback Jesse Warren tossed five touchdown passes, including three to Josh Hurwitz, to supply all the scoring the Cardinals would need.

Lou Stevens had 121 yards rushing for Wesleyan while Hurwitz caught seven passes for 74 yards to go with his three scores. For Bowdoin, Tyler Grant rushed for 52 yards on 17 carries. Daniel Barone caught three passes for 43 yards. Mac Caputi and Tim Drakeley combined to go  11-27 passing for 147 yards for the Polar Bears.

Last Meeting 

A virtually mistake-free performance by Bates led to a 17-10 win over rival Bowdoin on Homecoming Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, at Garcelon Field. It was the Bobcats' fourth win against the Polar Bears in their past five meetings and their third in a row.

The Bobcats rose to 3-4 with the win, while Bowdoin dropped to 2-5. Bowdoin helped Bates earn a share of the CBB title the following week, as the Polar Bears' win over Colby split the annual series three ways.

Bates won the turnover battle, 3-0, and held onto the ball for more than 34 minutes of the game clock. The Bobcats achieved a 21-13 advantage in first downs, with 17 of them coming via the rush; Bates also had a 378-285 edge in total offense.

Matt Cannone completed 10 of 12 passes for 102 yards, including a picture-perfect 36-yard touchdown bomb down the right sideline to wide receiver Kevin Davis, which led off the scoring in the first quarter. Cannone also rushed 17 times for 72 yards, second on the team to Ryan Curit's 18-carry, 74-yard effort. Reserve quarterback Nick LaSpada completed 4-of-6 pass attempts for 36 yards and also rushed seven times for 41 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown in the second quarter.

Bowdoin quarterback Mac Caputi completed 16-of-28 passes for 123 yards, with two interceptions. Caputi also ran for a 3-yard touchdown as time expired on the first quarter, as part of his 29-yard rushing effort. Zach Donnarumma ran the ball 14 times for 108 yards, including a 61-yard burst up the middle that set up Caputi's touchdown.

Bowdoin linebacker Joey Cleary, who entered the game as the leading tackler in the conference, made 19 tackles, including 12 assists. Bates safety Andrew Kukesh led the Bobcats with nine tackles (7 solo) in addition to an interception.

Inside the Numbers

  • Bates' Riley has had a remarkable season thus far, with four big games sandwiching a two-week stretch in which he had no catches at all. Against Colby on Saturday, Riley had five catches for 109 yards and a touchdown -- his first receptions since Week 3. Riley went without a reception in the second half but had a few other deep throws by Cannone narrowly elude his grasp. Despite his two-game drought, Riley leads the conference in receiving yardage per game (76.3) and is tied for third in the league in catches (29).
  • Bates leads the NESCAC in fourth-down conversion rate, at 60% (6-10). Bowdoin is last in the same category (1-10). The Polar Bears have been more successful than Bates in third-down conversions, however, at 42% (41-97) to Bates' 32% (33-103).
  • The Bobcats lead the conference in kickoff return average, at 23.7 yards. Five different players have kickoff returns to their credit, led by Lani Eversage's 10.
  • Bates' defense has recovered more fumbles (8) than any other team in the NESCAC.
  • Bowdoin is allowing the most yardage of any team in the NESCAC -- 402.2 per game. Bates is sixth at 346.7.
  • Bates is rushing for the fourth-most yards per game (117.3) in the NESCAC as a team, but the distribution is very spread out. Bates' top rusher, junior Shaun Carroll, is 16th in the league with 28.4 yards per game, but the Bobcats have five of the top 31 rushers overall, including Williams (23.8), Ivan Reese (20.5), Tyler Janssen (13.5) and Cannone (10.6).
  • Bowdoin, by contrast, has the league's second-most prolific rusher thus far in Tyler Grant (97.7 yards per game), though the Polar Bears are sixth in team rushing, close behind Bates and Hamilton at 116.5.
  • Cannone ranks third in the conference in passer efficiency rating (130.4), fourth in completion percentage (59.5%) and fourth in touchdown passes (9).
  • Mark Upton ranks third in the NESCAC in tackles per game (10.8) and second in tackles for lost yardage, by a margin of half a tackle behind Amherst's Chris Tamasi. Upton is alone on top of the league in forced fumbles (3).