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Jumbos top Bobcats in defensive battle, 17-16

Bates quarterback Patrick Dugan pitches the ball to a teammate at the moment he is hit by a Tufts defender in Bates' 17-16 loss on Oct. 3, 2015. (Josh Kuckens/Bates College) 

LEWISTON, Maine -- Tufts University rallied for 17 unanswered points in the second half to overcome a 14-0 halftime deficit and deal the Bates College football team a heartbreaking 17-16 loss on Saturday at Garcelon Field, before a Back to Bates Weekend crowd of over 2,000.

Bates fumbled five times, losing two of them, most crucially on a 4th and goal at the Tufts 1-yard line in the fourth quarter, trailing 17-16 with 6:25 remaining, when Bates opted to try for the go-ahead touchdown rather than a go-ahead field goal.

Tufts receiver Jack Cooleen caught seven passes for 178 yards, including touchdowns of 27 and 45 yards in the third quarter that allowed the Jumbos to tie the game. Cooleen also caught two other passes for 39 and 45 yards, respectively, accounting for over half of Tufts' total offense.

Defense largely dominated in the game. Tufts converted 1 of 14 third downs and Bates 3 of 16. The Bobcats averaged 3.8 yards per play, while Tufts averaged 4.9 despite the four long passing plays to Cooleen.

Alex Snyder completed 19 of 36 passes for 280 yards and the two scores. The Jumbos outgained the Bobcats 340 to 298, including a 280-110 difference in passing yardage. Bates outrushed Tufts 188 to 60.

Bates capitalized on two special teams blunders by Tufts for two of its scores. Late in the first quarter, Tufts punter Willie Holmquist fumbled a high snap and recovered for a 16-yard loss, giving Bates the ball at the Tufts 14. Four plays later, Bates sophomore slotback Frank Williams (Brookline, Mass.) weaved through the line to put the Bobcats on top 7-0 with 1:28 left in the first quarter. Bates also scored a safety with 11:06 left in the fourth quarter when a snap to Holmquist sailed over his head and into the end zone, closing the gap to 17-16.

Bates took a 14-0 lead midway through the second quarter. The Bobcats began their drive on Tufts' 49 after a 14-yard punt. Williams rushed for eight yards to convert a 4th and 4 at the Tufts 28, but the Bobcats backed up again on the next play, recovering their own fumble behind the line of scrimmage. On 2nd and 21 at the Tufts 31, Bates senior quarterback Patrick Dugan (Westford, Mass.) hit sophomore slotback Mickoy Nichol (Dennis Port, Mass.) over the middle. Nichol broke a tackle with a spin move and weaved past another defender en route to the end zone for a 31-yard scoring play.

Tufts kept its ensuing drive alive with a faked field goal attempt, with kicker Holmquist taking a backwards flip from his placeholder and rushing for six yards for a 1st and goal at the Bates 7. Bates' defense held its ground, however, and Holmquist lined up again for a 22-yard field goal attempt which missed to the left.

Bates responded with a successful trick play of its own on the first series of the second half. Junior Trevor Lyons (Hamilton, Mass.) caught the snap on an apparent punt attempt and completed a pass to junior Brandon Williams (Gardner, Mass.) for 13 yards. The drive stalled out a midfield, however. Tufts took over at its own 16, and drove to the Bates 45, where Snyder dropped a perfectly thrown pass to Cooleen for the 45-yard score, closing the gap to 14-7.

Late in the third, the Jumbos tied it up with a two-play scoring drive for 59 yards. Taking over at their own 41, the Jumbos advanced 32 yards on a Snyder pass to Mike Rando to the right side. From the Bates 27, Snyder, given plenty of time in the pocket, then found Cooleen open in the left corner of the end zone, tying the game 14-14.

Tufts set up its go-ahead field goal on the final play of the third quarter, when Snyder again found Cooleen open down the left sideline for 45 yards, before getting pushed out of bounds at the Bates 12. Tufts running back Chance Brady was thrown for a 5-yard loss, pushing the Jumbos back to the 17, but Holmquist's field goal attempt from 34 yards out dropped just over the crossbar for a 17-14 lead the Jumbos didn't relinquish.

Dugan completed 9 of 17 passes for 97 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. Williams picked up a team-high 71 rushing yards and a touchdown on 14 carries, while junior Ivan Reese (Savannah, Ga.) rushed for 60 yards on 20 carries. Senior Mark Riley (Needham, Mass.) caught six passes for 38 yards.

Brady led the Jumbos in rushing with 49 yards on 13 attempts, and Rando picked up 55 receiving yards on five catches.

Steve DiCienzo had a game-high 14 tackles, including a sack and a forced fumble, for Tufts, while Shane Thomas added 13 tackles and a forced fumble. For Bates, sophomore Andrew Jenkelunas (Rocky Hill, Conn.) had a team-high 10 tackles.

Bates plays its first road game next Saturday at Williams College, starting at 1pm.