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Football falls 12-7 to Tufts in defensive struggle

Trevor Lyons picked off a pass and recorded five tackles in Bates' 12-7 loss to Tufts University on October 1, 2016. (File photo by Brian Foley for Bates College)  

SOMERVILLE, Mass. -- Senior captain Mark Upton tallied a career-high 17 tackles but the Tufts University Jumbos scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter to edge the Bates football team by a score of 12-7 Saturday afternoon. 

Of the 17 tackles recorded by Upton (Winthrop, Mass.), 11 were solo efforts with four tackles for loss and a sack mixed in as well.

In rainy conditions at Ellis Oval, both teams kept the ball on the ground, with Bates (0-2) rushing for 188 yards and Tufts (2-0) accumulating 206 rushing yards. Meanwhile the Bobcats only completed one pass for 30 yards and the Jumbos didn't do much more through the air, completing seven passes for 44 yards. The teams punted a combined 23 times on the day. 

Bates trailed 6-0 at halftime but took the lead in the third quarter. The Bobcats got the ball to begin the second half but went three-and-out. Sophomore Justin Foley (Lynnfield, Mass.) punted the ball 33 yards to the Tufts' 30-yard line where Mike Rando fumbled the ball. Junior long snapper Luke MacDonald (Norwell, Mass.) hustled down the field and recovered the ball, giving the Bobcats great field position.

After two rush attempts went nowhere, Bates completed their lone pass of the game. It turned out to be a big one with sophomore quarterback Sandy Plashkes (Del Mar, Calif.) connecting with junior wide receiver Brian Daly (Marblehead, Mass.) for a 30-yard touchdown strike, tying the game at six. Junior kicker Grant DeWald (Duxbury, Mass.) made the extra point and Bates took a 7-6 lead with 11:58 remaining in the third quarter.

For the remainder of the quarter, the teams combined for a total of three first downs as both defenses turned in dominating performances.

Bates forced a Tufts punt to start the fourth quarter and the Bobcats took over at their own 28 with 14:10 left in regulation, up by one.

But three rushes netted a combined one yard and Foley punted for the 11th time on the afternoon. Rando fair caught the ball at the Tufts 37-yard line. 

The Jumbos began their eventual game-winning drive with 12:26 remaining in the contest. Chance Brady ran three straight times for gains of six, two, and five yards respectively, getting the ball to midfield. On first and 10, quarterback Ryan McDonald scampered nine yards to the Bobcat 41. After a two-yard rush from Brady moved the chains, McDonald crashed through the line for nine yards. On 2nd and one, he took off again, this time for a gain of 18 yards to the Bates' 12 before Upton tracked him down.

With 9:41 remaining and Tufts in the redzone, the Bobcats called timeout.

On the first play out of the timeout, the Jumbos fumbled, but McDonald was able to recover three yards behind the line of scrimmage to keep the drive alive.

He took advantage of the second chance, running 15 yards to pay dirt, giving the Jumbos a 12-7 lead. The Bobcats sniffed out and stopped their two-point conversion attempt, keeping the deficit at five points with 9:04 left. 

Bates tried to respond to the touchdown right away. They started the ensuing drive on their own 32-yard line. On the first play from scrimmage, junior Mickoy Nichol (Dennis Port, Mass.) got the football and made the most of it, running 30 yards to the Jumbo 38-yard line.

Facing 4th and 2 at the Jumbo 30, Bates turned it over on downs when a Plashkes pass intended for Daly fell incomplete.

Tufts took over with 6:52 left in the game and although Bates got the ball back two more times, they did not tally another first down as the Jumbos held on for the win.

In the first half, neither team scored a touchdown, although Tufts did manage a pair of field goals.

The Bobcat defense set the tone on Tufts' opening drive, forcing a three-and-out. The Jumbos punted and a block in the back call on Bates pinned the Bobcats at their own 10-yard line to start their first drive of the afternoon.

Facing third and six, sophomore Peter Boyer (Dover-Foxcroft, Maine) ran seven yards to move the chains for the first first down of the day for either side.

After Boyer's run, junior Frank Williams (Brookline, Mass.) burst through for a 19-yard run to the Bates 40-yard line. On 3rd and 2 from their own 48, senior Tyler Janssen (Glastonbury, Conn.) pounded the ball through the line for three yards, advancing Bates into Tufts territory. 

But a penalty on the next play set Bates back to their own 40, and an incomplete pass, a rush for no gain and another incomplete pass killed the drive.

Tufts went nowhere on their next drive, with Bates forcing a three-and-out on a drive that featured a sack by junior Jack Maritz (St. Louis, Mo.).

The ensuing drive for Bates was their best scoring opportunity in the first quarter of action. Starting the drive in Jumbo territory, the Bobcats got runs from Williams, Janssen, Nichol and Boyer respectively to move the chains, getting the ball to the Tufts 35-yard line. 

Three runs by Plashkes moved the ball down to the Jumbo 24. On 2nd and 10, junior Sean Peterson (Maynard, Mass.) ran the ball 12 yards down to the Tufts 12. Facing 3rd and 9 from the Jumbo 11, Boyer ran the ball eight yards down to the three.

On 4th and 1, Bates elected to attempt a field goal. But a fumbled snap resulted in a turnover on downs to the Jumbos.

The score remained scoreless at the conclusion of the first quarter thanks to an interception by senior Trevor Lyons (South Hamilton, Mass.) on the ensuing Tufts possession. 

The Jumbos did not record a first down in the first quarter but after Bates went three-and-out to start the second quarter, Tufts finally got their offense clicking.

Starting with the ball on their own 24, Brady ran the ball twice, once for nine yards, and once for four yards to pick up a first down. Then he finally broke through with a 35-yard run down to the Bates 28-yard line. An Alex Snyder completion to Kevin Lovaincy got the ball to the eight.

Bates contained a pair of rushing attempts and a third down pass fell incomplete. Willie Holmquist kicked a 22-yard field goal to give Tufts the early 3-0 lead.

The teams traded punts in the second quarter after that until Tufts took over at their own 32 with 3:35 left in the half.

They advanced the ball down the field all the way to the Bates 14, helped out by a personal foul call on the Bobcats. But a holding call pushed them back and first-year linebacker James Hussey (Quincy, Mass.) recorded a sack, further pushing Tufts back.

With time winding down in the half, Holmquist came up big, drilling a 48-yard field goal attempt to extend the lead to 6-0 with 35 seconds to go in the second quarter.

Tufts recorded 15 first downs on the day while Bates only netted nine. Third down was an issue for the Bobcats as they finished 3-20 on third down conversion attempts.

Nichol led Bates in rushing with nine carries for 51 yards. Boyer toughed out 45 yards on 15 carries and Williams ran six times for 33 yards. Plashkes ran 15 times for 30 yards at the quarterback position. Janssen rushed eight times for 20 yards and Peterson added five carries for 17 yards.

Brady was the star of the game offensively for Tufts, carrying the ball 32 times for 140 yards while McDonald came off the bench to play quarterback and netted 11 carries for 75 yards, including the game-winning score.

Bates looks for their first victory of the season next Saturday when they welcome Williams to town for a 1:00 p.m. kick.