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Football preview: Balanced Wesleyan (2-1) visits rejuvenated Bates (1-2) Saturday

Mark Upton and the Bates defense face a well-balanced Wesleyan offense this Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016. (File photo by Sarah Crosby/Bates College)

LEWISTON, Maine -- A Bates football team rejuvenated by its thrilling Homecoming victory over Williams College hosts Wesleyan University in Week 4 of the 2016 football season Saturday at Garcelon Field. 

The visiting Cardinals boast a 10-game winning streak against Bates since 2006, a run marked by several close calls and precious few breaks for the Bobcats. Wesleyan evolved from a middle-of-the-road NESCAC team as recently as 2011 to a top-tier program with a 24-8 record since 2012.

Since dropping its season opener at Tufts 17-14, Wesleyan has rolled over Hamilton (34-6) and Colby (37-6), and the Cardinals now rank second in the NESCAC in both total offense, with a whopping 447.0 yards per game, and total defense, allowing just 213.3 yards per game. Wesleyan boasts enviable balance on offense, averaging 226.3 yards on the ground and 220.7 yards in the air per game.

Bates' performance Saturday against Williams precipitated a rise in the Bobcats' conference rankings as well: the Bobcats are sixth in both total offense (265.0) and total defense (328.0). Bates is tied with Trinity for average turnover margin, at +1.00 per game, while Wesleyan isn't far behind at +0.33.

The Particulars:

What: Bates (1-2) vs. Wesleyan (2-1)

When: Saturday, October 15, 1:00 p.m.

Where: Garcelon Field (Lewiston, Maine)

Live Coverage: Stats Video

All-Time Series: Wesleyan leads 30-4.

Bates Last Week

Bates junior slotback Frank Williams had nine receptions for 223 yards and three touchdowns while the Bobcat defense sacked the quarterback seven times, leading to a 29-17 win over Williams College before a large Back to Bates Weekend crowd at Garcelon Field.

The victory marked the fifth time in the last six years the Bobcats (1-2) have defeated the Ephs (0-3) on the gridiron.

In front of a crowd of more than 3,000 fans for the Back to Bates Homecoming game, Williams (Brookline, Mass.) shined, accumulating career highs in catches, yards and touchdowns, including a career-long reception of 73 yards in the victory. Entering the game, Williams had 214 receiving yards and two touchdown catches in his entire career.  

Sophomore quarterback Sandy Plashkes also set career highs by completing 10 passes for 240 yards and four touchdowns.

Wesleyan Last Week

Devon Carrillo scored three touchdowns to help lead Wesleyan to a commanding 37-6 win on the road Saturday at Colby. The Cardinals gained over 500 yards of total offense for the second consecutive week as they outgained Colby 520-201.

Wesleyan finished with 285 yards rushing and 235 yards passing, and held the Mules to 51 yards on the ground. The Cardinals were an efficient 8-of-11 on third-down conversions.

Quarterback Mark Piccirillo finished 13-of-20 for 127 yards, while also rushing for 109 yards and a score on six carries. Lou Stevens finished with 93 yards rushing on 11 carries, and Carrillo recorded two rushing touchdowns on four carries. Mehr gained 85 yards receiving, and Breuler gained 81 yards and a touchdown.

Colby quarterback Christian Sparacio finished 16-of-26 for 150 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Jabari Hurdle-Price, who rushed for 202 yards against Wesleyan a year ago, was held to 45 yards on 15 carries.

Bates/Wesleyan Last Meeting

Wesleyan scored 17 straight points to overcome a 9-7 deficit in the second quarter, en route to defeating Bates 24-16 on Oct. 17, 2015 at Andrus Field in Middletown, Connecticut.

The Cardinals (3-1) defeated the Bobcats (0-4) for the 10th straight year as quarterback Gernald Hawkins threw for 228 yards and two touchdowns, while Lou Stevens rushed for 117 yards on 12 carries.

Bates quarterback Patrick Dugan threw for 204 yards, including a late 5-yard touchdown pass to Lani Eversage. Bates recovered the ensuing onside kick, but Wesleyan sealed the victory on Justin Sanchez's interception with 1:21 remaining.