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Football preview: Close game likely as Colby (2-3) visits Bates (1-4)

Frank Williams scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime the last time Colby visited Garcelon Field in 2014. (File photo by Sarah Crosby/Bates College)

LEWISTON, Maine -- The Bates football team edged Colby 10-9 a year ago in Waterville in the annual first game of the Colby-Bates-Bowdoin (CBB) series, setting the Bobcats on their way to a third outright CBB title in four years. 

It should surprise no one if this year's final score, like 2015's, is both close and low.

Bates (1-4) has beaten Williams (0-5), lost a close one to Tufts (4-1) and lost decisively against Trinity (5-0), Wesleyan (4-1) and Middlebury (5-0).

Colby (2-3) has defeated Williams (0-5) and Hamilton (1-4) and fallen decisively against Middlebury (5-0), Wesleyan (4-1) and Amherst (4-1).

Bates scores 11.8 points per game and allows 24.6. Colby scores 11.2 points per game and allows 25.4.

Colby and Bates are eighth and ninth in the NESCAC in total offense, with 238.6 and 231.2 yards per game, respectively. Bates has relied more upon the run than Colby has and the Mules pass for 43.6 yards per game more than the Bobcats, though the Bobcats have seven passing touchdowns to Colby's four thus far.

Bates has exhibited a slightly stouter defense. While both teams are nearly identical in rush defense, Bates allows opposing passers a 113.6 rating, fifth best in the conference, while Colby is eighth at 141.9. Bates is fourth in the league in sacks, with 16, while Colby is ninth with seven. Bates and Colby are tied with Williams for the most takeaways in the conference, with 11 apiece.

The Particulars:

What: Bates College (1-4) vs. Colby College (2-3)

When: Saturday, October 29, 1 p.m.

Where: Garcelon Field | Lewiston, Maine

Live Coverage: Live Stats Video

All-Time Series: Colby leads 66-45-6

Last Meeting: Bates 10, Colby 9 (Waterville, Maine | Oct. 31, 2015) 

Colby Last Week:

Patrick Yale returned a fumble for a touchdown and first-year quarterback Jack O'Brien had a big day with 297 passing yards to lift Colby to a 27-7 win over Hamilton, the Mules' first home win in two years.

Yale finished with the touchdown, an interception and return of 40 yards, four pass break-ups, and four tackles.

O'Brien was poised from the start and went 23-for-32 for 297 yards and two touchdowns. 

The Mules went up 10-0 on their longest scoring drive of the game. Colby used 5:13 off the clock and drove 64 yards on 11 plays. John Baron booted a 22-yard field goal with 9:47 left to halftime. Sebastian Ferrell had two catches for 29 yards on the drive.

Colby's defense held Hamilton to 186 yards of total offense, including just one net yard of rushing. Meanwhile, Colby's offense had 379 total yards.

Don Vivian had six tackles, made an interception, and had two pass break-ups for Colby.

Bates Last Week:

Jared Lebowitz passed for 394 yards and three touchdowns as Middlebury overcame an early 9-0 deficit with 28 unanswered points in a 28-9 homecoming victory over Bates.

Bates turned four great plays in the early going into a 9-0 lead within the game's first seven minutes. 

The first of them came on the Panthers' game-opening drive. Defending receiver James Burke, Joe Frake caused the Panther receiver to bobble the ball. Frake gobbled up the pop-up and scampered 19 yards up the sideline, giving Bates its first possession starting at the Middlebury 35-yard line.

Bates' offense went nowhere on its first series, but Justin Foley made it all better by bouncing his punt out of bounds at the Middlebury 1-yard line. On first down from the 1, Lebowitz handed off to Drew Jacobs, who spun around one tackler in the end zone before he was wrapped up by Mark Upton for the safety and a 2-0 lead.

Bates' offense then took over at its own 49-yard line and on third down, quarterback Sandy Plashkes hit wide-open receiver Brian Daly in stride over the middle, and Daly sprinted untouched into the end zone for a 48-yard touchdown. Grant DeWald's extra point made it 9-0 in Bates' favor with 8:49 left in the first quarter.

The Panthers then forced a three-and-out from Bates and drove 77 yards on eight plays, ending with a second Lebowitz-to-Banky connection for 26 yards, giving Middlebury its first lead at 14-9 with 8:50 left in the half.

Bates started the third quarter with a three-and-out, giving the Panthers the ball at their own 27. Running back Diego Meritus picked up three first downs for Middlebury en route to the Bates 33, where Lebowitz found Burke for a 33-yard score and a 21-9 Middlebury lead with 10:51 to go in the third.

Bates' offense was held to zero first downs in the fourth quarter, keeping the defense on the field for much of the final period. The Panthers notched a final scoring drive beginning with 10:49 left on the clock, as Lebowitz found Jacobs, Banky and Jimmy Martinez for successive gains of 11, 14 and 11 yards into the red zone. Meritus finished off the drive with a seven-yard run and a three-yard touchdown for the 28-9 lead.

Plashkes finished with seven completions for 80 yards on 16 pass attempts, with one touchdown and two interceptions. Boyer led the Bobcats to 149 yards rushing with 13 attempts for 56 yards, while senior Tyler Janssen (Rocky Hill, Conn.) added 37 yards on eight carries. Daly hauled in three receptions for 55 yards and a touchdown.

Upton led Bates in tackling for the fourth time in five games this season with 13 (nine solo), to go with his fourth sack and first interception of the season and the tackle for a loss that gave Bates a safety. Lyons added 10 solo tackles and Harrington had eight tackles, including two sacks.

Bates/Colby Last Meeting: 

The Bates football team used a dominating defensive performance and outstanding play on special teams to defeat Colby College 10-9 on Oct. 31, 2015.

Trevor Lyons returned an interception for a touchdown in the third quarter to put the Bobcats (1-5) ahead for good as they beat the Mules (1-5) in Waterville for the first time since 1999. 

Special teams swung the game for the Bobcats. Collin Richardson blocked an extra point after Colby scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter. It was a strange play, as Colby kicked an extra point through the uprights only to have it called back because the referee had not signaled "ready for play." The second attempt was blocked by Richardson.

Meanwhile punter Justin Foley turned in his best performance of the year for Bates. His nine punts averaged 38.3 yards with seven of them downed inside the 20-yard line, including two punts that landed inside the 5 and one more that pinned Colby at the 3 after a penalty. Foley was later named NESCAC Special Teams Player of the Week.

The teams entered the half with Colby on top 3-0, but the third quarter was all Bobcats. Sean Peterson carried the ball nine yards on the first play from scrimmage. Ivan Reese followed with a 14-yard run and a personal foul gave the Bobcats 15 more yards. Mike Decina ran the ball 10 yards to the Colby 19. Grant DeWald then kicked a 27-yard field goal to even the game at three.

Mark Upton, who had a monster game on defense for Bates, sacked quarterback Gabe Harrington on the first play of the ensuing drive. Then on second and 18, a hurried Harrington threw the ball into traffic. Lyons jumped the route and picked off the pass. He took the ball 31 yards to the house to put the Bobcats up 9-3. The extra point was good and Bates led 10-3 with 10:47 to go in the third quarter.

The Mules got their offense going on the last series of the third quarter. They marched down the field on a 10-play, 59-yard drive, taking 3:51 off the clock. They started the fourth quarter with the ball at the Bates 29-yard line thanks to a strong ground attack led by Jabari Hurdle-Price and back-up QB Christian Sparacio. Facing a 2nd and 5 at the Bates 24, Sparacio sprinted 19 yards to the Bobcats' 5. On first and goal, Hurdle-Price ran it to the 1, and Sparacio snuck it in for the touchdown.

Bates got called for a personal foul after the TD. The Colby coach and the referee were discussing whether the Mules wanted to accept the penalty on the kick-off when the first extra point attempt went through the uprights. The play didn't count and they re-kicked. Bates got great pressure off the edge and Richardson came up the middle to block the try and maintain the 10-9 lead. 

Holding on to the slim lead, the Bobcats kept the ball almost exclusively on the ground as they attempted to burn the clock. Their defense continued to dominate as Colby could not get anything going on offense down the stretch.