BRUNSWICK, Maine -- The Bates College football team's chances of winning a third consecutive Colby-Bates-Bowdoin (CBB) outright title appeared pretty dim late in the third quarter Saturday at Bowdoin's Whittier Field.
With 18 minutes left in the game, the Bobcats trailed 7-3, starting quarterback Sandy Plashkes was out with an injury, and first-year backup QB Matt Golden had fumbled the ball away for a second time.
But the Bobcats flipped a big switch in the fourth quarter, with Golden (New Bedford, Mass.) running wild for 104 yards in the final period alone.
Golden and the Bobcats scored 21 unanswered points to win 24-7; for the first time since 1929 through 1931, Bates has defeated both Bowdoin and Colby. Bates has also claimed at least a share of the CBB title for six straight seasons, dating to 2011.
Golden rushed for 126 yards in all, including a 65-yard touchdown streak down the sideline, and passed for a 35-yard touchdown;
Golden's 35-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Marcus Ross (Mansfield, Texas) gave Bates its first lead at 10-7 with 14:10 left in the fourth. Junior Frank Williams (Brookline, Mass.) ran untouched up the sideline for a 36-yard touchdown five minutes later, and Golden's 65-yard TD capped the scoring with 6:52 left in the game, giving Bates three long touchdowns in a span of 7:18.
Meanwhile the Bobcat defense forced an unraveling Bowdoin offense into three turnovers in the fourth quarter.
Bates (3-4) defeated Bowdoin (0-7) for the sixth straight year and narrowed one of college football's oldest series to 66-46-7 in the Polar Bears' favor.
Golden netted 126 rushing yards on 14 carries, making him Bates' first 100-yard rusher this season. The 6-foot-0, 195-pound signal-caller ran seven times for 104 yards in the fourth quarter. He completed all three of his passes in the game for 48 yards and the touchdown.
Sophomore Peter Boyer (Dover-Foxcroft, Maine) added 83 yards on 17 carries and Williams gained 63 yards with the touchdown. The Bobcats rushed for a season-high 337 yards, including 168 in the fourth quarter.
The game's first half proved fairly uneventful, with both teams unable to move the ball save for one scoring drive apiece.
The Polar Bear offense assembled one of its best drives of the season on its second series, marching 74 yards on eight plays, including three passes for first downs by Tim Drakeley (21-39, 257 yards). Running back Nate Richam (13 carries, 75 yards) capped the drive with an impressive 18-yard touchdown run, faking out a would-be tackler and finding an alley up the left sideline for the final 10 yards for a 7-0 lead.
Bates similarly put together one scoring drive in the opening half, a 16-play, 6 1/2-minute possession that took the Bobcats from their own 11 to the Bowdoin 10. Junior Grant DeWald's (Duxbury, Mass.) second field goal of the season, a 27-yarder, closed the gap to 7-3.
Plashkes (Del Mar, Calif.) rushed for 36 yards on four carries in the first half, picking up two first downs along the way. He threw the ball 17 times but completed only five as both offenses were kept off-balance.
Then with 1:40 left in the second quarter, Plashkes dropped to the turf after a play was whistled dead, clutching a leg. A minute later he was helped off the field and did not return to the game.
Golden came on to replace Plashkes and take the first meaningful snaps of his college career. His first play, on 3rd and 1, was a handoff to Boyer for the first down, with 15 yards tacked on for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Bowdoin.
Golden then gained four yards on a keeper on first down, but on the next play he was stripped of the ball in the backfield and Bowdoin's Austin Stern recovered, giving the Polar Bears the ball at the Bates 40 with a minute left in the half. But the first of senior Trevor Lyons' (Hamilton, Mass.) two interceptions on the day ended the threat, keeping Bates within four points at halftime.
Neither offense could make much headway in the third quarter. The first four possessions of the period ended in punts, and Bates' third series concluded with Golden's second fumble, recovered by Bowdoin's Nadim Elhage deep in Bates territory at the 27. The Polar Bears advanced only five more yards, however, and Andrew Sisti's 39-yard field goal attempt was blocked by the Bobcats, returning the ball to them at their own 22 with 1:02 left in the quarter.
Bates' offense picked up as the third quarter lapsed into the fourth. Senior Tyler Janssen (Rocky Hill, Conn.) rushed for three yards on first down before back-to-back keepers by Golden resulted in gains of eight and 13 yards, respectively.
From midfield at the start of the fourth, Boyer surged 13 yards up the middle to the Bowdoin 38. Two plays later, Golden hit Ross in one-on-one coverage down the right sideline with a play-action pass. Ross made the catch as his defender fell to the ground, and he danced up the sideline and inside the pylon to give the Bobcats their first lead at 10-7 with 14:10 remaining.
Bowdoin seemed ready to respond, however. Starting out at his own 31, Drakeley hit Ejaaz Jiu for 25 yards to the Bates 44. Two plays later he hit tight end Bryan Porter for 16 yards for a first down at the Bates 27. Drakeley hit Porter again on the next play for a would-be 21-yard gain that was negated by a personal foul flag against the Polar Bears, setting them back to the Bates 42 -- a devastating 36-yard swing.
Now facing 1st and 25, Bowdoin handed off to Richam, who was met forcefully by senior Sam Francis (Newburyport, Mass.), popping the ball loose to be recovered by junior Max Breschi (Carlisle, Pa.). With an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against the Bobcats at the end of the play, Bates the ball at its own 26 with 11:57 left in the game.
Quarterback keepers by Golden quickly became the signature play of the day. Seemingly gaining confidence with every snap, the freshman rushed for 10 yards on the first play of Bates' possession, and two plays later he gashed the Polar Bears for 13 more yards. On 3rd and 4 from the Bowdoin 42, Golden rushed six yards for another first down. On the ensuing play, Williams swept around the right end of the line and ran untouched up the sideline for a 36-yard touchdown, putting the Bobcats in control at 17-7.
Bowdoin quickly drove back into Bates territory, but a Drakeley pass was tipped toward Lyons, who made his second pick of the game and third of the season, giving Bates the ball at its own 35. On the next play, Golden kept the ball, burst through a hole and scampered up the right sideline, outracing Bowdoin's defensive backs to the end zone for a 24-7 lead.
Both teams turned the ball over once more in the final six minutes. Bates sophomore Kevin Claflin (Ashland, Mass.) picked off Drakeley and returned it 26 yards to set up the Bobcats at midfield. Bowdoin's defense pried the ball from Boyer and Cameron Rondeau returned the fumble 10 yards to the Bates 30. But with under two minutes left to play, Drake threw consecutive incompletions on third and fourth downs from the Bates 7, ending any Bowdoin hopes to win.
Bates' 337 total rushing yards were its most since the 2012 season. The Bobcats outgained the Polar Bears 415 to 339 and had a 23-18 edge in first downs.
Senior Mark Upton (Winthrop, Mass.) led the Bobcats with seven tackles, including 1.5 sacks, giving him six on the year. Lyons, Francis and first-year James Hussey (Quincy, Mass.) recorded six tackles apiece. Bowdoin's Joe Gowetski recorded a game-high 15 tackles.
Bates next sets its sights on the season finale against Hamilton, to be played at Garcelon Field next Saturday at noon. A win would give Bates a 4-4 final record.