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Cardinals rally to down football 41-23

First-year quarterback Brendan Costa threw for 97 yards and ran for 170 yards on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017 at Wesleyan. (Rob Tierney for Bates College)

MIDDLETOWN, Conn. -- First-year quarterback Brendan Costa carried the ball 18 times for 170 yards and a touchdown but Wesleyan's Mark Piccirillo threw for 370 yards and tallied three total touchdowns to lead the Cardinals past the Bates football team by a score of 41-23 Saturday afternoon. 

The Bobcats (0-5) held a 23-21 lead at the half thanks to senior Grant DeWald (Duxbury, Mass.) nailing a career-long 43-yard field goal with 26 seconds left in the second quarter.

But the Cardinals (4-1) took the lead for good in the third quarter when they went on a 14-play, 63-yard drive, setting up a Corey Phillips 31-yard field goal. 

He split the uprights and after a Bates three-and-out, Wesleyan marched 79 yards on nine plays. 

They scored a touchdown when Piccirillo connected with Gernald Hawkins for an eight-yard reception, extending the lead to 31-23 after the extra point. Hawkins finished with 11 catches for 106 yards and a touchdown.     

Wesleyan did not go up by more than one score until Phillips booted a 20-yard field goal with 5:15 left in the game, extending the lead to 34-23. Mike Breuler added a two-yard touchdown reception with 1:41 left in the contest. 

After an explosive first half, the Bobcats struggled on offense in the second half, getting out-scored 20-0 by the Cardinals and recording only three first downs. 

But in the first half, the young Bobcat offense showed the potential they have this season. 

After the teams traded punts to start the game, Bates faced 1st and 10 at its own eight. Junior Peter Boyer (Dover-Foxcroft, Maine) ran the ball for three yards. Then on third and seven, Costa ran for nine to the Bobcat 20. After a Costa two-yard rush, Boyer kept the ground game going with an 11-yard run up the gut. The Bobcats mixed sophomore Matt Golden (New Bedford, Mass.) in at dive back and he ran for four and two yards respectively to get the ball to the Bates 37.

On third and four, Costa ripped off a run of 57 yards to the Wesleyan four. Two plays later, Boyer punched it in from the one-yard line to give Bates a 7-0 lead after DeWald made the extra point. 

Boyer finished the game with 14 carries for 53 yards and a score. 

The Bates defense forced a three-and-out and the Bobcats started their next drive at their own 34. Boyer ran for 10 yards and Costa followed that up with a 13-yard scamper to the Wesleyan 43. A 15-yard face-mask penalty advanced the ball the Cardinal 28. Three Bates runs made it fourth down and five at the Wesleyan 23. The Bobcats opted to go for it and Costa made the decision a good one with a 23-yard touchdown run to extend the lead to 14-0 after DeWald made the extra point.

The Bobcats led 14-0 with 3:41 remaining in the first quarter. But the Cardinals cut the lead in half on the ensuing drive. On the first place of the drive, Piccirillo completed a pass to Breuler for 48 yards to the Bates 27. Dario Highsmith ran for five yards to the Bates 22 and Piccirillo did the rest, carrying the ball 22 yards for a touchdown. Piccirillo was the Cardinals' leading rusher on the day, carrying the ball 11 times for 84 yards and a score. 

The Cardinals tied the game early in the second quarter. Piccirillo connected with Breuler for 45 yards to the Bates two. Breuler finished the game with 10 catches for 164 yards and a touchdown. Sean Penney punched the ball in from two yards out, tying the game at 14 after the extra point with 14:32 remaining in the half.

The Bobcats took the lead back when they took advantage of a turnover. Junior Coy Candelario (Haverhill, Mass.) recorded the first interception of his career when he picked off Piccirillo, giving the Bobcats first and 10 at their own 21 with 8:08 to go in the half. 

Costa connected with fellow first-year Jaason Lopez (Marblehead, Mass.) for a 24-yard gain to the Bobcats' 45-yard line. After the Bobcats ran the ball twice, they went to the air again and Costa found Lopez for a 54-yard touchdown to give Bates a 20-14 lead with 6:36 to go in the second quarter. Costa completed seven of 20 passes for 97 yards and a score on the day. 

Wesleyan answered with an eight-play, 58-yard drive that culminated in a second Penney rushing touchdown. This one came from four yards out when the Cardinals opted to go for it on a fourth and two. The extra point made the score 21-20 in favor of Wesleyan.

Bates moved the ball well again on its next drive, which included a 38-yard run from Costa to the Wesleyan 26. Three straight incompletions led to DeWald's career-long field goal, giving Bates the two-point lead at the half.

On defense, junior Bobby Dee (Plymouth, Mass.) led the way for Bates with 11 tackles, including four solo stops. Junior Chase Fulton (Benicia, Calif.) added 10 tackles with four solo stops. 

Wesleyan tallied 537 yards of total offense while holding Bates to 384 yards of total offense. The Bobcats out-rushed the Cardinals 287-167 but the Cardinals threw for 370 yards to the Bobcats' 97. Costa took care of the football well at the quarterback position. He did not turn the ball over after throwing four interceptions last week at Williams.

The Bobcats are back in action this Saturday when they host Middlebury at 1:00 p.m. on Garcelon Field.