Hamilton wins defensive battle 14-0 in football season finale

Mark Upton (right) led a biting Bates defense with 13 tackles, one sack and one interception in Bates' 14-0 loss at Hamilton on Nov. 14, 2015. (File photo by Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

CLINTON, N.Y. -- A stifling and opportunistic defense led Hamilton College to a 14-0 season-ending victory over the Bates College football team on Saturday at Steuben Field. 

Both teams finished 2-6, part of a four-way tie for sixth place in the New England Small College Athletic Conference with Williams and Bowdoin. Hamilton drew even with Bates in the teams' all-time series at 19-19, while defeating Bates for the first time in five meetings and the third time in the past 14.

All of the game's scoring took place in the second quarter. Jason Nastovski ran through a big hole untouched into the end zone from the 3-yard line for a 7-0 lead with 12:30 left in the first half, and with 3:01 left, Hamilton's Nick Sobczyk fell on the ball in the end zone after a fumbled exchange in Bates' backfield. Two plays earlier, Bates was backed up to its own 1-yard line after Pat Donahoe's 55-yard punt, which was destined for a touchback before it curved fortuitously to the right.

The Continentals held the Bobcats to one first down and 11 yards of offense in the second half, and Bates finished the game with season lows in first downs (nine) and yards (104). The NESCAC's third-ranked rushing offense was held to 48 yards on 44 attempts -- a number enhanced by four sacks of senior quarterback Patrick Dugan (Westford, Mass.) for a total loss of 24 yards. 

Bates' defense, which was outstanding in its own right for most of the game, showed signs of running out of gas down the stretch, as Hamilton awakened its rushing attack to finish out the game with a non-scoring drive that ate up the final 11 minutes on 18 plays. Nearly a third of Hamilton's total time of possession (33:55) and yardage (227) took place on the final possession, as snow swirled around Baron von Steuben Field.

Defense ruled the day on both sides of the ball. The Bates offense's only drive that netted more than 16 yards, a 65-yard advance in the first quarter, ended with a 29-yard missed field goal that bounced off the right upright.

By the same token, Hamilton's final 83-yard drive was 40 yards longer than its second-longest, the 43-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter.

Bates junior linebacker Mark Upton (Winthrop, Mass.) totaled a game-high 13 tackles (eight solo). He set up Bates with good field position on numerous occasions: his fourth sack of the season forced Hamilton to punt the ball away in the third quarter, and his six-yard interception return set up the Bobcats at their own 44 early in the fourth quarter, in what would be their final possession. Junior cornerbacks Trevor Lyons (Hamilton, Mass.) and Brandon Williams (Gardner, Mass.) had eight tackles apiece.

Dugan completed 7 of 12 passes for 56 yards in his final game, with fellow senior Mark Riley catching four passes for 38 yards, all in the first half. Sophomore slotback Frank Williams (Brookline, Mass.) led Bates in rushing with 25 yards on six carries.

Hamilton's Cole Freeman completed 14 of 25 passes for 105 yards. Marcus Gutierrez rushed 16 times for 85 yards, and Nastovski rushed 12 times for 58 yards and the game's only offensive touchdown. Donahoe caught six passes for 53 yards. Brent Lobien shared Hamilton's team lead with eight tackles, including two sacks and a forced fumble.