LEWISTON, Maine -- Ryan McDonald threw for four touchdowns and 245 yards and ran for 81 yards, as Tufts University jumped out to a 27-3 lead and defeated the Bates College football team 37-17 on Saturday at Garcelon Field.
The Jumbos (2-1) outgained the Bobcats (0-3) 385 yards to 312, including 88 yards on two big touchdown plays in the second quarter.
McDonald hit receiver Jack Dolan for three consecutive scores in the first half, on plays of 11, 29 and 59 yards, respectively, as Tufts came back from a 3-0 deficit to take a commanding 21-3 lead. Tylor Scales' interception return for a touchdown put the Jumbos ahead 27-3 midway through the second quarter.
The game may have marked a new era at quarterback for the Bobcats, as first-year Brendan Costa (Westport, Mass.) came on in relief of sophomore starter Matt Golden (New Bedford, Mass.) and sparked the Bobcat offense.
After throwing the pick-six to Scales on his second pass attempt, Costa came back two plays later with a 70-yard touchdown run, closing the gap to 27-10. Costa finished with a net 97 rushing yards on 16 attempts, and he completed 14 of 33 passes for 134 yards. Two would-be touchdown passes thrown by Costa in the second half were dropped by his receivers.
McDonald completed 21 of 36 passes for 245 yards with no interceptions and four scores. On several occasions, his slippery scrambling turned would-be sacks well behind line of scrimmage into gains that kept the Jumbos offense on the field.
Dolan caught eight passes for 118 yards and three touchdowns for Tufts, while Dan de Leon added five catches for 62 yards and a score.
Golden, making his second career start at quarterback for Bates, completed 4-of-8 passes for 21 yards and rushed for 33 yards on nine attempts in one and a half quarters of action.
Bates' offense looked the best it has all season when the Bobcats took over at their own 35-yard line with 9:42 to go in the third quarter. Costa's toss to first-year slotback Jaason Lopez (Marblehead, Mass.) was good for nine yards to start off, and two plays later he again hit Lopez for a gain of 13 yards. A seven-yard run by senior Frank Williams (Brookline, Mass.) gave Bates a first down at Tufts' 28-yard line, but Doug Harrison sacked Costa for a four-yard loss, and an incompletion on third down put Bates in a fourth-and-13 situation at the Tufts 31. Costa scrambled out of pressure and whipped a throw over the middle to Lopez inside the 5-yard line for a 28-yard pickup. But Tufts then staged a goal-line stand, finished off by Nmesoma Nwafor stuffing Costa inside the 1 on fourth down, turning the ball over to the Jumbos.
Tufts went three-and-out, however, and Williams' 7-yard punt return set up the Bobcats at the Tufts 24. Costa's 14-yard completion to senior Brian Daly converted a 3rd-and-4 from the 18, and two plays later junior Kyle Flaherty (Litchfield, Maine) pounded the ball in for a 2-yard score, his first career touchdown.
But two possessions later, Tufts put the game nearly out of reach. An illegal block called on the Jumbos put them in a 2nd and 21 situation, and after a six-yard run by Mike Pedrini, McDonald scrambled to buy time before completing to Winton Blount, converting a 3rd and 15 with a 27-yard gain. On the first play of the fourth quarter and the ninth of the drive, McDonald again scrambled to convert a 3rd and 7 with a 27-yard touchdown pass to de Leon, making it 37-17 in Tufts' favor.
Bates scored the first points of the game, as McDonald fumbled the first snap and senior Max Breschi (Carlisle, Pa.) recovered for the Bobcats at the Tufts 37. Golden's nine-yard run and nine-yard pass to senior Noah Stebbins (Biddeford, Maine) put the Bobcats in the red zone and senior Grant DeWald (Duxbury, Mass.) hit a 33-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.
Tufts took the lead right back, however, as McDonald marched the Jumbos 56 yards on 11 plays, hitting Dolan for 11 yards on the go-ahead touchdown.
Bates' defense held up the Jumbos for two straight three-and-out possessions to conclude the first quarter, but defensive breakdowns led to back-breaking touchdowns in the second quarter. From Bates' 29 and later from the Tufts 41, Dolan was able to slip undetected into an open seam on the right and sprint untouched for back-to-back scores, putting Bates in a 21-3 hole.
Costa then came on for Golden and threw the pick-six, as Scales had nothing but open space after picking off Costa's throw to the outside.
After Bates took the ball back over, on 2nd and 8 from the Bates 30, Costa sidestepped two tackles in the pocket before bursting into daylight and outsprinting the secondary 70 yards to the end zone, closing the gap to 27-10.
Tufts kicker Matthew Alswanger made a 22-yard field goal with 2:43 left in the second quarter, giving the Jumbos a 30-10 lead at intermission.
Steve DiCienzo led Tufts with nine tackles (7 solo), while Greg Holt added eight stops.
Junior linebacker Bobby Dee (Plymouth, Mass.) led Bates with a career-high 10 tackles (5 solo). Free safety Jon Lindgren (Plainville, Conn.) and defensive end Tyler Harrington (Haverhill, Mass.) were in on eight tackles apiece, and Lindgren broke up two passes.
Bates will play at Williams (2-1) next Saturday at 1pm.