LEWISTON, Maine -- The Bates football team has had Williams College's number in recent years, winning five of the past six football games between the schools after Williams had won 22 of the first 23 meetings.
After several first-year players helped the Ephs nearly pull off an upset at Trinity last week, however, it appears that Williams football is determined to return to its glory days. Williams started off the season with double-digit victories over Bowdoin and Colby before giving Trinity, the NESCAC's top dog, its first single-digit defeat since 2015. Surely the resurgent Ephs would like nothing better than to avenge last season's 29-17 Bobcat win on Back to Bates Weekend.
But Bates played its best game of the young season last weekend, a 37-17 loss to Tufts that was statistically more even than the score would suggest. With Amherst, Trinity and Tufts behind them, the Bobcats showed significant improvement on both sides of the ball.
Saturday's game will pit two freshmen quarterbacks against one another. Brendan Costa will make his first collegiate start for the Bobcats after an impressive relief outing in the Tufts game. Williams' Bobby Maimaron has started all three games thus far, completing 49-of-94 passes (52.1%) for 613 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.
What: Bates (0-3) at Williams (2-1)
When: Saturday, Oct. 7, 1:00 p.m.
Where: Farley-Lamb Field (Williamstown, Mass.)
All-Time Series: Williams leads 23-6
Previous Meeting: Bates 29, Williams 17 (Oct. 8, 2016 in Lewiston, Maine)
Williams Last Week:
Trinity took advantage of four Williams turnovers to down the Ephs, 17-9, in Hartford last Saturday, in the Bantams' 12th consecutive victory and seventh straight against Williams.
Trinity took a 7-0 lead less than five minutes into the game, as Brandon Blaise recovered a fumble by Connor Harris at the Eph 12-yard line and Max Chipouras scampered in from 14 yards away two plays later.
Williams answered with the first scoring drive against the Trinity defense this season. The Ephs started on their own 47-yard line after a short Bantam punt and rookie QB Bobby Maimaron hit classmate Justin Nelson on a pair of key passes for first downs to set up rookie kicker Min Kyu Park for a 28-yard field goal eight seconds into the second quarter. A muffed Trinity punt set the Bantams up for their second touchdown less than two minutes later, as Dominique Seagears recovered the ball at the Williams 15-yard line and Trinity QB Sonny Puzzo found Koby Schofer on a nine-yard scoring toss for a 14-3 Bantam lead with 13:03 on the clock.
Williams opened the third quarter with an eight-play, 78-yard drive that ended with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Maimaron to Harris 2:21 after the break but a bad snap on the PAT made the score 14-9. Trinity answered with a career-long 46-yard field goal by Sachse with 2:06 left in the third quarter.
Trinity won by only single digits for the first time since the 2015 season.
Trinity outgained Williams, 275-251, but the Ephs had nine first downs to just 10 for the Bantams. Chipouras led all rushers with 80 yards on 28 carries, while Harris ran 19 times for 76 yards. Puzzo was 14-for-22 passing for 163 yards and Maimaron was 16-for-35 for 164 yards.
Bates Last Week:
Ryan McDonald threw for four touchdowns and 245 yards and ran for 81 yards, as Tufts jumped out to a 27-3 lead and defeated Bates 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 Costa came on in relief of sophomore starter Matt Golden 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.
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 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 Frank Williams 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 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' and Williams' Last Meeting:
Slotback Frank Williams had nine receptions for 223 yards and three touchdowns while the Bobcat defense sacked the quarterback seven times, leading to a 29-17 win over Williams College on Oct. 8, 2016 at Garcelon Field.
The victory marked the fifth time in six years the Bobcats defeated the Ephs.
In front of a crowd of more than 3,000 fans for the Back to Bates Homecoming game, Williams shined, accumulating career highs in catches, yards and touchdowns, including a career-long reception of 73 yards in the victory. Entering the game, Williams had 214 receiving yards and two touchdown catches in his career.
Quarterback Sandy Plashkes also set career highs by completing 10 passes for 240 yards and four touchdowns.
The Bobcats outgained the Ephs in total offense 347 yards to 207. Bates averaged 10 yards per pass play while the Ephs only managed 3.6 yards per pass play.
The Bobcats tallied an impressive seven sacks on the day on defense and held the Ephs to only one offensive touchdown. Bates tallied an impressive 14 tackles for loss, doubling the Ephs' total.