Football preview: CBB series offers a new start for Bates (0-6) and Colby (0-6)

Peter Boyer rushed for 73 yards and a touchdown as Bates defeated Colby for the third straight year last season at Garcelon Field. (File photo by Brewster Burns for Bates College)

LEWISTON, Maine -- Although the Bates football team stands 0-6 with three games remaining, the annual CBB (Colby-Bates-Bowdoin) series breathes new meaning into the final third of the 2017 season for all three teams involved.

Bates can win the CBB title outright for the fourth straight year if it can defeat two other winless teams in the next weeks, with both Colby (0-6) and Bowdoin (0-6) sharing the basement of the NESCAC standings. Bates will host Bowdoin in its home finale next Saturday, and the CBB series wraps up with Bowdoin and Colby facing each other Nov. 11 while Bates plays at Hamilton.

A Bates win this Saturday in Waterville would represent the Bobcats' first four-game win streak against the Mules since 1984-87. Paired with a victory over Bowdoin, Bates can win four straight CBB titles for the first time in the program's 123-year history.

Winning three CBBs in a row, and owning at least a share of the CBB title every year since 2011, has the ring of dominance. But against Colby, Bates has virtually escaped with a win in each of the past three years -- a 34-28 overtime victory in 2014, a 10-9 win at Colby in 2015 and last year's 21-19 Bates win at Garcelon.

"I think we're very similar teams, to be honest," Bates head coach Mark Harriman said in this week's Bates Bobcast podcast. "Even if you look at the scores this year -- we play a lot of the same teams early and, unfortunately for both of us, with a lot of the same results."

Statistics show that Bates has struggled more defensively than Colby, allowing 43.3 points per game (10th in the NESCAC) and 475.7 yards per game (ninth in the NESCAC), while Colby has given up 34.0 points and 406.7 yards per contest. Offensively, the situation is somewhat reversed: Colby has scored only 8.5 points and gained just 209.5 yards per game, last in the NESCAC. Meanwhile Bates has scored 14.2 points and averaged 276.7 yards of offense.

"[Colby] is a physical team, and just like us, they're always excited for the start of the CBB," said Harriman. "There's a lot riding on it for both teams, and we're always excited to go and play them. It's almost always a very close ballgame and we know it's going to be a fight for four quarters."

What: Bates (0-6) at Colby (0-6)
When: Saturday, Oct. 28, 1:00 p.m.
Where: Seaverns Field (Waterville, Maine)
Live Coverage: Video (NSN) | Stats
All-Time Series: Colby leads 66-46-6
Previous Meeting: Bates 21, Colby 19 (Oct. 29, 2016 in Lewiston, Maine)

Colby Last Week:

Colby had its best offensive production of the season and Mark Snyder caught two touchdown passes, but host Hamilton had the lone score of the second half to pull out a 27-24 victory on Saturday at Steuben Field.

The Mules opened up a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter. However, the Continentals scored three touchdowns in the final 7:41 of the second quarter to cut the margin to 24-20 at intermission.

Snyder, who had seven catches for 99 yards, caught a 28-yard scoring pass from Jack O'Brien just 1:32 into the game. The Mules went 56 yards on only three plays.

The Mules made it 14-0 on Jake Schwern's 4-yard touchdown run with 7:51 left in the first quarter.

Colby took 7:42 off the clock and drove 65 yards in 16 plays to go up 17-0 on John Baron's 40-yard field goal with 12:24 to halftime.

The Continentals (2-4 overall) came to life with three touchdown passes from Kenny Gray in the final 7:41 of the quarter. He had scoring throws of 10, 30, and 14 yards.

Trailing 20-17 with 1:34 to halftime, Colby went 65 yards on seven plays to take a 24-20 lead at the break. Snyder caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from O'Brien with five seconds remaining.

After a scoreless third quarter, Hamilton had the game-winning touchdown on a 2-yard run by Mitch Bierman with 6:52 remaining. The Continentals converted a 4th-and-5 play on the drive with 8:20 to go.

Bates Last Week:

Star quarterback Jared Lebowitz was knocked out of the game in the second quarter with an injury, but it didn't stop Middlebury in its 43-14 victory over the Bates football team Saturday at Garcelon Field.

Bates lost the turnover battle 3-0 and allowed over 500 yards of offense (530) for the third straight game. Middlebury rebounded from its lone loss of the season the previous week at Williams.

On Middlebury's first series of the second quarter, facing 3rd and 14 from the Panther 11-yard line, Lebowitz scrambled 26 yards to the 37, where he was hit hard by Bates junior Joe Frake (Windham, N.H.). Both players were slow to get up, and Lebowitz remained out of the game the rest of the way, after completing 12 of 18 passes for 166 yards and two touchdowns.

Backup quarterback Jack Meservy came on and completed 13 of 22 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown as the second of four signal-callers to play for the Panthers. Ten Middlebury receivers caught passes in the game.

Colin Waters also saw action at quarterback for Middlebury, and fourth-string QB Will Jernigan got loose for a 55-yard touchdown run with 5:18 left in the fourth quarter for a 43-7 Middlebury lead.

Bates first-year quarterback Brendan Costa (Westport, Mass.) completed 13 of 24 passes -- the first time this season the Bobcats have completed over half of their pass attempts -- for 141 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. Costa also ran for 131 yards on 28 carries, giving him 301 rushing yards in the past two games.

Frake led Bates' defense with 12 tackles (three solo), including a half sack, and one pass breakup. Junior Chase Fulton (Benecia, Calif.) added nine tackles (6 solo). Sophomore free safety Jon Lindgren (Plainville, Conn.) made seven tackles and broke up two passes, and first-year cornerback Devin Clyburn (New York, N.Y.) made six tackles (5 solo) in his first start.

Bates' and Colby's Last Meeting:

The 2016 CBB series got started on the right foot for Bates in a 21-19 victory over Colby at Garcelon Field on Oct. 29, 2016.

Peter Boyer rushed for a career-high 73 yards and a touchdown to lead the Bobcat offense. Frank Williams scored a pair of touchdowns of his own.

In rainy conditions, the Bobcats (2-4) jumped out to an early 21-3 lead and held on for dear life in the second half when the Mules (2-4) refused to go away.

After Boyer ran for three yards to get the ball to the Colby 24, Williams caught a pass by his shoelaces and ran to pay dirt, giving the Bobcats a 7-3 lead with 4:00 left in the first quarter. They never trailed after that and even added to their advantage before halftime. The Bobcats outscored Colby 14-0 in the second quarter.

Williams plunged into the end zone with 11:40 left in the half for his second touchdown of the day and his fifth of the season.

The Bobcats took over with 8:55 left in the first half and proceeded to go on an extended drive of their own. Facing 1st and goal at the 11, Boyer ran the ball three straight times to get the ball down to the 1-yard line. Head coach Mark Harriman decided to go for it and Boyer rewarded the decision with his first touchdown of the season and the second of his career.

Up 21-3 at halftime, the Bobcats survived a furious rally from the Mules. Colby brought in Christian Sparacio to play quarterback and he turned out to be the right man for the job. The Mules only threw for 53 yards in the first half but Sparacio threw for 255 yards and two touchdowns in the second half.

Colby took over after the Bobcats' second punt at their own 37-yard line with 3:04 to go in the third.

Christian Sparacio connected with Alex Kramer for a 21-yard gain and followed that up with an 18-yard completion to Sebastian Ferrell, advancing the ball to the Bobcat 24. One play later, Sparacio hooked up with Ferrell for a 26-yard score with 1:07 left in the third quarter. Ferrell caught eight passes for 183 yards and two touchdowns on the afternoon.

Following on his 43-yard field goal in the first half, John Baron nailed a 36-yard field goal to cut the Bobcat lead to 21-13 with 8:58 to go in the game.

On Colby's next possession, Ferrell got loose for a 36-yard reception down to the Bobcats' 5-yard line. Sparacio connected with Ferrell again, this time on a 2-yard crossing route for a touchdown, narrowing the gap to 21-19.

But the Mules' two-point conversion attempt was no good when Jack Maritz jumped up and tipped the pass near the line of scrimmage.

The Bobcats went three-and-out on their next drive, giving the Mules a chance to complete their comeback. Colby got to the Bates 33. But on 4th and 7, too far away for a field goal try, Sparacio and the Mules decided to go for the home run strike. Trevor Lyons knocked down the deep ball attempt, preserving the victory for Bates.

The Bobcats sacked Colby's quarterbacks five times on the afternoon in a very close contest. The Mules had 15 first downs and the Bobcats recorded 14 first downs. The Bobcats (278 yards) were outgained in total offense by Colby (308 yards), but the Mules did all their damage through the air as the Bobcats held them to 0 rushing yards.