Football preview: Bates (0-2) faces another staunch defense at Tufts (2-0)

Sophomore quarterback Brendan Costa made his collegiate debut with a splash one year ago against Tufts, Bates' opponent this Saturday, Sept. 29 in Somerville, Mass. (File photo by Theophil Syslo/Bates College)

LEWISTON, Maine -- After a four-year winning streak against this weekend's opponent from 2010 through 2013, the Bates football program has fallen to Tufts for four years in a row. The fact that the Jumbos have also assembled four winning seasons in a row is no coincidence, and the latest evidence of Tufts' competitiveness is last Saturday's 16-13 win over NESCAC power Wesleyan.

Tufts has transformed its defense into a team strength. The Jumbos thus far have held opponents to only 7.5 points per game on 248.5 yards of offense, and they lead the conference in sacks (8) and turnovers created (5).

The offense, led as Bates knows well by quarterback Ryan McDonald, has scored in all four of its trips to the red zone, including three touchdowns. Tufts ranks seventh in the NESCAC in total offense (271.5 yards per game).

Meanwhil Bates, ranked 10th in that category (126.0), is trying to find its footing after running up against arguably the top two defenses in the conference in Amherst and Trinity. Saturday's 59-16 loss at Trinity is one the entire team is eager to put out of mind, and the Bobcats hope to receive a jolt from a traditionally strong contingent of Bates fans at Tufts' Ellis Oval.


THE PARTICULARS:

What: Bates (0-2) at Tufts (2-0)

When: Saturday, Sept. 29, 1:30 p.m.

Where: Ellis Oval / Zimman Field (Somerville, Mass.)

Live Coverage: Video | Stats

All-Time Series: Tufts leads 61-17-3

Previous Meeting: Tufts 37, Bates 17 (Sept. 30, 2017 in Lewiston)


TUFTS LAST WEEK:

Led by a gritty performance from its defense, Tufts hung on for a 16-13 victory over Wesleyan Saturday night at Ellis Oval / Zimman Field.

The Jumbos (2-0) scored all of their points in the second quarter, including touchdown passes of 11 yards to junior TE Jack Donohue and 28-yards to senior RB Dom Borelli by senior QB Ryan McDonald.

Wesleyan (1-1) missed two field goal attempts in the fourth quarter that would have tied the game.

After not allowing an offensive score in their season-opener at Hamilton last week, the Jumbos surrendered only six first-half points on two field goals to a Wesleyan team that scored 52 on Middlebury the previous Saturday. Patrick Wolff's 39-yard field goal at 3:30 of the second was good and the teams went to the half with the Jumbos leading 16-6. Piccirillo had a 39-yard rush during the drive.

The Cardinals pulled within a field goal on their only touchdown of the game early in the third, but the Jumbo defense would not allow another score.

Greg Holt led Tufts with 12 tackles, while Kevin Quisumbing added nine and Tylor Scales had eight.

The Jumbos only had 217 yards of total offense. Senior receiver Dan de Leon, making his season debut, caught five passes for 59 yards. McDonald finished 15 for 28 for 167 yards and the two scores. The Cardinals limited him to 23 yards rushing on 16 carries.

Piccirillo threw for 189 yards (18 for 33) and ran for 78 to lead Wesleyan. Lundevall averaged 22.8 yards per catch with 91 yards on four receptions.

BATES LAST WEEK:

Bates sophomore Anthony Costa returned an interception for a touchdown but Trinity quarterback Jordan Vazzano threw for 353 yards and five touchdowns and ran for a sixth score to lead the Bantams to a 59-16 victory over visiting Bates last Saturday.

Trinity held Bates to 102 yards and five first downs in the game, while the Bantams finished with 563 total yards and 29 first downs.

Trinity racked up 332 yards of total offense in the first half, but led by only a 14-9 margin with 4:30 remaining after a 25-yard interception return for a touchdown by Costa (West Springfield, Mass.). Trinity's Sameir Madden blocked the extra point and the Bantam offense erupted for two touchdowns in the final 1:37 before the break. Vazzano found Koby Schofer for a 33-yard score and Jonathan Girard for a 20-yard touchdown catch in the opening three minutes of the game, and connected with Schofer for a 27-yarder and Girard with a 30-yard scoring strike to close the second quarter with Trinity ahead, 28-9.

Vazzano completed 20 of 36 passes, including 10 for 187 yards to Schofer and eight for 160 yards to Girard. Lockwood paced Trinity on the ground with 104 yards on 12 carries, while Trinity's Max Chipouras added 86 rushing yards on 23 attempts.

Bobcat junior safety Jon Lindgren (Plainville, Conn.) led all tacklers with 12. Anthony Costa made seven tackles and broke up two passes in addition to his interception, and senior captain Tyler Harrington (Haverhill, Mass.) contributed six tackles and a tackle for loss for Bates.

Bates sophomore quarterback Brendan Costa (Westport, Mass.) finished 14-for-26 for 71 yards passing, but the Bobcats rushed for just 31 yards as a team on 33 attempts. Foley punted 10 times for 384 yards with a long of 54.

BATES' AND TUFTS' LAST MEETING:

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 Sept. 30, 2017 at Garcelon Field.

The Jumbos outgained the Bobcats 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 marked the start of a new era at quarterback for the Bobcats, as first-year Brendan 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 the 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' 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.

BATES' PROBABLE STARTERS:

OFFENSE
LT 70 Matt Flanagan 
LG 68 Phil Simplicio 
C 64 Jack O'Brien 
RG 77 Yanni Falaras 
RT 74 Dan Marino 
TE 85 Isaiah Saunders 
WR 1 Kevin Claflin 
WR 26 Jackson Hayes 
WR 13 Marcus Ross 
QB 3 Brendan Costa 
RB 30 Zach Doyon 

DEFENSE
DE 97 Shane Collins 
NT 99 Ramon Ruiz 
DT 94 Walter Washington 
OLB 95 Tyler Harrington 
ILB 8 Chase Fulton 
ILB 37 Peter Daley 
OLB 33 Liam Greene 
CB 7 Coy Candelario 
SS 6 Jon Lindgren 
FS 4 Anthony Costa
CB 22 Devin Clyburn 

SPECIALIST
P/K 2 Justin Foley 

TUFTS' PROBABLE STARTERS:

OFFENSE
QB 12 Ryan McDonald
RB 30 Dom Borelli
WR 11 Dan de Leon
WR 6 Frank Roche
WR 13 Jack Dolan
TE 85 Jack Donohue
LT 79 Josh Thibeault
LG 56 Jack Rhodes
C 52 Nick Roy
RG 62 Dan MacDonald
RT 77 Tim Reitzenstein
PK 49 Matt Alswanger 

DEFENSE
DE 96 Kevin Quisumbing
DT 95 Tom Baker
DT 9 Nmesoma Nwafor
DE 44 Jared Ahsler
LB 19 Jack Walton
LB 54 Greg Holt
LB 20 Tylor Scales
CB 26 Tim Preston
SS 5 Alex LaPiana
FS 24 Michael Mughetto
CB 2 Miles Shipp
P 5 Alex LaPiana