WATERVILLE, Maine -- The Bates football team nearly came back from a 23-point deficit behind a career-high 268 passing yards from junior quarterback Brendan Costa before falling 23-20 at Colby on Saturday.
The momentum was all on the side of the home team early. Colby (1-6) converted each of four first-half drives into points and held a 23-0 lead with less than a minute to play in the first half. Devin Marrocco rushed for three short touchdowns and Mule quarterback Matt Hersch went 7 for 13 for 130 yards on the four drives, completing passes to five different receivers. Running back Chris George picked up 28 yards and Marrocco added 36 to go with his three touchdowns.
In the first 29 minutes of play the Bobcats (0-7) turned the ball over on downs twice, threw one interception, and punted the ball away once. With 40 seconds to play, Bates turned its fifth and final drive of the half into a 70-yard scoring drive, reaching the end zone as the clock ticked zero. Costa (Westport, Mass.) was 3-5 on the drive and accounted for all 70 yards through the air. He connected with sophomore Jackson Hayes (San Marino, Calif.) for a 47-yard touchdown to end the half. The game entered halftime with a score of 23-6.
In the second half, Bates came out of the locker room and kept the momentum going. Colby was only able to gain 78 second-half yards to 147 from the Bobcats. The Bobcats stayed in the game with their stiff defense and their special teams play. Colby kicker/punter Moises Celaya was tormented by the Bobcats in the second half, having a field goal and a punt blocked, and also being tackled on another punt attempt. He was only able to get away two of his four punts, and those only netted 27 yards of field position on average.
Bates marched 52 yards on 11 plays after forcing a three-and-out to start the third quarter. Costa found sophomore Sean Bryant (Falmouth, Maine) for a 20-yard game to the Colby 23. Bryant had a terrific day, catching four balls for a game and career-high 89 yards. Bates worked the ball down to the one and on third and goal junior Liam Spillane (Byfield, Mass.) punched it in to trim the Colby lead to 23-12.
On the ensuing Colby drive, senior captain Jon Lindgren (Plainville, Conn.) blocked Celaya's field goal attempt with 4:46 left in the third quarter.
Down 23-12 entering the fourth quarter, the Bobcats struck again. On third and eight from their own 38, Costa rushed for 12 yards to midfield. Then he connected with Bryant for a 33-yard gain to the Colby 17. On 3rd and 13 from the Colby 20, Costa found first-year Mohamed Diawara (Philadelphia, Pa.) for the latter's first collegiate touchdown. Bates successfully went for two, with Costa passing the ball to junior Parker Smith (Claremont, N.H.), making the score 23-20 in favor of Colby.
The Mules' defense stood strong when it mattered. Down three, Bates had the ball on the Colby 37-yard line after senior Peter Daley (Wilmington, Mass.) blocked Celaya's punt. The Mules held on three crucial plays in the red zone. Set up with a first and 10 from the 11 yard line, defensive lineman Patrick Sopko (six tackles, two for a loss, one sack) backed the Bobcats up when he reached around his blocker and dragged down Costa with one hand for a sack. On third and 17 it appeared Bates had taken the lead on a touchdown pass from Costa to sophomore Stephen Brackett (Sudbury, Mass.), but a holding penalty pulled the points off the board. The ensuing retry of third down fell incomplete, as did the fourth down attempt and the ball was turned over on downs.
Bates got one final drive attempt with just over one minute to play. With the Bobcats set up by the second failed punt attempt at the Colby 45, the Mules held despite only rushing three and forced an incompletion on fourth and three that bounced in and out of the receiver's hands.
Junior Jaason Lopez (Marblehead, Mass.) led Bates on the ground, rushing six times for 38 yards. Costa added 29 rushing yards to go along with his 19 completions and two passing touchdowns. Bryant led the Bobcat receivers but Hayes had a strong game as well, catching three passes for a career-high 73 yards and a touchdown. Diawara caught three balls for 47 yards and junior Isaiah Saunders (Tilton, N.H.) caught a pair of passes for 32 yards.
Hersch tallied his fourth 200-yard game of the year for Colby, finishing 15-25 for 206 yards without a touchdown or interception. Marrocco had 42 yards on the ground including his three touchdowns. George added 43 on the ground and another 40 receiving. Andrew DeFranco was the leading receiver for the Mules with five catches for 76 yards. Defensively, Colby had four sacks by Sopko, Carson Katen, Marc Dougherty, and David O'Donnell. Nick Hall intercepted Costa and returned it for 25 yards to set up Colby's second touchdown.
Bates is back in action Saturday when the Bobcats host Bowdoin at 5:30pm for the first-ever football game under the lights at Garcelon Field. Bates is hosting a carnival before the game outside of Garcelon Field which is free and open to the public.