It was an auspicious start. One play from scrimmage, one touchdown—thanks to senior Shaun Carroll’s 80-yard run. But the positive vibes and excitement of seizing a lead over last season’s undefeated NESCAC champions had disappeared by halftime. Amherst scored 28 consecutive points, erasing any ideas the Bobcats had about a season opening upset.
The game began to slip away from Bates late in the first quarter, when Amherst took a 14-7 lead on Nick Kelly’s five-yard touchdown run. Amherst’s balanced offense frustrated the Bobcats all day, accumulating 282 passing yards (from quarterback Reece Foy) and 274 rushing yards. On one agonizing second quarter drive, Amherst ran 18 plays and retained possession for 6:33. Bobcat fans saw why the Lord Jeffs didn’t lose a game in 2014.
Outside of Carroll’s early score, the Bates offense only managed one other touchdown, a three-yard run by junior Ivan Reese that trimmed the deficit to 28-14 with 13:10 left in the game. Given that they ran 27 less plays than Amherst (89-62), the offense needed to be efficient and incisive. They didn’t fare badly at that task; senior quarterback Pat Dugan completed 11 of 16 passes for 117 yards, Carroll notched 107 yards on 13 carries, and senior wide receiver Mark Riley continued his stellar form from last year, hauling in seven catches for 87 yards.
Riley commented, “Offensively we need to improve on limiting our penalties and focus more.” Though they avoided turning the ball over, Bates’ seven penalties did indeed hurt. To beat a team as good as Amherst, you have to minimize mistakes.
One positive for Bates is the emergence of several underclassmen. Sophomore defensive back Andrew Jenkelunas tied for the team lead in tackles with junior Ben Coulibaly, registering ten takedowns. Freshman Coy Candelario had eight tackles, and classmate Justin Foley punted nine times at an average of 35.3 yards, pinning Amherst inside the 20-yard line three times. “One good thing is it’s the first game under our belt,” said Riley. “For underclassmen who may not have had much experience, they have it and we can move on.”
Bates’ next opponents are the Tufts Jumbos, a team not nearly as formidable as Amherst. In 2014, Bates and Tufts finished with identical 4-4 records. Heading into Week 2 of the season, however, Tufts is a game ahead of the Bobcats in the NESCAC standings due to their 24-21 win over Hamilton in their season opener. According to Riley, “the keys to beating Tufts are being more physical and sticking to our assignments.” If Bates can execute at a high level, they have the ability to win on Saturday afternoon at Garcelon Field and to rejuvenate themselves along with the Bobcat faithful.