LEWISTON, Maine -- Bates College held rival Bowdoin College's offense scoreless and to just 168 yards in a dominating 24-2 win over the Polar Bears on Saturday at Garcelon Field. The win is Bates' second over Bowdoin in the past three years, and gives the Bobcats (3-4) their third win for the first time since the 2002 season while snapping their three-game skid.
Bowdoin scored its lone two points on a defensive PAT runback by Beau Breton, after the Polar Bears blocked Bates' extra-point kick attempt in the first quarter.
Patrick George ran for three touchdowns for Bates, while quarterback Trevor Smith ran for a game-high 77 yards and completed 11 of 20 passes for 146 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown pass to John Squires in the first quarter. Squires finished with five catches for 92 yards and the score. Bates rushed for 194 yards, the Bobcats' fourth time this season netting more than 190 yards on the ground.
Bates' unexpected defensive hero was first-year linebacker Gilbert Brown, who saw his first extended action on the Bates defense and made the most of it, tallying six tackles, including four for a loss and both of the Bobcats' quarterback sacks, to go along with an interception. Kevin Helm tied with Bowdoin's Griffin Cardew for a game-high 13 tackles (9 solo), while Brett McAllister was credited with 10 solo stops.
The Bobcats picked off Bowdoin quarterback Mac Caputi four times -- one each by Kyle Starr, Andrew Kukesh, Brown and Will Taft. Caputi threw the ball 30 times with 11 completions for 105 yards. Pat Noone caught four passes for 51 yards and also rushed for 24 yards. Zach Donnarumma rushed for a team-high 45 yards on 21 carries.
Bowdoin (3-4) will take on Colby (3-4) next week in Brunswick. A Bowdoin win would mean a three-way split of the CBB title, while a Colby win would give the Mules the regional crown outright. Bates, Bowdoin, Colby, Middlebury and Wesleyan are now all tied for fourth place in the NESCAC.
Bates led 18-2 at halftime, and the second half stayed scoreless until 52 seconds remained in the game, when George dove in from the 2-yard line to make it 24-2. Smith knelt on the point-after attempt to keep the score there.
More than halfway into the first quarter, Bates had come up with the game's only two first downs, but the Bobcats finally got their offense in gear on their drive starting with six minutes to go in the period. Bates drove from its own 37 to the Bowdoin 20. Smith was stopped for a 3-yard loss by Cardew to back them up to a 4th and 9 at the 23, but Smith lofted a fade pass into the left side of the end zone for Squires, who reached over his defender and came down with his sixth touchdown catch of the season and a 6-0 lead. On the ensuing extra-point attempt, Kevin Regan's kick was stuffed at the Bowdoin line of scrimmage, and Breton scooped the ball up and was quickly off to the races, running the ball all the way back the other way to put Bowdoin on the scoreboard with a 6-2 deficit.
The Polar Bears drove into Bates territory on their next possession, making it to the 32 before turning the ball over on downs. A three-and-out by Bates followed, and the Polar Bears made it to midfield on a 21-yard connection from Caputi to Noone, but Brown's first sack of the game threw Caputi for a 10-yard loss immediately after, and the drive stalled. Bates could only earn one first down on its next possession, but David Kurey's punt pinned Bowdoin at its own 1-yard line, and another Bowdoin three-and-out resulted in Bates getting the ball back at the Bowdoin 38. Seven plays later, George plunged in from the 1 for a 12-2 lead. Bates set up for a two-point conversion, but Smith was tackled before he could get a pass off.
Bowdoin's offensive struggles got worse, as Caputi was intercepted by Kukesh near midfield on 3rd and 8, and Kukesh's 21-yard return set up Bates' offense in enviable field position for a second straight time, at the 26, with 1:21 left in the half. The Bobcats needed only four plays to reach the end zone, as George scored from the 3 to make it 18-2 with 47 seconds left in the half, following another failed two-point pass attempt. Caputi was picked off again, by Brown, on Bowdoin's first play from scrimmage, giving Bates the ball back at the Bowdoin 44 with 32 seconds left. On the last play of the half, Smith's pass into the end zone was caught by Bowdoin's Greg Pierce for a touchback, and the teams headed to the locker rooms with Bates up 18-2.
Needing a jolt to start the second half, Bowdoin's offense instead stalled again. McAllister forced a fumble by Caputi that the quarterback was able to recover, but the play forced the Polar Bears to punt the ball away on their first drive of the half, though Breton pinned the Bobcats at the Bates 3. Bates moved the ball up to its own 45 before Kurey punted the ball back, and Bowdoin took over at its own 33. The Polar Bears' nightmares quickly resumed, however, as Caputi was picked off by Taft on the first play of the drive, and Taft's return set up the Bobcats at the Bowdoin 32. The Bobcats drove as far as the Bowdoin 11, but a fumbled exchange on 4th and 1 was recovered by Ian Vieira at the 17.
The Polar Bears were forced into a three-and-out before the third quarter ended, but they put together their only extended offensive possession when they got the ball back with 13:29 left in the fourth quarter. They started at their own 26 and moved the ball to the Bates 14 on 12 plays, but on 4th and 1, Donnarumma was brought down by Helm on a sweep, three yards behind the line of scrimmage. Bowdoin got a big defensive play of its own, as Dan Evans forced a fumble by Smith that was recovered by Joey Cleary at the Bates 35 with 8:09 left in the game, but Caputi was intercepted three plays later by Starr, who returned the ball to midfield. Bates drove to the Bowdoin 6 as the clock wound down, but the Bobcats turned the ball over on downs from there. Bowdoin returned the favor three plays later, giving Bates the ball back at the Bowdoin 15 with 2:19 to go, and five plays later George scored from the 2.
Bates plays at Hamilton next week at 12 p.m. in the season finale. The game can be followed via Live Stats (http://www.nescac.com/links/5myntf) and Video Webcast (http://www.nescac.com/links/hjp1jh).
Link to Complete Stats and Play by Play