LEWISTON, Maine -- The Bates football team rushed for 344 yards, including 170 by first-year quarterback Brendan Costa, to defeat Bowdoin for the seventh straight season 24-17 Saturday at Garcelon Field, in the 120th clash between the old Maine rivals. Following last week's victory at Colby, the Bobcats have captured the CBB (Colby-Bates-Bowdoin) title outright for a team-record fourth consecutive year.
Bates' senior class of players becomes the first in Bates' 123 seasons to defeat both Bowdoin and Colby in all four of their seasons with the Bobcats. No CBB team has won four titles in a row since Colby won five straight between 1988 and 1992.
Costa (Westport, Mass.) rushed 20 times for his 170 yards, his fourth straight game with 131 or more yards. Bates ran the ball all day, with Costa attempting only five passes and completing one. First-year slotback Jaason Lopez (Marblehead, Mass.) added 79 yards and a touchdown on six carries and senior captain Frank Williams (Brookline, Mass.) added 63 yards on eight carries. Bates averaged 6.7 yards per carry on the day.
On the defensive side of the ball, sophomore free safety Jon Lindgren(Plainville, Conn.) was all over the field for the Bobcats, finishing with 16 tackles (11 solo) and six pass breakups, the most by any Bobcat this season in either category. Lindgren also blocked a 40-yard field-goal attempt by Andrew Sisti on the opening series of the game. Senior linebacker Max Breschi (Carlisle, Pa.) also came up big on defense for Bates with 11 tackles, including 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble.
Noah Nelson completed 34 of 55 passes for 302 yards and two touchdowns for the Polar Bears. Nelson connected with Gregory Olson nine times for 98 yards and two touchdowns. Nick Vailas caught 11 passes for 74 yards and Bryan Porter added eight receptions for 87 yards. Bowdoin was held to a net of 31 yards rushing on 26 attempts, a total depressed by Bates' season-high five sacks.
Liam Dougherty led the Bowdoin defense with 11 tackles (six solo). Harrison Craig had five tackles, 1.5 sacks and a pass breakup.
Bowdoin possessed the ball for all but 14 seconds of the first quarter, but still was outscored 7-3. Fourteen seconds after Bowdoin put up the first score of the game, a 22-yard field goal by Sisti with 4:42 to go in the first, Costa (Westport, Mass.) put the hosts ahead for good with a 70-yard touchdown run -- his second 70-yarder this season, after a similar running score against Tufts on Sept. 30.
The play began a run of 17 unanswered points for Bates that carried into the third quarter. The Bobcats led 10-3 at the half despite running only 19 plays to Bowdoin's 44 and possessing the ball for only 8:20 out of 30 minutes of game time.
Bowdoin drove 84 yards from its own 6-yard line near the end of the first quarter to the Bates 10 early in the second, but the Polar Bears turned the ball over on downs as Robert Kollmer was stopped shy of the first-down marker on three straight plays, including a fourth-and-inches stop made by junior Tyler Harrington(Haverhill, Mass.) and senior Collin Richardson (Kensington, N.H.).
Neither team could sustain much offense for the rest of the first half, but Bates added three points to its lead on senior Grant DeWald's (Duxbury, Mass.) 22-yard field goal with 1:04 to go. Bates started that drive on the Bowdoin 45 and Costa ran 31 yards to the 14, his fourth run of 20-plus yards of the half, before the Bobcats settled for the kick.
Bates ran right down the field to open the second half, breaking off chunks of eight, eight, five and 10 yards. Lopez sprung loose for a 37-yard touchdown down the left side of the field, increasing Bates' lead to 17-3 just 1:13 into the new half.
Bowdoin responded two possessions later, taking over at the Bates 46 and driving 46 yards on six plays. Nelson's 21-yard scamper on a 3rd and 3 up the right sideline nearly earned the touchdown but the quarterback was pushed out at the 3 by Lindgren. Bowdoin backed up five yards on a false start penalty, but Nelson made a great play on first and goal from the 8, scrambling out of sophomore Conner Suraci's (North Haven, Conn.) grasp in the backfield and finding his big target in Olson crossing through the back of the end zone. Sisti's extra point closed Bowdoin to within 17-10.
Bowdoin's Michael Chen's 51-yard punt was downed at the Bates 27 to start the final series of the third quarter. The Bobcats overcame a muffed snap that cost them 12 yards with runs for 17 yards by senior Mickoy Nichol (Dennis Port, Mass.), 16 by Lopez, and 15 by Costa, and a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty brought Bates to the Bowdoin 21. Lopez picked up another 16-yard chunk before the end of the quarter, and junior Kyle Flaherty (Litchfield, Maine) took care of the final five yards on two plays, putting the hosts ahead 24-10 with 14:33 to go.
Bowdoin was forced into a three-and-out, but Chen's punt was mishandled by Lindgren and Bowdoin's Caelan Etti recovered the loose ball at the Bates 26-yard line. Nelson quickly connected with Olson again for a 26-yard score, closing the gap to 24-17 with 13:23 left.
Costa hit junior receiver Marcus Ross (Mansfield, Texas) over the middle on a play-action for a 23-yard gain to start Bates' next series, but that would be Bates' final first down for the series.
Junior Justin Foley's (Lynnfield, Mass.) punt was then muffed by Bowdoin returner Matthew Williams and Nichol recovered the fumble, gifting the Bobcat offense with field position at the Bowdoin 18. But Bowdoin's defense rose to the occasion, as Bates drove as far as the 4-yard line before being pushed back for back-to-back losses of two and four yards, on tackles made by Cameron Rondeau and Nat Deacon. Bates settled for a 27-yard field goal attempt by DeWald that missed wide left.
Fumbles marked the game's next two possessions as well. Nelson was strip-sacked by Breschi on 3rd and 5 to force a Bowdoin punt with 5:38 left in the game. After a 12-yard run by Lopez and a 23-yard gain by Frank Williams, Costa's pitch back to Lopez ended up on the ground, and Bowdoin's Francis Rose recovered the ball at the Bowdoin 37.
Needing a touchdown to tie the game or move ahead, Bowdoin went for it on 4th and 3 at the Bates 34, but Nelson's pass sailed over Porter's head, returning the ball to Bates. But consecutive penalties put the Bobcats in a 4th and 22, and the Polar Bears took over at the Bowdoin 43 with 2:00 left in the game.
From the 50, Nelson hit Vailas for 5 yards and a first down. Then a defensive holding call against Bates put the Polar Bears at the Bates 35. With time running out, Nelson tried a deep pass toward the end zone but first-year cornerback Devin Clyburn (New York, N.Y.) leaped high and came down with his first career interception, allowing Bates to end the game with two knees taken by Costa.
Bowdoin possessed the ball for over 36 minutes of game time and collected 21 first downs, five more than Bates. But the Polar Bears were held to one third-down conversion on 10 attempts, while Bates converted 10 of 21.
Costa pulled his rushing yards per game average up to 111.4 yards, only 0.6 behind conference leader Max Chipouras, the Trinity tailback. In five starts, Costa has rushed for 675 yards and passed for 640.
Bates' 344 rushing yards are the team's highest total since rushing for 358 against Hamilton on Nov. 10, 2012.
Bowdoin (0-8) will conclude the CBB series at home against Colby (0-8) next Saturday, while Bates (2-6) will wrap up the season on the road at Hamilton (2-6) after pulling into a tie with the Continentals for seventh place in the NESCAC.