Junior Justin Sanchez intercepted a pass with 1:21 remaining in the fourth quarter, to cap the Wesleyan University football team's 24-16 NESACAC victory on Sat. Oct. 17 over the visiting Bates College Bobcats. Bates recovered an onside kick with 1:47 left in fourth quarter, but the Wesleyan defense held their ground en route to their third win in a row. The Cardinals now sit at 3-1, while the Bobcats drop to 0-4.
Bates took their opening drive of the game into the end zone in just 1:13 to take a 6-0 lead. Mickoy Nichol ran an option play for 20 yards on the first play from scrimmage. Frank Williams then took a pitch right on the third play, for 41 yards for the score. Williams ran the ball four more times for 13 yards, finishing with 54 yards on the day. The Bobcats missed the extra point and the first quarter ended with Bates in the lead, 6-0.
On Wesleyan's first possession, sophomore quarterback Gernald Hawkins threw one of his two interceptions, on a 2nd-and-10 pass from the 50-yard line. Hawkins rebounded and finished with 228 yards and two touchdowns on 21-for-31 passing, with 25 yards rushing.
Wesleyan's defense would then stand tall and limit Bates' offense to nine first downs and 115 yards in the first half. The Cardinals' defense forced three straight punts before a Mark Piccirillo interception by Bates' Trevor Lyons was returned 24 yards to the Wesleyan 17-yard line. With 4:36 on the clock, Wesleyan's defense forced two incomplete passes and allowed a one-yard run, forcing Bates to settle for a 33-yard field goal. Grant DeWald knocked it in and gave the Bobcats a 9-7 advantage.
Piccirillo started the next drive with a nine-yard completion to Mike Brueler. Hawkins would then re-enter and complete a 20-yard pass to Evan Hull on a 3rd-and-10 to advance to the Bates 45-yard line. Hawkins then hit Jaylen Berry on a pass that got Wesleyan to the Bates seven-yard line, but an illegal block put the ball back at the Bates 25, a net gain of 18. Two plays later, Hawkins connected with Brueler again for a nine-yard touchdown pass and Ike Fuchs' extra point gave Wesleyan a 14-9 lead at halftime.
Each team punted to start the second half. But on Wesleyan's second possession, which ate up 9:32 of the clock, Hawkins and Hull hooked up again for another 20-yard completion. The drive stalled and Ike Fuchs hit a 21-yard field goal to extend Wesleyan's lead to 17-9 with 5:14 left in the third quarter.
On Bates' next drive, quarterback Patrick Dugan threw a 49-yard completion to Williams. The Wesleyan defense made another play and forced a Dugan fumble. Linebacker John Vassar recovered the ball on the Cardinals' 11-yard line.
Wesleyan would then drive 78 yards on 10 plays in 3:48, scoring a touchdown to make the score 24-9. Hawkins threw a screen pass to Lou Stevens, and the junior tailback did the rest on his way to a 37-yard trip to pay-dirt.
The Cardinals held a 24-9 lead with 14:18 left in the final quarter. Bates then went for it on 4th-and-1 and were stuffed for no gain on a Dugan QB sneak. Shayne Kaminski and Alex Daversa-Russo combined to stop the attempt. Kaminski finished with eight tackles and Daversa-Russo had three. Shane Donovan also had a sack on the drive for one of the three sacks by the Cardinals in the game.
The Bobcats then forced a Cardinal punt and failed again on a fourth down attempt at 4:54 in the fourth. Dugan's pass was broken up by Wesleyan's Zac Cuzner. Cuzner had two pass breakups on the afternoon. But on Wesleyan's next possession, the Cardinals elected to attempt a pass on 2nd-and-3, and Hawkins' pass was intercepted by Brandon Williams. Williams intercepted Hawkins twice to go along with 11 tackles.
With 1:50 left in the game, Bates got within one score on a five-yard touchdown pass from Dugan to Lani Eversage on 4th-and-goal. After the score, the Bobcats secured an onside kick and were threatening deep in the Cardinals zone. But Sanchez's interception iced the game and the Cardinals earned their third win.
Wesleyan almost doubled the visitors in time of possession, 39:14 to 20:46. The Cardinals finished with 24 first downs to the Bobcats 14. The home team put up 447 total yards on offense, with 252 coming through the air and 195 on the ground. The Bobcats finished with 308 total yards on offense, 204 passing, and 104 rushing.
Wesleyan wide receiver Brueler finished with nine catches for 65 yards and a touchdown. Stevens rushed for 118 yards on just 12 carries. Hull pulled in four catches, Neil O'Conner, Devon Carrillo and Dan Laorenza each had two catches. All in all, the Cardinals had nine different players catch at least one pass.
Dugan went 14-for-30 with an interception, while throwing for 204 yards and a touchdown. Mark Riley led the Bobcats with six catches. Eversage chipped in three catches and a Touchdown. Ivan Reese rushed 13 times for 33 yards and a touchdown.
Wesleyan is now 30-4 against Bates all-time, and have won 10 in a row. The Cardinals' next NESCAC game is Saturday Oct. 24 when they take on Little Three rival Amherst at 1:00 PM in Amherst, Mass. The Bobcats host Middlebury on that same day.