Week 5 Preview: Wesleyan (3-1) vs. Bates (0-4)

Photo by Steve McLaughlin
Photo by Steve McLaughlin

Wesleyan and Bates meet Saturday for the 36th time in the series history, which dates back to 1923. The Cardinals hold a commanding 31-4 record against the Bobcats and have won 11 straight, including a 28-7 victory a year ago. Bates (0-4) has not defeated Wesleyan (3-1) since 2005.

The Cardinals are riding a three-game win streak heading into this weekend's contest, and are coming off a rout against Colby last Saturday (Oct. 7) in which they scored 41 unanswered points to defeat the Mules, 41-7. It was a slow first half for Wesleyan as it trailed 7-0 after the first quarter and led 14-7 at the break. However, the Cardinals' offense went off in the final 30 minutes of action and finished the game with 559 total yards on 394 passing and 165 rushing. Additionally, they held the Mules to just 166 yards of offense with only 111 through the air and 55 on the ground.

Junior quarterback Mark Piccirillo and senior wide receiver Mike Breuler continue to put up monstrous numbers this season. Piccirillo went 21-26 for 324 yards and four touchdowns, and was also the leading rusher in the game with 77 yards on 14 attempts. He connected with Breuler often, as the senior WR snagged 10 catches for 200 yards and two touchdowns. It was his second 200-yard receiving game of the season.

Piccirillo currently leads the NESCAC in yards (1,278), yards per game (319.5), touchdowns (13), completions (108), and completion percentage (72.5%). He is also Wesleyan's leading rusher with 191 yards, averaging 47.8 per game. Breuler's senior season is off to an incredible start as he currently leads the country in receptions per game (11.5) and receiving yards per game (159.8). His 639 receiving yards are the 10th-best in Division III, while his six receiving touchdowns rank 22nd.

The Wesleyan defense remains one of the best in the country statistically as well, and currently ranks third in third-down conversions (23.9%), fourth in total defense (220.6 yards/game) and fourth in red zone defense (47.6%). The unit is led by junior linebacker Brandon Morris with a team-high 41 tackles (third-best in the NESCAC). He also has two sacks, two break-ups and a forced fumble this season. Senior co-captain Shayne Kaminski ranks second on the team with 31 tackles and is tied for third in the conference in sacks with three. He also has three break-ups and an interception, which sealed the win in overtime against Tufts. In the secondary, sophomore Ben Thaw has recorded a league-high three interceptions in his first year starting for the Cardinals.

Bates is coming off a 47-14 loss at Williams a week ago and has given up at least 37 points in all four games this fall. The Bobcats have had a difficult schedule to open the season, however, with their opponents a combined 13-3. They have losses to Amherst (41-17), Trinity (51-0), Tufts (37-17) and the Ephs, respectively.

The Bates offense has featured three different quarterbacks this season, with sophomore Matt Golden seeing action in all four games and freshman Brendan Costa and junior Sandy Plashkes each playing in three games. Costa has contributed the most with his arm, totaling 243 yards on 20 completions and one touchdown, however he's thrown five interceptions. In all, the trio has just 386 passing yards, one TD and seven INT's.

Golden and Costa have produced with their legs though and rank first and second on the team in rushing, respectively. Golden leads the team with 164 yards on the ground, averaging 4.6 yards/carry, while Costa has rushed 31 times for 154 yards and one score. He is averaging 51.3 yards/game and 5.0 yards/carry, both team-highs.

As a team, Bates' offense ranks eighth in the NESCAC in scoring (12.0 points/game) and ninth in total yards (240.3 yards/game). The passing game is last in the conference, averaging just 96.5 yards/game, while its rushing attack is fifth with 143.8 yards/game. Defensively, the Bobcats sit seventh in the league in yards allowed (446.8 yards/game) and 10th in scoring (44.0 points/game).

In last year's matchup, Wesleyan's stifling defense held Bates to just five first downs all game and only 132 yards of total offense. The Bobcats only managed 71 yards passing and 61 yards rushing, while the Cardinals amassed 367 total yards with 231 through the air and 136 on the ground. Piccirillo finished 15-21 for 168 yards and added 29 yards rushing, while Plashkes finished 8-15 for 71 yards and a touchdown. He also gained 22 yards on 13 carries. All four Wesleyan touchdowns were rushes, with Dario Highsmith '20 breaking out for a 26-yard score to get on the board first. Devon Carrillo '17 added two TD's and Lou Stevens '17 contributed another.

During Wesleyan's current 11-0 win streak against Bates, the Cardinals have outscored their NESCAC opponent by a combined 304-159.