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Week 3 Football Preview: Wesleyan vs. Bates

Photo by Steve McLaughlin
Photo by Steve McLaughlin

Saturday's matchup between Wesleyan and Bates marks the 38th meeting between the two NESCAC schools since 1923. It's been a lopsided series with the Cardinals owning a 33-4 edge all-time while having won 13-straight. The Bobcats last win over Wesleyan was an overtime victory in 2005.

The Cardinals are just one of three teams in the NESCAC to remain unbeaten as they enter Week 3 with a 2-0 record, having defeated Colby (30-10) and Hamilton (28-10), respectively. Bates is looking for its first win as it lost to Amherst in the season-opener, 27-13, and was shut out against Middlebury last weekend, 28-0.

The last time these teams met, on October 13, 2018, Wesleyan cruised to a 44-13 victory on the road. The Cardinals only led 14-6 at halftime but pulled away in the third quarter by outscoring the Bobcats 23-0 en route to the decisive victory. Wesleyan held a 429-to-157 advantage in total offense and only allowed 10 first downs. The visitors threw for 185 yards and rushed for 244 while stuffing Bates to 78 yards passing and 79 rushing.

Wesleyan enters Saturday's game ranked second in the league in both scoring (29 points/game) and rushing (193.5 yards/game), and ranks sixth in passing (195 yards/game). Sophomore QB Ashton Scott has been excellent in his first two career starts and currently ranks tied for first in the NESCAC in passing touchdowns (6) and fourth in rushing (79 yards/game). Through two games, he is 28-of-46 for 387 yards passing, six touchdowns, and one interception while leading the team in rushing with 34 carries for 158 yards. His favorite target has been WR Matthew Simco who leads the team with seven receptions for 123 yards and one TD. WR Delando Clarke and WR Connor Gregoire each have two receiving touchdowns to lead the squad. Dual-threat sophomore David Estevez is second on the team in rushing with 110 yards on 20 carries and leads the team in all-purpose yards, averaging 99 per game.

Defensively, Wesleyan is leading the league in sacks (6) and interceptions (6), and is the only team thus far to score a defensive touchdown (1). The Cardinals rank second in scoring defense, allowing just 10 points per game, and rank sixth in total defense, surrendering 357 yards per contest. They have allowed 209 yards per game through the air and 148 per game on the ground. LB Chase Pratt leads the team in tackles and ranks fourth in the conference with 18 (11 solo, seven assisted), while DL Nick Livingston sits third in sacks with 2.5 and DB Ben Thaw is tied for the league-lead in interceptions (2). Freshman DL Nick Helbig has made an immediate impact in the front-seven for Wesleyan and has 10 tackles through two games with 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble. His classmate, kicker Mason Von Jess, is also off to an excellent start to his career as he was named the NESCAC Special Teams Player of the Week for Week 1 after going 3-for-3 on field goals and 3-for-3 on extra points.

Bates has had a difficult schedule to start the season as its opponents, including Wesleyan, are a combined 6-0. After getting shut out last weekend, the Bobcats' offense is currently last in the league in scoring with an average of 6.5 points per game. They are averaging 264.5 yards per game of offense on 140.5 yards passing and 124 yards rushing. QB Brendan Costa has seen the majority of action behind center and has completed 29-of-52 passes for 223 yards, one TD, and one INT. He has also rushed 17 times for 35 yards and a score. RB Tyler Bridge and RB Liam Spillane lead the team in rushing with 85 yards each, averaging 5.7 and 5.3 yards per carry, respectively. The receiving corps is led by WR Christian Olivieri who has team-highs of eight catches and 97 yards.

On the other side of the ball, Bates' defense has allowed 27.5 points per game on 430.5 yards of offense. The Bobcats have allowed 264 yards per game through the air and 166.5 per game on the ground. They are currently second in the league in interceptions behind Wesleyan with three, and are tied for third in fumble recoveries with two, but they are still looking for their first sack of the season. Individually, DB Connor Hunt leads the team in tackles with 15 (12 solo, three assisted), followed by LB Tony Hooks with 14 and LB Mike Bulman with 11. DB Jose Calleja leads the team and is tied for the league-lead with two interceptions while DB Owen Straley has one as well. Bates is looking for its first win since November 4, 2017, when it defeated Bowdoin at home, 24-17. The Bobcats are 0-12 since then.