Defense sparks football’s win

Just under six minutes into the game, football (2-1) was staring at the prospect of a very long bus ride back from Maine. Bates received the opening kickoff and proceeded to drive 67 yards downfield to punch in the game’s first touchdown. Stirred but not shaken, the Ephs rallied convincingly, scoring 27 unanswered points en route to a 27-14 victory.

“We had talked all week about trying to come out and start the game on a positive note,” Head Coach Mike Whalen said. “You have to give Bates credit, it was their first home game of the season (on Parents’ Weekend) and their players came out and played with a lot of emotion to start the game.”

In a role reversal from the previous two weeks, which saw a nearly impenetrable Eph defense buttress an occasionally shaky offense, Williams used a strong attack to retake the momentum.

On its first drive of the game, Williams entered Bates territory. With the ball on the Bobcats’ 33, co-captain Brian Morrissey ’09 broke a 23-yard run to bring the Ephs within striking distance. The next two runs were stuffed by the Bates defensive front, bringing up third and goal from the ten. But Elijah Weeks ’09 found space on his second carry of the game and took the ball in for the Ephs’ first score.

Weeks finished with 20 yards on seven carries, while Morrissey chalked up 107 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.

The Williams defense that retook the field was nonplused by Bates’ successful opening drive. “We were not concerned,” co-captain Trevor Powers ’09 said. “We just had to regroup on the sidelines and make sure the defense didn’t lose confidence. We had a great game plan and [Assistant] Coach [George] McCormick had us prepared to play, we just didn’t execute on the first drive.”

Nevertheless, the Bobcats rolled down into Eph territory on their second drive. But they were halted when Tim Batty ’09 intercepted Bates quarterback Ryan Katon. Batty had two of Williams’ three interceptions on the day as well as five solo tackles.

“The secondary did a great job getting interceptions to give our offense the ball,” Powers said. “We played man coverage that allowed our corners to really show how good they were, and Batty had a great game.”

The game remained tied at seven for much of the second quarter, until another Bates mishap put Williams in position to take the lead. Punting from their own 49, the Bobcats were once again plagued by poor ball control and Batty, who blocked the punt. Charlie Birns ’09 recovered the loose ball at the Bates 24.

Regaining the ball, the Ephs could not use the field position to their advantage as a holding penalty forced Williams to attempt a long field goal, which fell off the mark.

Williams finally took the lead in the closing minutes of the first half. On third-and-10 on the Bates 46, Morrissey took a Pat Moffitt ’11 pass for a gain of 11 yards and a first down. On the very next play, Moffitt hit Powell on a 35-yard touchdown pass to give the Ephs the lead for good. Powell led all receivers with seven receptions for 90 yards. Moffitt finished the day with one touchdown pass, one touchdown run and 196 yards (14-for-23).

Williams missed the point-after and carried a 13-7 lead into the break.

The Ephs came out of the locker room looking much crisper than they did in the first half, outgaining the Bobcats 65 yards to negative four yards in the third quarter.

Another bungled Bates punt at the 10 minute mark set up Williams for another potential score – only to result instead in another missed field goal.
But Williams made good with the help of more pressure defense, as Katon fumbled the ball on his own 23. Tim Kiely ’11 came up with the recovery, putting the Ephs once again in striking range. This time the Ephs punched it in, off a one-yard Moffitt sneak. With the extra point under their belts, Williams managed to move up to 20-7 on the scoreboard.
Williams effectively put the nail in the Bates coffin just minutes into fourth quarter play. After an 18-yard completion to Powell, Morrissey carried the ball three consecutive times, finding the end zone on a 25-yard run to put his team on top 27-7.

With under four minutes remaining, Bates put together a scoring drive for some dignity. But the Ephs ran out the remaining time to head home with a 27-14 victory. Bates fell to 0-3 with the loss.

“Each week about 20 percent of college football games are won by the underdog,” Whalen said. “The main reason is that the favorite didn’t respect their opponent. We had not played well the last three years in Maine, so it was important for us to have a strong performance.”

“I think the team as a whole is getting better every week,” Morrissey said. “It’s never easy playing in Maine and we’ve struggled in the past, so it was a nice effort all around. On offense, we executed better than the past few weeks, but we still have a lot more work to do.”

On defense, linebackers Dan Johnson ’11 and Powers led the squad with eight tackles apiece. In addition to Batty’s two interceptions, Pat Barren ’11 notched one pick as well.
Williams will return home this Saturday to face defending NESCAC champion Middlebury. During last season, football hung the only loss on Middlebury’s record, but this year, the Panthers (2-1) are coming off a 31-14 victory over the previously undefeated Amherst squad.