Late touchdown drive spells Jumbos’ demise at Bates
Published: Monday, September 30, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 30, 2013 02:09
Tufts lost at Bates on Saturday. The streak extended to 25 games. A loss is a loss.
But this one felt different.
The Jumbos played better than they have in three years, and for much of the game, they were the better team.
Ultimately, the Bobcats drove 96 yards and scored the go-ahead touchdown with 42 seconds left to win, 20-16. With one more break, Tufts would have prevailed. There have not been many times since Sept. 25, 2010 when you could say that.
“I think we definitely took a step in the right direction,” fifth-year tight end Nick Kenyon said. “There are no moral victories, but I think you could take a lot away.”
Junior Jack Doll broke a school record for completions in his third career start, converting 46 of 67 passes for 397 yards. In the third quarter, Tufts outscored Bates 10-0 to pull within one point, 14-13, as Doll led successive drives of 94 and 71 yards.
After struggling in the Jumbos’ 52-9 defeat at Wesleyan in Week 1, Doll proved Saturday that he’s the right man for the job. He hit Kenyon seven times for 97 yards, junior Greg Lanzillo seven times for 84 yards, sophomore Jack Cooleen nine times for 69 yards and freshman Mike Rando seven times for 37 yards.
Any questions about Doll’s ability to lead the offense were answered.
“He works tirelessly during the week,” head coach Jay Civetti said of his quarterback. “His energy, effort and focus are beyond expectation. It was great for him to get a little bit back.”
Doll, ever humble, credited his teammates.
“We have so many good receivers and so many guys that can catch the ball,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who it is; I have confidence that they’ll catch it and that they’ll be in the right spot.”
Meanwhile, Lanzillo and Cooleen each had the best performance of his career. Like Doll, they were quick to point out the depth of the Jumbos’ receiving corps — 11 different players caught a pass on Saturday — but Civetti suggested that those two guys in particular had a chip on their shoulder after a quiet performance at Wesleyan.
“They took that first game personally,” Civetti said. “We don’t really talk about the past, but I told them it was okay if they kept a couple things in their back pocket. I think that was evident.”
It was a tale of two offensive styles at Garcelon Field on Saturday: While Tufts’ no-huddle attack approached 400 yards passing and rushed for just 80, Bates’ triple option rushed for 317 yards and threw for 96.
On the opening drive of the fourth quarter, with the Bobcats leading 14-13, the Jumbos marched from their own 33 into Bates territory. After Kenyon made a nine-yard catch, Bates sophomore Tucker Oniskey pried the ball loose; it bounced 15 yards forward to the 18-yard line, where Kenyon eventually fell on it.
Three plays later, freshman Jackson Bockhorst nailed a 27-yard field goal — his third of the day — to give Tufts a 16-14 lead.
Bates responded by moving into Tufts territory, but the Jumbos earned a stop to set up a 37-yard field goal try. Senior Charlie Donahue had hit his last 11 attempts, but this one was tipped and came up short.
On the ensuing possession Tufts was forced to punt, and freshman Willie Holmquist hit a beauty to pin the Bobcats back at their own 4-yard line. Down by two, Bates had 6:25 to score.
To that point, Bates’ longest drive had been 48 yards. But the heavily favored Bobcats executed when it mattered most.
On 3rd-and-6 from the Bates 30, sophomore Patrick Dugan hit senior Kevin Davis in stride along the left sideline, inside the Tufts 40. Then, on 4th-and-2, senior Ryan Curit broke a couple of tackles to pick up a first down. And on 3rd-and-2 from the Tufts 3-yard line, with 1:17 remaining, Curit barreled up the middle to reach the marker. Two plays later, freshman Ivan Reese scored the game-winner.
“I thought we were a better team yesterday,” Civetti said. “But the better team should be the team that won — and [Bates] finished, and we didn’t.”
Remarkably, Rando broke loose on the subsequent kickoff return, reaching the Bates 41 with half a minute left. At the 11.2-second mark, Doll found Kenyon at the 25-yard line and Tufts called its final timeout. But Doll was unable to hit Cooleen in the end zone, and then, as time expired, his completion to junior Zack Trause came up 10 yards shy.
It was a well played, entertaining game that went down to the wire, and in the process the Jumbos displayed their identity on offense while benefitting from months of preparation on defense.
“For the first time here in a long time, knowing what it was like to be ahead and to be in a position to win a football game legitimately was there,” Civetti said. “It was different than [the overtime loss against] Colby last year. [We] legitimately earned the opportunity to win the game.”
Coming away empty-handed stung for the Jumbos, and the five players interviewed all agreed that moral victories are nothing to strive for. Still, Tufts came awfully close to shocking the NESCAC world.
Next week, if they continue to move forward in their home opener against 0-2 Bowdoin, the Jumbos may finally get the kind of win that counts for something.