The football team opened its season with a gritty road performance at Bates, bringing home a win to right the ship after losing the last game of the 2010 season to Williams.
While Amherst has a recent history of dominating the Bobcats, this game was competitive from the outset.
Outside linebacker Mike Aldo ’13 sparked the Jeffs by blocking a Bates punt early in the first quarter, which gave Amherst great field position on the Bobcats’ 35-yard line and eventually led to a one-yard touchdown run from Eric Bunker ’12. Bunker was a force for the Jeffs throughout the game, and finished with 106 total yards rushing on 20 carries to go along with his opening touchdown.
After a stretch of solid defense from both squads, however, Bates responded late in the second quarter with a touchdown of their own to level the score at seven apiece.
At that point, it seemed as if Bates had the upper hand and the momentum, but one play changed everything just before the halftime whistle sounded.
On the final play before the half, with the score still knotted at seven, the Bobcats held possession at the Amherst 25-yard line and decided to run a passing play in an attempt to score a touchdown going into the locker room. This proved to be a catastrophic mistake, as Aldo sacked Bates quarterback Trevor Smith from the blind side and managed to strip the ball away.
As the home fans in Maine looked on in disbelief, Kevin Ferber ’12 picked up the fumble and ran it 62 yards along the sideline for a touchdown with the clock reading nothing but zeroes. The huge turn of events gave Amherst a 14-7 lead at the half despite Bates holding the advantage in first downs, total offense and time of possession by significant margins.
Likely disheartened by Ferber’s touchdown, Bates lacked the edge they had shown in the first half when they came out for the third quarter.
The Jeffs simply wore the Bobcats’ defense down with their running game, handing the ball off 33 times for a total of 150 yards on the ground in the second half. Bates, on the other hand, was stymied by the Amherst defense, which forced three turnovers and five punts from the Bobcat offense. In fact, Bates gained a mere five rushing yards in the second half.
Matt Rawson ’12 tacked on a field goal in both the third and fourth quarters to extend the Jeffs’ lead to 20-7, and the score remained that way until the game ended.
The dominating Amherst defense, led by Aldo, played a huge role in the victory. Aldo himself recorded three of Amherst’s six total sacks, blocked the opening punt and also forced two fumbles, one of which turned the game around completely. In addition to his defensive touchdown, Ferber got to the quarterback for a sack as well.
On the other side of the ball, the Amherst offensive line held their own and did not allow a sack. The strong line play allowed the Jeffs to run for 209 yards on 47 carries, which helped quarterback Blake Grauer ’12 overcome three interceptions to win his first collegiate start.
The Jeffs now hold a 22-4-2 all time edge over Bates, and will look to build on their victory when they host Bowdoin at Pratt Field on Saturday afternoon.