With a couple breaks here and there, Wesleyan football could have come out ahead of Amherst on Homecoming Weekend and faced the Bowdoin Polar Bears with an undefeated record intact. While a 4-1 record is nothing to slouch at, the Bowdoin game last Saturday was a crucial chance to nip a late-season slide in the bud. It looked as though Wes was stuck in a funk early on, with the team falling behind 14-0 about midway through the first quarter, but the Cardinals fought back with a series of huge gains and stifling defense. Three and a half quarters and 34 points later, the Cardinals marched off Andrus Field with a resounding 34-14 victory.
Bowdoin seemed unstoppable from the onset as the team forced two quick Wes punts before embarking on a couple of long touchdown drives. The Polar Bears worked their way 82 yards down the field over 14 plays and took 5:39 off the clock as they put up their first score of the day. Minutes later, a 62-yard pass from Thomas Romero to Matt Perlow set Bowdoin up in the red zone yet again. Two plays later, it was 14-0, with Bowdoin rolling on both sides of the ball and Wes searching for answers.
Looking to respond, Jesse Warren ’15 hit Kevin Hughes ’14 for a 39-yard completion to take Wes to the Bowdoin 29-yard line, but Sebastian Aguirre ’14 faced a long field goal try when the drive stalled at the 22. However, coach Mike Whalen was not going to let Bowdoin run away with this game. As Aguirre and the field goal team lined up for the try, holder Jon Lis ’13 faked the defense with a pass to Hughes. Twenty-two yards later, the trickeration paid off, with Hughes standing in the end zone and Wes cutting Bowdoin’s lead in half.
That gutsy call got the Cardinals fired up, and the momentum shifted abruptly in Wesleyan’s favor. On the Polar Bears’ next drive, Jake Bussani ’14 picked off Romero for the first of five interceptions on the day for Wes. Bussani and Donnie Cimino ’15 came up with two turnovers apiece for the Cardinals defense, and Mike Conrad ’13 added the final pick as Wes harried Romero throughout the final three quarters. Credit goes to the entire defense for forcing Bowdoin into making mistakes. The defensive line made its impact in the backfield, with Nik Powers ’15 recording a couple of sacks and Jordan Otis ’14 getting to Romero once. Meanwhile, the Polar Bear rushing attack was stymied after an effective first quarter and finished with just 2.67 yards per carry on the day.
On the other hand, Wesleyan’s running game thrived the rest of the way and broke the game open with a number of long runs. Hampered with injuries for much of the season, LaDarius Drew ’15 came back at full strength Saturday, much to the chagrin of the Polar Bears. Drew gashed Bowdoin for 158 yards on 18 carries, including touchdowns of 21 and 70 yards. The 21-yarder put Wesleyan up for good to give the Cardinals a 17-14 lead just before halftime, while the 70-yarder was the lone play on Wesleyan’s first drive of the second half. It was not the only time Wes would score on a long run to start off a drive. With the game in hand and about five minutes left in the fourth, Te’Rhon O’Neal ’13 took the handoff and sprinted 83 yards for the score, which provided the 34-14 margin that turned a stressful start into an emphatic win.
Now at 5-1 for the year, Wesleyan is still in the hunt for the NESCAC crown with just two games remaining. The Cardinals go on the road next to face Williams on Saturday, Nov. 3 and look to continue their dominant season with a win over their Little Three rival.