The football team is officially on a roll. The Cardinals won their third straight game with a 24-16 victory over Bates College at home, bringing the season record to 3-1. Using a balanced offensive game along with solid defense, Wesleyan grabbed a score of 14-9 at the end of the first half and never looked back.
Lou Stevens ’17 broke out against Bates, rushing for 118 yards on 12 carries, and adding 49 yards and a touchdown on two receptions. The loss dropped Bates to 0-4 on the season.
“The offensive line gave me some great opportunities and we were able to execute and it was really a full team effort and a great win,” Stevens said.
Like last week, Wesleyan surrendered a score on its opponent’s first drive, although this time it was a touchdown. Two big rushes of 20 and 41 yards set up a short three yard run into the endzone by Ivan Reese ’17. The Bobcats’ kicker went on to miss the extra point, but they were up 6-0 after less than two minutes. Wesleyan squandered its chance to regain some momentum when Gernald Hawkins ’18 threw his first of two interceptions at the 50-yard line on the Cardinals’ first possession. Neither team would score again in the opening quarter.
However, the Cardinals hit right back to start the second quarter. Hawkins was picked off again on the sixth play of the quarter, but it was negated by a Bates roughing the passer in a crucial sequence that gave the momentum back to Wesleyan with a first down at the Bates 16-yard line. A couple of rushes from Jaylen Berry ’18 and an offsides penalty against Bates set up a first and goal at the Bates four-yard line. Devon Carrillo ’17 took the snap directly and found Dan Laorenza ’16 on a quick throw, putting the Cards up 7-6.
“The offense is starting to become more cohesive and things are starting to flow,” Michael Brueler ’18 said. “I… believe that the rest of the receivers including myself feel that the chemistry with the QB is becoming evident.”
On its next drive, Wesleyan was again picked off, this time on a throw by Mark Piccirillo ’19. Bates’s defensive back Trevor Lyons returned the interception to 24 years, deep into Wesleyan territory. However, the Cards defense held Bates to a field goal, forcing two incompletions and stuffing a run play near the line of scrimmage. Nevertheless, the Bobcats took a 9-7 lead on the 33-yard field goal.
Wesleyan answered back on its next drive. Facing a third and 10, Hawkins kept the drive alive with a 20-yard pass to Evan Hull ’19, bringing the ball to Bates’ 45-yard line. Hawkins followed that up with a pass to Berry, who ran it down to the Bates seven-yard line, though a block in the back penalty against Wesleyan moved the ball back to the 17. Berry then rushed for eight yards and the first down to set up a first and goal at the Bates nine-yard line. Hawkins then found Brueler on the right side of the endzone for the touchdown, the score was the first of Brueler’s Wesleyan career. He finished with nine catches for 65 yards and a touchdown. The score put Wesleyan back on top, 14-9.
“I think the play was executed exactly like the dozens of times we practiced it during the week,” Brueler said. “As for me putting up some points, I was excited, but even more so that I was able put six on the scoreboard for my team.”
On their second drive of the third quarter, the Cardinals put up another three points on an Ike Fuchs ’17 field goal. With good field position to start the drive, thanks to the defense, Hawkins hit Hull with another 20-yard pass following a 12-yard scramble to set up a first and ten near the red zone. After another first down, courtesy of an 8-yard run by Brueler, the offense stalled out, making it to the four-yard line before settling for the field goal to make it 17-9.
The Bobcats’ ensuing drive was nearly disastrous for the Cardinals. Quarterback Patrick Dugan ’16 slung a pass deep down the left sideline, hitting Frank Williams ’18 in full stride. It looked like Williams might outrun Wesleyan’s secondary, but Rob Manning ’16 dove for Williams’ feet. After a couple off-balance steps it appeared that Williams might stay upright, but Williams fell to the ground after 49 yards at the Wesleyan 11-yard line. The shoestring tackle turned out to be crucial for the Cards, as on the next play Dugan scrambled and fumbled, and Cardinal John Vassar ’16 came up with the ball in a huge momentum swing.
The fumble recovery eventually turned into a touchdown for the Cardinals, who marched down the field on a drive that heavily featured Stevens. After its third holding penalty of the drive, Wesleyan faced a second and 20 on the Bates 37. However, Hawkins hit Stevens on a screen pass, and Stevens scampered all the way into the endzone for Wesleyan’s third touchdown of the day. Hawkins would finish the day with 228 yards and two touchdowns on 21-31 passing, and added 25 rushing yards.
Wesleyan’s defense held stout from there, forcing two straight turnovers on downs by the Bobcats. However, with 3:28 remaining, Hawkins threw his second pick of the game, which Bates turned into a touchdown to narrow the deficit to eight. Bates would then recover the onside kick and made it to the Wesleyan 30, but the Cardinals’ defense refused to panic, as Justin Sanchez ’17 picked off Dugan’s pass with 1:21 remaining to put any hopes of a Bates comeback to bed.
After the solid victory, Stevens had only praise for his coach and team.
“I think we have a great team who stick together through adversity largely because we’re led by a great coach in coach DiCenzo and I think we will have a lot of success going forward,” he said.