Amherst Rallies Late for 13-12 Win Over Bowdoin

Senior Mike Taylor recorded 16 total tackles to lead an exceptional performance by the Amherst defense.

AMHERST, MA – The Amherst College football team’s defense came up huge during a 13-12 win over Bowdoin College Saturday afternoon on Pratt Field. The Lord Jeffs (2-0) move into a first-place tie with Trinity College in the NESCAC standings, while the Polar Bears fall to 1-1.

Bowdoin made seven trips inside the red zone but managed only four field goals, all on the foot of junior Bill Donahue, who tied a 38-year-old school record by splitting the uprights four times. Donahue connected from 29, 22, 23 and 19 yards during a perfect 4-for-4 performance.

Amherst got inside the red zone twice and found paydirt on each occasion, the first on a running play in the second quarter and the second on a passing touchdown with only 2:43 to play in regulation.

The Polar Bears held possession for 36 minutes and 40 seconds, including 10:51 in the first quarter and 10:59 in the third. Bowdoin held a 75-72 edge in rushing yards and a 392-240 advantage through the air, as the visitors commanded the stat sheet but fell victim to several timely plays by the Lord Jeff defense.

The game-winning drive began on Amherst’s 36-yard line with only 4:57 to play and the hosts trailing 12-6. Junior quad-captain Alex Vetras (Clyde Hill, WA) used three different receivers to complete five consecutive passes, including a 20-yard strike to classmate Sean Legister (Ossining, NY) to put his team on Bowdoin’s 32-yard line. The Jeffs threw a running play into the mix when Femi Oyalowo (Bowie, MD) picked up two yards for a first down, but they went right back to Vetras for a five-yard touchdown connection with senior Brandon Bullock (West Orange, NJ) to tie things up at 12-12. The extra point by sophomore Matt Rawson (Bethesda, MD) was good, as the visitors were left with only 2:47 to make a comeback.

Bowdoin’s comeback attempt would end abruptly as senior quarterback Oliver Kell was picked off by Amherst’s Fred Argir (Lakeville, MN) on the first play of the ensuing drive. Argir’s interception was made at the Amherst 49 and returned to the Bowdoin 32. With the Polar Bears out of timeouts, the Jeffs were able to run significant time off the clock before senior Aaron Rauh (Hudson, OH) pounded the nail in the coffin by picking up a first down on 4th-and-5, which brought the game clock to 0:00.

Rauh put Amherst on the board early in the second quarter with a six-yard touchdown run, but the extra point attempt was blocked by Bowdoin to keep the score at 6-0. The Polar Bears marched to the Amherst 11 on the ensuing possession, but Nick Edwards (Greenwich, CT) picked off Kell in the endzone for a timely touchback.

Bowdoin stormed right back to the Amherst 4-yard line on its next possession but could manage only a field goal, Donahue’s first of the afternoon. Vetras was then intercepted by Chris Martin with less than two minutes to play in the half and the Polar Bears got back inside the Amherst 5-yard line, but Donahue was called on once again. His second field goal of the day tied the game at 6-6, which is where things stood at halftime.

Senior Brandon Bullock caught six passes for 62 yards and a touchdown against Bowdoin.

The Polar Bears began the second half with the ball but turned it over once again, as senior Fran Florio (Staten Island, NY) picked off Kell at the Amherst 34. Florio’s interception did no damage in the long run, however, as Kell came right back to lead his team on a 13-play, 56-yard scoring drive that resulted in a 23-yard field goal from Donahue with 4:15 to play in the third quarter.

After forcing Amherst to a three-and-out, the visitors went right back to work. After Pat Noone returned a punt to Amherst’s 44, a personal foul placed Bowdoin on the Jeffs’ 29. The third quarter ended with Kell rushing to the 1-yard line to set up 3rd-and-goal, but the Jeffs opened the final quarter with a pair of big stops to prevent the Polar Bears from scoring.

Once again the Jeffs could not take advantage of a big defensive stop, and Kell led his team to another scoring drive. On Bowdoin’s next possession, Kell completed three passes and ran the ball four times to bring the visitors to the 2-yard line, setting up Donahue’s final field goal of the day, a 19-yarder that gave the Polar Bears a 12-6 lead with 8:32 to play. The visitors couldn’t hang on, though, as Rauh’s late touchdown handed the lead back to the Jeffs.

Vetras completed 17 of 33 passes for 168 yards and a touchdown, while Kell was 25-of-42 for 317 yards. Kell was also his team’s leading rusher, carrying the ball 26 times for 58 yards. Oyalowo and Rauh each had 11 carries for Amherst and combined for 70 yards.

Bullock had 62 receiving yards to go along with his touchdown, with Legister adding 50 yards of his own. Noone caught 11 balls for 124 yards to lead the Polar Bears, with Jon Gren and Justin Starr adding 77 and 58 yards, respectively.

Amherst’s defense shined throughout the day when it mattered most, but it was senior Mike Taylor (Evanston, IL) who stood out with 16 total tackles, including three tackles for loss and a sack for eight yards. Argir had 11 total tackles to go with his interception, while junior Brandon Quinn (Atlanta, GA) recorded 10 tackles. Edwards had five tackles, forced and recovered a fumble and had an interception in a solid all-around effort.

Bowdoin’s defense was led by Tyler Tennant’s eight total tackles, with Bobby Welch, Matt Leotti and Laurence Duggan each recording seven takedowns. Duggan recorded the Polar Bears’ lone sack for a loss of seven yards. Martin had six tackles to go along with his interception.

Amherst will host Middlebury Saturday, Oct. 10 at 1:30 p.m., while Bowdoin will travel to take on Tufts for a 1 p.m. start. The Jeffs increased their winning streak against the Polar Bears to four games and now lead the all-time series 68-17-2.