Hamilton edged by Colby

Published Oct 24, 2018 at 4:00pm

Colby College’s Walter Thilley booted a 34-yard field goal with 13.3 seconds left in the fourth quarter and lifted the Mules to a 23-21 NESCAC win against the Hamilton College Continentals at Colby’s Harold Alfond Stadium on Oct. 20.

Thilley kicked three field goals as the Mules (1-5 NESCAC) won their first game this year.

Colby finished with 24 first downs, was 8 of 15 on third down efficiency, and held the ball for more than 36 minutes.

Hamilton (2-4) was aiming to build on last Saturday’s 62-27 win against Bowdoin College and even its record at .500 with a victory against the previously winless Mules. The Continentals return home to face Williams College at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 27. The game will be part of Fallcoming and Family Weekend on the Hamilton campus.

Sam Bowen ed a Continentals’ defense that recorded five sacks, forced a fumble and recovered a fumble. Bowen gave Hamilton an early lead on a 40-yard interception return for his first collegiate touchdown with 6:24 left in the first quarter. Bowen’s interception, which came just three plays after Sam Thoreen had his 39-yard field goal attempt blocked, was his third in two games and the fifth of his career.

Cole Burchill tied a season high with 11 tackles including a sack for the Continentals. Sean Tolton, Luca Katz, Jeff Martinez and Owen Burke had the other sacks and Burke forced a fumble.

Hamilton racked up 155 yards rushing on 27 attempts and picked up eight of its 15 first downs via the rush. David Kagan led the way with 54 yards and Joe Park chipped in 50. Kenny Gray was 12 of 29 passing for 125 yards with one touchdown and added 50 yards on the ground. Joe Schmidt, who is second in the conference in receptions per game, finished with five catches for 36 yards. Sam Robinson averaged 50 yards on four kickoff returns and brought one back 84 yards.

Matt Hersch completed 27 of 38 passes for 288 yards with a touchdown and an interception for Colby. Don Vivian paced the defense with seven tackles.

After Bowen’s pick six, the Mules marched down the field in 10 plays and pulled even after Hersch found Bernie Sander for a 16-yard touchdown with 1:54 remaining in the first quarter. Robinson returned the ensuing kickoff 75 yards to the Colby 24 but the Continentals were flagged for holding and they eventually were forced to punt.

The Mules took their first lead late in the second quarter. Colby forced and recovered a fumble at the Hamilton 45 with 4:55 to go in the half. The drive ended with a 36-yard field goal by Thilley that put the Mules on top 10-7 with 2:44 left.

Robinson returned the second half’s opening kickoff 84 yards to the Colby 8. Two plays later, Gray completed an 8-yard touchdown pass to Billy Wagner, and the Continentals were back on top 61 seconds into the third quarter. The touchdown catch was Wagner’s first at Hamilton.

The Mules regained the lead on their next possession. Jake Schwern capped the eight-play, 66-yard drive on a 1-yard plunge with 9:24 remaining in the third.

On Colby’s next drive, Burke sacked Hersch and jarred the ball loose and the Continentals recovered at their own 41. Kagan ran for 14 yards and Gray found Christian Donahoe for 38 more down to the Mules 7-yard line. Two plays later Mitch Bierman scored from the 1 and gave Hamilton a 20-17 edge with 2:50 to go in the third. Thoreen added the extra point. Bierman has run for two touchdowns this year and eight for his career with the Continentals.

Thilley pulled Colby within a point at 21-20 on a 30-yard field goal with 12:04 left in the fourth quarter after a 12-play drive that chewed up nearly six minutes.

Hamilton had two more chances to put the Mules away in the fourth. The Continentals lost a fumble deep in Colby territory with 8:40 remaining and on their next drive, a 41-yard pass to Donahoe down to the Mules 6 was wiped out by an offensive pass interference penalty. That drive ended with a punt that went out of bounds at the Colby 28 with 2:10 to go. Ten plays and 1:57 later, Thilley’s third field goal gave the Mules a two-point win.