Football rallies from 21 points down, defeats Hamilton 26-21

Sean Bryant caught three touchdown passes, including the game-winner, in the Bates football team's come-from-behind 26-21 victory over Hamilton on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. (File photo by Brewster Burns for Bates College)

CLINTON, N.Y. -- Sophomore Sean Bryant caught three touchdown passes and the Bates football team rallied from 21 points down to defeat the Hamilton College Continentals 26-21 Saturday afternoon, concluding the 2019 season in style.

Down 21-19 with 1:08 remaining in the game, Bates junior quarterback Brendan Costa (Westport, Mass.) scrambled to his left and threw across his body over the middle, finding a wide open Bryant (Falmouth, Maine) for the game-winning 25-yard touchdown reception. 

Bryant's touchdown was set up by a huge play on special teams. Holding on to a two-point lead, Hamilton (4-5) lined up to punt with 1:25 remaining in regulation. Senior Peter Daley (Wilmington, Mass.) broke through the line and forced the Continental punter to abort the attempt. Junior Liam Greene (Bedford, N.H.) cleaned up the play with a solid tackle, forcing a turnover on downs and giving Bates (2-7) the ball deep in Hamilton territory. One play later, Costa connected with Bryant and the Bates defense shut down Hamilton on the ensuing drive, clinching the win. 

Costa completed 16-30 passes for 191 yards and tossed a career-high four touchdown passes in the victory. He also carried the ball 17 times for a game-high 72 yards. Three of Bryant's five catches for a game-high 93 yards went for touchdowns. Junior Parker Smith (Claremont, N.H.) added three catches for 56 yards and a touchdown. 

The Continentals scored 21 unanswered points to start the game. Joe Park's 17-yard touchdown run with 9:21 left in the second quarter put Hamilton up 21-0. 

Appropriately, Bates' big comeback started near the end of the first half with a big play on special teams. Facing fourth and nine at midfield and leading by three touchdowns, the Continentals lined up to punt. But they tried to get creative and snapped the ball to the upback, who attempted to run for a first down. Junior Patrick Whelan (Melrose, Mass.) would have none of it, tackling David Kagan after a gain of three, giving Bates the ball back with 1:37 left in the half. 

On third and three from the Hamilton 47, Costa found Smith for a gain of 17. One play later, Costa ran the ball down to the Hamilton 15 and Bates called timeout with 23 seconds left in the second quarter.

The Bobcats tallied their first score of the afternoon out of the timeout. Costa faked a pitch to a motioning first-year Mohamed Diawara (Philadelphia, Pa.) and rolled to his right. The fake pitch fooled enough defenders for Costa to find Bryant down the seam for the touchdown, trimming the Hamilton lead to 21-6 after a failed two-point conversion.

Special teams came up with another game-changing play to start the third quarter. Sophomore Simon Redfern (Providence, R.I.) kicked off to Hamilton's Sam Robinson. Robinson ran to his left across the field but got caught from behind by sophomore Thomas Formus (Ridgefield, Conn.), who forced a fumble. Formus fell on the ball himself, giving Bates the ball at the Hamilton 20.

One play later, Costa rolled to his left and lofted a pass toward the near pylon where Bryant reeled it in for the 20-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion failed and Bates trailed 21-12 with 13:58 left in the third quarter.

Neither offense did much for the rest of the quarter and the game remained a defensive struggle deep into the fourth quarter. The Bobcats got the ball at their own 17 still down 21-12 after a Hamilton punt with 3:40 remaining in the game.  

On second and six from the Bates 21, Costa found Bryant for a gain of 25. One play later, Costa ran the ball four yards to midfield and a Hamilton personal foul penalty moved the ball to the Continental 35. 

And on the very next play, Costa showed off his passing ability again. After initially dropping back in the pocket, Costa scrambled forward to his left. Just before he crossed the line of scrimmage, Costa fired a deep pass down the near sideline, connecting with Smith for a 35-yard touchdown. 

Redfern's extra point split the uprights and Bates trailed 21-19 with 2:31 left in regulation.

Hamilton ran the ball three times for a total of 0 yards on its next drive. The Continentals lined up to punt and the fifth-year senior Daley combined with Greene to make the biggest play of the game for Bates.

The Bobcats tallied 312 yards of total offense to Hamilton's 251 in the win. Kenny Gray completed 16-30 passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns for Hamilton. Park ran the ball eight times for 55 yards and a touchdown. Robinson caught three passes for 39 yards and a touchdown. Christian Donahoe recorded three catches for 14 yards and a touchdown. 

In general, Gray did a great job punting for Hamilton. All five of his punts pinned Bates inside its own 20. It's the two times he lined up in punt formation but did not get the punt off that helped propel Bates to victory. 

Greene had a monster game on defense for Bates, sacking the quarterback three times. Senior captain Jon Lindgren (Plainville, Conn.), first-year Mohamed Coulibaly (Philadelphia, Pa.) and first-year Tony Hooks (New Rochelle, N.Y.) recorded six tackles each for Bates. Coulibaly also broke up a pass. Junior Connor Hunt (Duxbury, Mass.) added five tackles, including two tackles for loss. Daley recorded four tackles overall and 1.5 tackles for loss. Junior Anthony Costa (West Springfield, Mass.) broke up a pair of passes for the Bobcats.

Carmine Bruno and Sam Bowen paced Hamilton with six tackles each. Christian Snell picked off a pass and James Ball recovered a fumble.

The victory marks Bates' first over Hamilton since 2014. It's the Bobcats' biggest comeback victory since a 26-21 win over Trinity in 1969.