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Contact: William Sodoma
Date: November 7, 2009
WATERVILLE, Maine --- Nick Kmetz (Laurel, Del.) threw four touchdown passes to three different receivers in the second half as the Colby College football team clinched at least a .500 season with a 34-31 victory over Tufts University in the home finale at Seaverns Field at Harold Alfond Stadium on Saturday.
Colby (4-3) also clinched at least a tie for a Colby-Bates-Bowdoin (CBB) Championship after Bates College took a 28-24 win over Bowdoin College. The Mules, who took a 34-27 win against Bates last Saturday, can win the CBB title outright with a victory at Bowdoin next Saturday at 12:30 p.m. in the season finale. Tufts (2-5) will close out the season next Saturday at home against Middlebury College at noon.
"Last week against Bates we positioned ourselves to play for a CBB championship," said Colby head coach Ed Mestieri, who picked up a shovel on Friday and helped clear the field with his coaching staff, members of the football and baseball teams, and members of the physical plant department after Maine was hit with some November snow. "Today we positioned ourselves to have a winning season."
Colby has won three straight games for the first time since winning four straight to end the 2005 season with a 7-1 record. The Mules have scored 84 points in the past three games after scoring just 92 points in eight games last year.
Tufts came into the contest ranked first in the New England Small College Athletic Conference in pass defense at just 151.3 yards allowed per game. Kmetz, though, exploded for the four touchdowns in the second half and finished with 273 yards on 16-for-26 passing. He also ran for 53 yards and finished the game with 326 yards of total offense.
Colby was ranked third (286.8 yards allowed) and Tufts was fourth (291.3) in the NESCAC in total defense. However, the Mules racked up 451 yards of offense and Tufts had 354 for a combined 805 yards.
"I said at the start of the season that we have real good balance on offense and defense," Mestieri said. "Our offense can really play, we never feel like we are out of a game. We've shown this year that we can move the ball and score on anyone."
The Jumbos appeared to take control of the game when Pat Bailey (Beverly, Mass.) broke free for a 94-yard touchdown run with 9:01 left in the third quarter for a 21-7 Tufts lead. Bailey had a huge game with 109 yards of rushing and seven catches for 74 yards to go along with two scores.
Kmetz started to get hot from that point on with an aerial show. The Mules immediately drove down the field and Kmetz hooked up with Matt Hellinger (Wilbraham, Mass.) on a 26-yard pass play with 6:20 to play in the third. Dan Prunier (Merrimack, N.H.), one of Colby's 14 seniors playing their final home game, had a 24-yard catch on the drive to help set up the score.
Tufts took a chance at a 4th-and-1 at midfield on the next drive, but Colby's defense stiffened and the Mules took over on downs. Seven plays later, Kmetz found tight end Nat Carson (Winfield, Ill.) for another 26-yard scoring pass to tie the game at 21-21. The touchdown came on a 4th-and-2 play with 1:38 to play in the third.
After forcing a punt, Colby went to work again and took the lead for good when Patrick Burns (Charles Town, W.V.) caught a 29-yard touchdown pass from Kmetz with 12:43 to play to cap a five-play, 64-yard drive. Burns also caught an 11-yard pass and Kmetz added a 13-yard run on the drive. However, the Mules missed the extra point and the lead was just six points at 27-21.
Tufts settled down and went 40 yards on eight plays to cut the lead to 27-24 on a 25-yard field goal by Adam Auerbach (Glen Rock, N.J.) with 9:08 to play. The Jumbos had a 1st-and goal at the 10-yard line only to get two yards over the next three plays and then settled for the field goal.
Colby refused to get conservative on the next drive and the move paid off when Kmetz found Hellinger on a 41-yard scoring pass on a 68-yard drive with 5:54 to play. The Mules had four rushes for 18 yards on the drive and Hellinger caught one pass for nine yards.
The Mules' offensive line played a big role in the second half comeback. The group helped Colby still manage to have a run and pass balance despite falling behind by 14 points.
"The offensive line have really been iron men for us this year," Mestieri said. "They have taken 98 percent of the offensive snaps this year. They've taken quite a beating and are still going strong."
The offensive fireworks, though continued as Tufts used just 2:28 off the clock and got a 14-yard scoring pass from quarterback Tom McManama (Westfield, Mass.) to Steve Cusano (Waltham, Mass.) with 3:19 to play. Cusano caught four passes on the drive and Bailey had 24 yards of rushing on just two carries.
The Jumbos elected to not use an onsides kick with two timeouts remaining. Colby, though, got a first down and used six rushing plays to use up the rest of the clock. Prunier had the key carry, an 11-yard rush on 3rd-and-1 to give the Mules the ball at their own 47-yard line.
Both teams came out strong on their opening drives of the game. The Mules mixed the run and pass nicely and got rewarded when Prunier (Merrimack, N.H.) ran in from 1 yard out for a touchdown for a 7-0 lead.
Tufts took over and also scored on its first drive after a 48-yard kickoff return by Bailey helped the Jumbos start on Colby's 31-yard line. Bailey added a 26-yard run to get the ball inside the 10-yard line and then scored from 4 yards out to tie the contest at 7-7.
After Colby gave up the ball on downs at the Tufts 33-yard line, the Jumbos quickly got their second score of the game. Tufts was aided by a 15-yard personal foul penalty on Colby during the drive. The Jumbos got in the end zone when McManama hit Noah Hatfield-Biondo (Southampton, N.Y.) on a 4-yard scoring pass with 10:28 to play in the opening quarter.
The scoring settled down after that and Tufts took a 14-7 lead at halftime. However, the Jumbos missed a golden opportunity to go up by two scores when sophomore lineman Donnie Simmons (Houston, Texas) forced a fumble by Kmetz on the Mules' 17-yard line. A holding penalty on the Jumbos stalled the short drive and Auerbach missed left on a 32-yard field goal attempt.
Hellinger finished with five catches for 107 yards and two touchdowns for the Mules, while Burns had five grabs for 81 yards. Prunier had 77 yards of rushing and added 24 receiving.
McManama was efficient with 24-for-29 passing for 170 yards and two scores for Tufts. Cusano caught eight balls for 50 yards.
Chris Copeland (Rexford, N.Y.) led Colby's defense with 10 tackles, while fellow senior Lamont Henry (Virginia Beach, Va.) added eight stops.
Matt Murray (Winthrop, Mass.) paced Tufts with 10 tackles, while Simmons had eight tackles and a pair of sacks.
Colby 34, Tufts 31
Tufts............... 7 7 7 10 - 31
Colby............... 7 0 14 13 - 34
1st 10:50 COLFB09 - Dan Prunier 1 yd run (David Bendit kick), 10-73 4:10
08:31 TUF - Pat Bailey 4 yd run (Adam Auerbach kick), 5-31 2:10
2nd 10:28 TUF - N. Hatfield-Bio 4 yd pass from Tom McManama (Adam Auerbach kick), 15-67 6:57
3rd 09:01 TUF - Pat Bailey 94 yd run (Adam Auerbach kick), 1-94 0:14
06:20 COLFB09 - Matt Hellinger 26 yd pass from Nick Kmetz (David Bendit kick), 6-68 2:33
01:38 COLFB09 - Nate Carson 26 yd pass from Nick Kmetz (David Bendit kick), 6-50 3:04
4th 12:43 COLFB09 - Patrick Burns 29 yd pass from Nick Kmetz (David Bendit kick failed), 5-64 2:10
09:08 TUF - Adam Auerbach 25 yd field goal, 8-40 3:26
05:54 COLFB09 - Matt Hellinger 41 yd pass from Nick Kmetz (David Bendit kick), 6-68 3:08
03:19 TUF - Steve Cusano 14 yd pass from Tom McManama (Adam Auerbach kick), 7-67 2:28
FIRST DOWNS................... 18 25
RUSHES-YARDS (NET)............ 28-184 47-178
PASSING YDS (NET)............. 170 273
Passes Att-Comp-Int........... 29-24-0 26-16-1
TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS..... 57-354 73-451
Fumble Returns-Yards.......... 0-0 0-0
Punt Returns-Yards............ 1-11 1-4
Kickoff Returns-Yards......... 6-141 6-94
Interception Returns-Yards.... 1-0 0-0
Punts (Number-Avg)............ 2-36.5 1-33.0
Fumbles-Lost.................. 0-0 1-1
Penalties-Yards............... 5-48 5-59
Possession Time............... 25:00 35:00
Third-Down Conversions........ 5 of 13 8 of 14
Fourth-Down Conversions....... 1 of 2 2 of 4
Red-Zone Scores-Chances....... 4-5 1-2
Sacks By: Number-Yards........ 2-17 0-0
RUSHING: Tufts-Pat Bailey 12-109; Alex Perry 1-29; Tom McManama 8-22; Steve
Cusano 2-11; Billy Mahler 1-10; Darren Ferguson 2-4; John Moesch 1-1; Michael
Durkin 1-minus 2. Colby-Dan Prunier 19-75; Nick Kmetz 17-53; Conor Tidgwell
4-24; Michael Cuqua 4-14; Spencer Gopaul 2-10; Connor Walsh 1-2.
PASSING: Tufts-Tom McManama 24-29-0-170. Colby-Nick Kmetz 16-26-1-273.
RECEIVING: Tufts-Steve Cusano 8-50; Pat Bailey 7-74; Billy Mahler 5-27; N.
Hatfield-Bio 2-10; Mike Howell 2-9. Colby-Matt Hellinger 5-107; Patrick Burns
5-81; Nate Carson 2-29; Spencer Merwin 1-25; Dan Prunier 1-24; Andrew Graham
1-8; Connor Walsh 1-minus 1.
INTERCEPTIONS: Tufts-Alex Perry 1-0. Colby-None.
FUMBLES: Tufts-None. Colby-Nick Kmetz 1-1.