Special teams help lead to 45-24 football win over Colby

Kenny Gray '20 dives into the end zone for a touchdown against Colby in Hamilton's 45-24 win on Sept. 28 (Josh McKee photo).
Kenny Gray '20 dives into the end zone for a touchdown against Colby in Hamilton's 45-24 win on Sept. 28 (Josh McKee photo).

Hamilton College's Kenny Gray '20 threw two touchdown passes and ran for another as the Continentals posted a 45-24 NESCAC win against the Colby College Mules at Hamilton's Steuben Field on another unseasonably warm Saturday afternoon.

The Continentals (2-1 NESCAC) won the turnover battle by intercepting three passes and recovering a Colby fumble while not committing any. Hamilton also controlled the line of scrimmage as the Continentals finished with a 174-83 advantage in rushing yards.

Hamilton enjoyed an exceptional day on special teams with a blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown. Sam Thoreen '22 made all six of his extra-point attempts and a 27-yard field goal. Billy Wagner '20 averaged 45.5 yards on four punts and placed three of them inside the Mules' 20-yard line. Sam Robinson '20 returned a kickoff 82 yards and averaged 43 yards on three returns.

Gray was 11 of 23 passing for 179 yards and ran 13 times for 71 more. David Kagan '20 added 63 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns. Kagan leads the NESCAC with 117.3 rushing yards per game and six touchdowns on the ground. The Continentals were 8 of 14 on third-down conversions.

Justin Leigh '20 led the Hamilton defense with eight tackles and Mufudzi Chogugudza '21 broke up two passes. Mike Cairns '22, Jeremy Barr '21 and Ian Esliker '21 picked off Colby passes. Cairns had the first interception of his career with the Continentals while Barr and Esliker came up with their second.

The Mules (0-3) outgained the Continentals 380-353 and racked up 23 first downs. Matt Hersch was 24 of 40 for 297 yards through the air. Rory Glavin had seven receptions for 113 yards. Marcus Bullard and Nick Wilcox paced the defense with seven tackles apiece and David O'Donnell and Hans Gabriel shared a sack for a loss of 3 yards.

Hamilton grabbed the lead on the second play of its second possession on a 62-yard pass as Gray found Robinson a step or two behind the defense and he sprinted into the end zone with 8:50 left in the first quarter. Colby came right back and tied the score on its next possession. Hersch found Glavin for a 34-yard gain to the Continentals 28, and a defensive holding call on third-and-long gave the Mules first-and-goal at the 9. David Smith ran it in from there with 5:57 remaining in the first.

Hamilton took the lead for good on a special teams miscue by the Mules deep in their own territory. A low snap bounced back to punter Moises Celaya who bobbled it and the loose ball was recovered by Zach Weinstein '20 at the Colby 11. On the next play Gray scrambled and squeezed inside the left pylon for the 11-yard touchdown with 3:36 to go in the first quarter. The Continentals held a 14-7 advantage at the end of the first.

Hamilton exploded for 28 points in the second quarter and effectively put the game away before halftime. Kagan capped an 11-play, 66-yard drive that chewed up more than five minutes on an 11-yard touchdown run with 11:58 left. Gray picked up 35 rushing yards on the drive, including an 18-yard scamper on third-and-17 to the Colby 21.

The Mules pulled within 11 at 21-10 on a 32-yard field goal by Celaya with 5:41 remaining. His kick ended a 65-yard drive that lasted more than six minutes. A 29-yard pass from Hersch to Pat Sweetnam to the Continentals 46 on third-and-19 kept the drive alive.

Celaya's ensuing kickoff bounced out-of-bounds and Hamilton opted to have him kick again. The decision paid off as Robinson fielded the next kick at the 5 and returned it 82 yards to the Colby 13. Three plays later, Gray lofted a perfectly thrown ball to Will Budington '21 in the back-left corner of the end zone for a 17-yard hookup with 3:52 to go.

The Continentals forced a three-and-out on the Mules' next possession and Celaya came back out to punt. James Ball '21 burst through the line to block the punt and Alex Ganter '20 scooped it up at the Colby 12 and rumbled into the end zone with 1:37 left. Thoreen's PAT made it 35-10.

Hersch completed his first four passes on the Mules' next drive, but his fifth pass went to Cairns at the Hamilton 35 and he stepped out-of-bounds at the 38. The Continentals drove 62 yards in 53 seconds and Kagan scored from 4 yards out with 16.7 remaining for a 42-10 cushion. The big play of the drive was Gray's 34-yard completion to Budington to the Colby 4 one play after a first down was wiped out by an offensive holding penalty.

George had touchdown runs of 1 and 14 yards in the second half for the Mules, and Hamilton's Thoreen nailed a 27-yard field goal late in the third quarter after Esliker returned an interception 35 yards to the Colby 14. Thoreen is 3-for-3 on field goals and 11-for-12 on extra points this fall.

The Continentals travel to Trinity College for their next game on Saturday, Oct. 5 at 1 p.m.