Bates football coach Malik Hall sends signals to his players during a game against Wesleyan University on October 13, 2018. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Malik Hall’s focus in his second season as head coach of the Bates College football team is on the Bobcats’ mentality.

After an 0-9 season in his first season at the helm, Hall has already seen changes in the mindset and focus of his team, which fell 27-13 in its 2019 season opener against Amherst on the road.  

Bates football coach Malik Hall talks to his players during a game against Wesleyan University on October 13, 2018. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

The Bobcats last year entered the fourth quarter hoping to win. Last week, they entered the game with the expectation of victory. 

“The mindset has changed, the belief system has changed,” Hall said. “Are we completely there yet? No. But, again, we’re looking at our guys and saying to them, ‘Listen, whatever your truth is, it’s history.’ That’s our biggest truth, our history. And everyday we step on the field we have to accept that truth so we can beat that truth and create a new truth.

“The truth of last year is still there, but there were a lot of unknowns that we found out. It’s true, we went 0-9, but what’s also our truth is we are tighter, we know each other now, we have an energy together now.”

Bates entered the fourth quarter against Amherst, who finished the regular season 8-1 a year ago, tied at 13-13. The team’s focus never faltered, Hall said, despite turnovers and mistakes.


“The irony is, they turned the ball over four times and they still won, while we turned the ball over four times and lost,” Hall said. “The difference is I think our guys played with the belief, ‘We’re winning this game,’ not with the idea that, ‘Other shoe don’t fall off, please don’t fall off.’ We thought we were going to win the game.”

Brendan Costa, in his third year at quarterback after taking over the starting job during his freshman season, threw the ball 38 times for 187 yards and a touchdown. Costa was able to air it out so often because of the offensive line, which starts three seniors and which Hall believes will be the anchor for the Bobcats in 2019.

Bates quarterback Brendan Costa throws a pass during a game last season against Wesleyan University and will again lead the Bobcats offense for 2019. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

“I love our O-line right now,” Hall said. “They’re playing extremely hard. … The seniors have to bring the experience of being at home, the experience of travel, and more importantly, if the offense moves, it moves in the light of our offensive line.” 

The offensive line is stout, allowing only three sacks in the opening game, but Costa will have to take a step forward this season for the Bobcats to do so, as well. 

“What I’m looking for from his is for him to grow,” Hall said. “I think last week he was 60 percent on the dot. The national average for a winning team is a little bit over 67-68. Statistically he has a mark he has to strive, for and schematically we have something that should help him get to that point. It’s a shared responsibility.”

Behind Costa is a two-headed attack of junior Liam Spillane and freshman and former Wells High School star and last year’s Fitzpatrick Award winner Tyler Bridge. Spillane and Bridge were both effective, with Bridge gaining 34 yards on his first career carry. 


Bridge didn’t lose many games while at Wells, and Hall hopes the freshman carries that winning mentality into his Bates career, and that it spreads throughout the team. 

“Talking to him after the game and what he felt, I said, ‘What’d you think of the game?’” Hall said. “And he said, ‘Coach, honestly, man, I haven’t lost a game in three years.’ He’s trying to figure out how that happened, how did we lose? That in itself is powerful, that speaks to mindset and what he wants us to be and what we want to be, as well.”

The Bobcats’ defense has also taken strides this season, giving Hall and the coaching staff a lot of hope. But, as with the offense, it’s a progression game. 

“Maniacal effort,” Hall said of his defense in Week 1. “We made some mistakes defensively and you may not have seen them all the time because maybe we came up with a big play, but their efforts as a group, I couldn’t have told you they were going to play that hard and well in those moments.”

Hall said he was happy for junior defensive back Connor Hunt, who led the team with seven tackles in his first game back after an injury suffered last season against Amherst. Nolan Potter and the defensive line also impressed in week one and figures to be a strong point for the Bobcats moving forward.

Bates hosts Middlebury (1-0) at Garcelon Field on Saturday at 1 p.m.

Wesleyan’s Sam Green forces Bates quarterback Brendan Costa out of the pocket and to the sidelines during last year’s game. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

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