Colby College’s defensive unit can point to a lot of good things it did in last week’s 24-7 loss to Williams. The Mules held the Ephs to 248 total yards, just 82 on the ground, and Williams controlled the ball for just over 22 minutes. On third down, Williams was just 2 of 12. Those are things the Mules hope to build on when they face a potent Middlebury offense Saturday afternoon.

“It will be a great challenge. We played well as a team (against Williams). I think we had six stops in a row in the second half. That’s the sign of the type of defense we think we can be, that we believe we are. Going into the season we felt the defense would be, and should be, the strength of our team,” Colby head coach Jonathan Michaeles said.

In Middlebury (2-0), Colby faces a team averaging 35 points per game and a New England Small College Athletic Conference-leading 456 yards per game. Middlebury quarterback Jared Lebowitz, a transfer from Division I UNLV, has 668 yards and seven touchdown passes in two games.

“He is as good as we’ll see in NESCAC. He gets the ball out of his hand quick. He makes fast decisions. He knows presnap where the ball’s going. If you think you have something covered, he’s going to stick it in there,” Michaeles said.

The Mules are playing fundamentally sound defense, Michaeles said. Nothing fancy, just staying in their gaps, staying in their zones, and running to the football.

“You can scheme as much as you want, but you’ve got to have the right 11 guys,” Michaeles said.

An area Colby (0-2) has to improve is special teams. A bad snap cost the Mules a field goal try last week, and a bad punt snap led to a short field for Williams, and eventually the go ahead field goal. Shoring up the kicking games was a point of emphasis at practice this week, Michaeles said.

“Absolutely it was a focus. We doubled the time we normally spend, particularly the PAT-field goal game. The punt game as well, that has to be a positive factor for us,” Michaeles said. “We’ve got some younger guys in some important positions, but here we are week three of the season. Nobody can afford to be young anymore.”

• • •

Oak Hill High School graduate Kyle Flaherty had his best game as a running back at Bates last week, rushing for a career high 43 yards on seven carries in a 51-0 loss to Trinity.

A junior, Flaherty is second on the Bobcats in rushing yards, with 62 yards on 11 carries through the Bobcats (0-2) first two games.

Flaherty and Bates host Tufts Saturday afternoon.

• • •

On Wednesday, Maine Maritime Academy senior Cody O’Brien was named as one of the national semifinalists for the National Football Foundation’s William V. Campbell Trophy, which is presented annually to the top football playing scholar athlete in the nation.

A linebacker from Wells, O’Brien is a Marine Engineering Technology major, and the Mariners lone captain this season. He is a two-time conference all-academic selection. On the field, O’Brien has 87 career tackles, including 41 solo stops and 5.5 tackles for a loss. O’Brien holds the MMA single-game record for the longest fumble return, 75 yards.

The list of 181 semifinalists will be cut to 12-14 finalists on Nov. 1. Each finalist will receive an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship. The finalists will travel to New York City for the National Football Foundation awards dinner on Dec. 5, where a winner will be announced for the Campbell Trophy as have his postgraduate scholarship increased to $25,000.

This season, O’Brien has 17 tackles for the Mariners. MMA plays at WPI Saturday afternoon.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM