With reigning NESCAC champion Amherst coming to town for the football team's Homecoming game tomorrow, the Polar Bears know they have a tremendous opportunity to make an early season splash in the conference standings.

Amherst finished the 2009 season with an undefeated record (8-0) and is a veteran team that is returning 17 of 22 offensive and defensive starters. Amherst is also coming off a 44-0 opening day blowout against Bates.

The Polar Bears hope to be ready for the tough task that awaits them on Saturday.

"Amherst will be a great test for our team as a whole," said coach Dave Caputi. "They are a veteran team with an experienced quarterback, offensive line and defense so they will not make a lot of mistakes.

"I'm excited about how our young kids have played so far and this game will be a great chance for them, and everyone else on the team, to show what they can do," he added.

"Amherst is an extremely talented team and it shows from what they did a season ago," said starting quarterback RJ Shea '12. "However, if we use our strengths to attack their weaknesses, we can do some big things against them."

If the Polar Bears want to have success against Amherst, though, they will have to make adjustments from their 33-15 season opening loss at Williams last Saturday.

Despite successfully moving the ball against the Ephs all day, Bowdoin's five turnovers, including three lost fumbles deep in Williams territory and an interception returned for a touchdown, had a devastating impact on the game.

These costly miscues overshadowed a successful starting debut for Shea, who passed for 316 yards and a pair of touchdowns, as well as the impressive efforts of wideouts Brendan Garner '11 and Pat Noone '12. Garner caught 10 passes for 135 yards and a score, while Noone, Bowdoin's preseason All-American, also had 10 catches. Noone's career total catches is 93, just two short of the all-time Bowdoin record held by Peter Nye '94.

Despite the wideouts' impressive performances, the Polar Bears will need to take care of the ball.

"It's hard to win games when you turn the ball over that much," said senior captain Scott Roman. "We played tough and physical, and we were right there with them throughout. We had chances to go up against Williams, but we didn't do it. Instead, we turned the ball over at key moments and let them rush for over 250 yards. We let the game slip away."

After a pair of long scoring-drives, Williams jumped out to a 14-0 lead just before the end of the first half. However, a quick five-play, 58-yard drive by Bowdoin, finished off by a 22-yard touchdown strike from Shea to Garner with just six seconds left in the half, brought the Polar Bears, after a blocked extra point, to within eight of the Ephs.

Bowdoin closed the gap early in the second half after a seven play, 58-yard drive that led to a six-yard score from Shea to Paul Hinman '11. However, the two-point conversion that followed was unsuccessful, leaving the score at 14-12 in Williams's favor.

The Ephs increased their lead midway through the third quarter with a 53-yard interception return for a touchdown, but the Polar Bears responded with a 26-yard field goal to bring the score to 21-15 at the close of the third quarter.

Heading into the final quarter, Bowdoin had a chance at the lead, but an apparent touchdown pass from Shea to Hinman was ruled incomplete. On the next play, Bowdoin lost a fumble at the Williams 5, and the Ephs marched 95 yards in 17 plays for the decisive game-breaking score. Williams added another late touchdown to seal the game 33-15.

Despite this tough loss, the Polar Bears hope to use the positives from this game to build momentum heading into Saturday's game against Amherst.

"There were questions about our young guys on defense coming into this game, and they proved everyone outside of the program wrong," said Roman. "Three of our top tacklers were freshmen, which was huge. On offense, our line played great in pass protection and RJ played great. Everyone played a tough and physical game and the final score is not indicative of how we played."

Heading into Saturday, coaches and players both agreed that winning the turnover battle would ultimately make the difference.

"We have to win the turnover battle, which we didn't do the last game and hurt us in the end," said Shea. "However, I know we can compete with the upper echelon teams. If we put forth the same type of effort that we did Saturday, I can't see why we can't win a lot of football games this season."