New London - The biggest play of the season, perhaps, for Coast Guard Academy first-year quarterback Blake Thompson came in the second quarter of Saturday's loss at Merchant Marine.
Thompson was coming off an opener the week before in which he ran well but wasn't as much of a passing threat, especially considering that he follows the Bears' all-time passing leader in Jon Resch.
Coast Guard was pinned deep for most of the first quarter of its week two game against Merchant Marine. The Bears trailed 14-0.
That's when Thompson tossed a 37-yard pass to wide receiver Collis Brown, a jump ball he wrestled away from a defender to move the ball all the way up to their own 47-yard line, sparking a touchdown drive.
"We had to prove to ourselves that we had the capability to do that," Thompson, a junior, said. "It was third down and we had bad field position and all of a sudden the ball was out by the 50. It was definitely big for our offense."
"We felt like we could move the ball a little bit better," said Brown, who caught another 37-yarder on the same drive, capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Thompson. "Seeing it go forward, it was like, 'OK, keep on going with it.' It was a good catalyst."
Thompson, who was 6-for-14 with 67 yards passing and two interceptions in the week one loss to St. Lawrence, was 12-for-34 against Merchant Marine for 121 yards. The Bears also did not turn the ball over at all, marking another improvement, despite the 27-20 loss.
Thompson still needs to feel more comfortable, something coach Bill George said is made more difficult every Tuesday at practice when the Bears' game plan changes for that week's opponent.
An option quarterback in high school, Thompson spent his first two seasons at Coast Guard as a wide receiver.
"He's playing the quarterback position. He's got the weight of the world on his shoulders," George said Wednesday. "He takes the brunt of all our losses. Kind of like the head coach, he wakes up with the win or the loss. The quarterback just feels responsible. It becomes a personal issue. You try to tell him, 'Just forget about it and play football.'"
Thompson, who leads the team into its first home game of the season Saturday against Hampden-Sydney, said offensive coordinator Ray LaForte simplified a few things for him after the opening game. He said he feels more at ease overall and also knowing he has Brown as a target.
"What I remember from that (first) game is everything moving faster than I could think," Thompson said. "I wasn't thinking about what I needed to think about before I started each play. A little bit of it was nerves and part of it was that everything was accelerated. ... It gets better every day."
Brown has six catches for 171 yards.
Thompson, who is still looking for his first career touchdown pass, is nevertheless the Bears' leading rusher, carrying 30 times for 139 yards and one touchdown.
Thompson is playing behind an offensive line which featured all new players in the opener, but got senior captain Mike Vitrano (illness) back last week.
George said the team made some "youthful mistakes," but he was happy with the comeback from the team's second straight 14-0 deficit. Coast Guard led 17-14 in the third quarter.
"After that (first completion to Brown), it felt like we were going to get back in the game, which we did," George said. "... (Thompson) is doing all the things he needs to do to get better."