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Football Preview: Bates (1-3) ready to rumble at Middlebury (2-2)

Senior linebackers Adam Cuomo (52) and Pat Gilligan (45) would like nothing more than to defeat Middlebury for the first time in their careers this Saturday in Vermont. (Sarah Crosby/Bates College)

LEWISTON, Maine -- The Bates College football team returns to the road for the first time in three weeks, taking on a 2-2 Middlebury College team this Saturday at Youngman Field. Bates (1-3) hasn't found a way to beat Middlebury (2-2) since 1988, but on paper this may be the Bobcats' best chance in years.

In the past seven seasons, the Panthers have been a perennial offensive powerhouse behind the play of quarterbacks Donald McKillop (2007-10) and McCallum Foote (2011-13). Relatively unproven junior Matthew Minno has called the signals for the most part this season, with senior Eric Bertino also getting some snaps. Perhaps as a related consequence, the Panthers reside in the middle of the pack in total offense, with 315.8 yards per game, though they're second in passing yards (794).

The Bobcats, meanwhile, hope they're due a victory. Senior quarterback Matt Cannone (Windham, N.H.) is expected to return to the lineup after missing Saturday's 24-10 home loss to Wesleyan. Without Cannone, league-leading junior wide receiver Mark Riley (Needham, Mass.) was held without a catch and Bates accumulated just 64 yards and five first downs after the first quarter against the undefeated Cardinals. Bates' defense has largely been a force this season, the most recent example being the Bobcats' ability to limit the highest-scoring offense in the conference scoreless for the first 29 minutes of Saturday's game.

Middlebury leads the all-time series 40-14-3, including the past 24 contests, dating to 1989. The Bobcats last defeated the Panthers in 1988, a 27-24 decision.

The Particulars:

What: Bates College at Middlebury College

When: Saturday, October 18, 1 p.m.

Where: Youngman Field at Alumni Stadium | Middlebury, Vt.

Live Stats | Video: Northeast Sports Network (Middlebury portal) 

Twitter: @BatesSports | Facebook: Bates College Athletics

All-Time Series: Wesleyan leads 40-14-3

Last Meeting: Middlebury 28, Bates 17 (Lewiston, Maine | Oct. 19, 2013)

Bates Last Saturday:

Wesleyan starting quarterback Jesse Warren passed for 262 yards and backup quarterback Devon Carrillo ran for a game-high 92 yards to lead the Cardinals to a 24-10 win over Bates Saturday at Garcelon Field.

Wesleyan (4-0), ranked No. 2 among New England Division III teams, defeated Bates (1-3) for the ninth consecutive year and stayed on top of the NESCAC standings. The Cardinals outgained Bates 418 yards to 164 and held the Bobcats to 2-of-13 on third-down conversions. Bates fumbled the ball five times, losing two of them.

Wesleyan drove into Bates territory on five straight scoreless possessions to start the game, finally breaking through with 13.5 seconds left in the half, when Kyle Gibson finished off a 10-play, 62-yard drive with a 1-yard push into the end zone, giving Wesleyan a 7-3 lead at halftime. Gibson, who rushed for 132 and 141 yards in the team's previous two meetings, was limited to 33 yards on 17 carries in the game.

Middlebury Last Saturday:

Middlebury improved to 2-2 with a dramatic 23-20 overtime victory at Williams on Saturday afternoon. Matt Milano found Brendan Rankowitz for a 14-yard scoring strike on the team's first possession in overtime to give the Panthers the victory. The win is the team's third straight over the Ephs. 

A late scoring drive forced the game into extra time, as Middlebury drove 60 yards in 1:16 to tie the game at 17-17 with 59 seconds remaining. The drive nearly ended early, but Milano hit Grant Luna on a 4th-and-10 play to give the team a first down at the Williams' 47. An 11-yard connection with Matthew Minno and an eight-yard rush from Milano brought the ball to the Ephs' 28-yard line. Following a 15-yard pass interference penalty, Rankowitz caught an 11-yard pass to bring the ball to the two. Milano then hit Drew Jacobs in the flat for a two-yard touchdown pass, knotting the contest and eventually forcing the game into overtime.

Milano finished 19-37 for 155 yards with a pair of touchdowns, while Bertino went 4-5 for 41 yards with an interception in first-half action. Drew Jacobs finished with 149 yards of total offense, 81 on the ground (22 rushes) and 68 through the air (8 receptions) with a touchdown. Jonathan Hurvitz led the Middlebury rushers with 88 yards on 18 carries. Addison Pierce led the Panther defense with 18 tackles.

Williams' offense had markedly better success against the Panthers than it did the week before against Bates, with 402 yards of total offense compared to 246 at Bates. Alex Scyocurka rushed for 117 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries, after being held to 44 yards on 16 carries against the Bobcats. 

The Last Meeting:

Middlebury quarterback McCallum Foote threw for 305 yards and two touchdowns, and scrambled for a key third-down conversion to keep the Panthers' final scoring drive alive in the fourth quarter, in a 28-17 victory at injury-plagued Bates on Oct. 19, 2013 at Garcelon Field.

Bates (2-3) took the lead three times in the first half, but Middlebury (4-1) shut out the Bobcats in the second half, scoring 14 unanswered points for the win. 

Eight of Bates' starters from Weeks 1 and 2 were inactive for the game, but the Bobcats performed admirably, totaling 21 first downs to Middlebury's 25, gaining 388 yards to Middlebury's 417 and keeping the ball for 31:10 of the game clock. 

Foote, Middlebury's senior preseason All-America QB, completed 35 of 56 passes and was picked off once, by Ryan Newson (Stanhope, N.J.) in the first quarter. Five Middlebury receivers had five or more catches, led by Brendan Rankowitz (8-96) and William Sadik-Khan (8-56, 1 TD). Matt Rea rushed 11 times for 50 yards and a touchdown.