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Turnovers hurt Bates in 35-6 loss at Middlebury

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. -- Matt Milano threw a career-high four touchdown passes to lead Middlebury to a 35-6 win over the Bates football team on Saturday, during the Panthers' homecoming weekend at Alumni Stadium. 

The Bobcats (1-4) return home to face Colby this Saturday, Oct. 25, as part of Homecoming Weekend, in the first game of the Colby-Bates-Bowdoin (CBB) series.

Middlebury (3-2) took advantage of a turnover early, after Nate Leedy picked off a pass at the Bates 33-yard line. Milano hit Brendan Rankowitz over the middle for a 33-yard scoring strike on the team's first play following the turnover for a 7-0 lead.

Bates responded on its next possession when senior quarterback Matt Cannone (Windham, N.H.) hit senior receiver Mike Tomaino (Gloucester, Mass.) on a slant pattern. The 20-yard pass turned into a 74-yard touchdown run, as Tomaino broke away and headed to the end zone, for the Bobcats' longest offensive play from scrimmage in the past decade. The play would be the only points of the game for the Bobcats, as they trailed 7-6 following a missed extra point.

Middlebury took a 14-6 lead at the 12:35 mark of the second quarter when Milano found Matthew Minno after a fake handoff, resulting in a 21-yard touchdown pass and a 14-7 lead. The drive was kept alive by a key third-down conversion from Milano to Ian Riley.

Bates later drove to the Middlebury 32, but turned the ball over on downs as Addison Pierce made a big stop on a four-and-one play.

The lead increased to 21-6 just 31 seconds before halftime, when Jake Vacovec recovered a fumble after a bad snap was recovered in the end zone. 

The half ended with a 21-6 Panther advantage, with Middlebury taking only 65 seconds off of the game clock on its three scoring "drives."

Milano hit four different receivers on a short 32-yard drive with 5:25 remaining in the third quarter to put his team on top, 28-6. A key 11-yard fourth-down conversion pass from Milano to Riley kept the drive alive. Rankowitz then scored his second touchdown of the game, pulling down a two-yard toss in the back right corner of the end zone.

The Bobcats hoped to take advantage of a fumble late in the third quarter, but turned the ball over themselves when Vacovec picked off a pass from Cannone at the Panther 46 on the first play of the fourth quarter. Cannone had just returned to the game after being substituted, probably due to injury, in favor of junior Mike Decina (Hopkinton, Mass.) for the final two plays of the second quarter. 

Milano later found Minno with a well-thrown high pass over the middle for a 30-yard touchdown.

Middlebury outgained Bates 331-185 on the day, including a 287-92 advantage through the air. The Panthers had a huge advantage in field positon, beginning at their own 45 on average, while Bates averaged a start from its own 24.

Milano finished the day 29-43 for 287 yards with four touchdowns, while Drew Jacobs led Panther rushers with 42 yards on 16 carries. Rankowitz caught seven passes for 65 yards, while Minno made five receptions for 91 yards, both scoring two touchdowns apiece. 

Tim Patricia paced the Panther defense with seven tackles and two sacks, while Pierce added seven tackles, two for lost yardage. 

Bates sophomore Ivan Reese (Savannah, Ga.) led all rushers with 43 yards on 13 carries, while Tomaino caught two passes for 89 yards and a touchdown. Cannone went 3-7 for 92 yards with a touchdown and two picks. Sophomore slotback Ryan Spillane (Medfield, Mass.) received the first eight carries of his career, netting 30 yards on the ground. 

Sophomore linebacker Mark Upton (Winthrop, Mass.) led all tacklers with 11 stops, three for lost yardage, and one forced fumble. Upton has at least nine tackles in every game this season, for a team-high 54 in total. Senior Adam Cuomo (Plymouth, Mass.) made nine tackles, with 1.5 of them resulting in lost yardage. Senior Pat Gilligan (Acton, Mass.) and sophomore Brandon Williams (Gardner, Mass.) both started and recorded career highs with seven and six tackles, respectively. Junior defensive lineman Tucker Oniskey (Reading, Mass.) and senior safety Ryan Newson (Stanhope, N.J.) broke up two passes apiece.