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Football preview: Bobcats return home to take on Middlebury

Ivan Reese ran for his third touchdown of the season to give Bates an early lead at Wesleyan on Oct. 17, 2015. (File photo by Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College) 

LEWISTON, Maine -- The Bates football team hasn't defeated Middlebury since 1988, but they've shown the ability to play toe-to-toe with elite competition so far in 2015. Despite an 0-4 record the Bobcats have hung with the likes of Tufts (a narrow 17-16 defeat) and Wesleyan (a 24-16 loss last week on the road), both teams currently hold 3-1 records just like Middlebury.

According to head coach Mark Harriman, the Bobcats will need to stop turning the ball over in the red zone and limit their penalties to get their first win of 2015. 

The Particulars:

What: Bates College (0-4) vs. Middlebury College (3-1)

When: Saturday, October 24, 1 p.m.

Where: Garcelon Field | Lewiston, Maine

Live Stats Video

Twitter: @BatesSportsFacebook: Bates College Athletics

All-Time Series: Middlebury leads 41-14-3

Last Meeting: Middlebury 35, Bates 6 (Middlebury, Vt. | Oct. 18, 2014)

Bates Facts & Figures

-- Sophomore slotback Frank Williams (Brookline, Mass.) led Bates in rushing last week against Wesleyan with 54 yards on five carries, and also caught two passes for 57 yards. Williams totaled 162 all-purpose yards in the game. Senior quarterback Patrick Dugan (Westford, Mass.) passed for a career-high 204 yards to go along with a touchdown.

-- Junior cornerback Brandon Williams (Gardner, Mass.) had two interceptions for the second straight week last Saturday, and also notched a career-high 11 tackles, including 10 solo. Senior defensive end Tucker Oniskey (Reading, Mass.) made nine tackles against Wesleyan, including 2.5 for a loss.

-- Sophomore kicker Grant DeWald (Duxbury, Mass.) kicked a career-long 33-yard field goal to give the Bobcats a 9-7 lead in the second quarter last week against Wesleyan.

--The Bobcats' three one-score losses this season equal the total amount of one-score losses they've suffered over the last four seasons combined. 

Middlebury last week

The Panthers used a monster second half to run away and hide from Williams last Saturday. Middlebury led 9-7 at halftime and ended up winning the game by a score of 36-14. They outscored the Ephs 15-0 in the fourth quarter alone. 

Middlebury wide receiver Matt Minno earned NESCAC Offensive Player of the Week honors thanks to his career best 171 yards receiving and two touchdowns. He caught eight passes against the Ephs and made the most of them. His 99 receiving yards per game is tops in the NESCAC. 

The Ephs actually briefly led by a score of 14-9 in the third quarter. But that was quickly erased as Minno caught a pass from quarterback Matt Milano and ran 71 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.

The Panthers never looked back as Middlebury forced a three-and-out and proceeded to go on a 96-yard touchdown drive on nine plays. Minno caught a 21-yard touchdown pass to make the score 21-14 in favor of the Panthers. 

They added a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter to finish off Williams.

Bates last week

Wesleyan University scored 17 straight points to overcome a 9-7 deficit in the second quarter, en route to defeating the Bobcats 24-16 last Saturday. 

The Bobcats raced down the field on their opening series, going 68 yards on four plays, including a 3-yard touchdown run by Ivan Reese (Savannah, Ga.), the junior running back's third touchdown this season. Sophomore slotback Mickoy Nichol (Dennis Port, Mass.) ran for 20 yards on the game's first play from scrimmage, and sophomore slotback Frank Williams (Brookline, Mass.) ran for 41 yards to take Bates from its own 44 to the Wesleyan 3. Bates' point-after kick attempt failed, leaving the lead at 6-0.

Wesleyan had its first two offensive series end in an interception by Brandon Williams and a punt, while Bates punted on two straight. The Cardinals then assumed a 7-6 lead with an 8-play, 51-yard drive, capped by Devon Carrillo's option pass to Dan Laorenza. Brandon Williams picked off Gernald Hawkins again on the drive, but the play was discounted due to a rouhging the passer flag against the Bobcats. 

Junior Trevor Lyons (Hamilton, Mass.) stepped up to make another interception, his second of the season, and returned the ball 24 yards to set up the Bobcats at the Wesleyan 17. The Bobcats couldn't get a first down, but settled for a career-long 33-yard field goal by DeWald, returning the lead to Bates at 9-7 with 3:52 left in the second quarter.

Wesleyan found enough time to march 68 yards for the go-ahead touchdown, with Hawkins hitting Mike Breuler for a 9-yard touchdown with 33 seconds left in the half. The drive was sustained by a 20-yard completion from Hawkins to Jaylen Berry on 3rd and 10 at midfield.

Ike Fuchs gave Wesleyan an eight-point lead with 4:24 left in the third quarter, kicking a 21-yard field goal to cap a 10-play, 53-yard drive. Bates responded with Dugan hitting Frank Williams for a 49-yard gain, taking the Bobcats to the Wesleyan 11, but a fumble on the ensuing play was recovered by the Cardinals at their own 22.

Wesleyan then made it a two-possession game with a 10-play, 78-yard drive, finished off with a 37-yard touchdown pass from Hawkins to Lou Stevens, for a 24-9 lead.

With 3:28 left in the fourth quarter, Brandon Williams set up Bates at midfield for its final scoring drive with his second interception of the game and fourth in the past two games. A Dugan 25-yard completion to Nichol took Bates to the Wesleyan 2, and a 22-yard strike to senior Mark Riley (Needham, Mass.) two plays later brough Bates to the 4. Reese was stopped for a 1-yard loss, and after two Dugan incompletions, Bates faced 4th and goal at the 5. Dugan then found Lani Eversage (Fairfield, Iowa) for his first career touchdown, and DeWald's point-after closed the gap to 24-16 with 1:47 remaining in the game.

Bates' Mark Riley recovered Bates' successfully executed onside kick, but Bates' final drive ended with an interception by Wesleyan's Justin Sanchez.

Wesleyan outgained Bates in total offense, 447-308, and had 24 first downs to Bates' 14. The Cardinals dominated time of possession, 39:14 to 20:46.

Wesleyan outgained Bates in total offense, 447-308, and had 24 first downs to Bates' 14. The Cardinals dominated time of possession, 39:14 to 20:46.

Teams' Last Meeting: 

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

Middlebury 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 quarterback Matt Cannone (Windham, N.H.) hit 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. 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. 

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.