LEWISTON, Maine -- Matt Milano threw for five touchdowns and 405 yards as Middlebury College defeated the injury-depleted Bates College football team 41-27 Saturday at Garcelon Field, despite Bates' season-high 444 yards of offense.
The visiting Panthers (4-1) overcame a 10-7 deficit after one quarter to build leads of 28-13 and 35-20. Despite losing several players to injury during the game, including both starting slotbacks, Bates twice closed within one score in the fourth quarter, to 28-20 and 35-27. But Panther backup quarterback Jared Lebowitz iced the win with a 40-yard touchdown run on a read-option play with 3:38 left to go in the game.
Milano was intercepted three times but completed 31 of 53 passes. Matthew Minno caught 10 passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns. Conrado Banky caught five passes for 112 yards and a touchdown, and Ryan Rizzo caught seven passes for 61 yards and a touchdown. The Panthers outgained Bates by a 475-444 margin despite a big edge in time of possession for the Bobcats, 38:10 to 21:50. Bates also had a season-high 23 first downs to Middlebury's 21.
Bates (0-5) rushed for 204 yards and accumulated a season-high 240 yards through the air. Senior quarterback Patrick Dugan (Westford, Mass.) completed 19 of 32 passes for career-highs of 217 yards and two touchdowns, while getting picked off twice. Senior Mark Riley (Needham, Mass.) caught a career-high 10 passes for 117 yards and a touchdown, while sophomore slotback Sean Peterson (Maynard, Mass.), playing in his first career game after missing 1 1/2 seasons to injury, caught four passes for 55 yards.
Bates got on the scoreboard first, driving from its own 35 to the Middlebury 14 before a 15-yard penalty backed up the Bobcats to the 28. Bates settled for a career-long 34-yard field goal by sophomore Grant DeWald (Duxbury, Mass.) for a 3-0 lead.
Middlebury roared back with a 7-play, 84-yard drive, capped by Milano's 13-yard touchdown pass to Minno. The score came one play after Banky, on 3rd and 3, caught a pass in the flat, made a move past the cornerback covering him and scampered 47 yards to the Bates 13.
Bates came back as Frank Williams (Brookline, Mass.) exploited a big hole and rushed untouched for 39 yards to the end zone, giving Bates a 10-7 lead at the end of one period.
The teams traded turnovers early in the second. Bates junior Mark Upton (Winthrop, Mass.) forced a Middlebury fumble in Bates territory, recovered by sophomore Max Breschi (Carlisle, Pa.). Middlebury returned the favor, as Gil Araujo stripped Dugan of the ball and Tim Patricia recovered at the Bates 40. But two players later, junior Ben Coulibaly (Philadelphia, Pa.) made a spectacular interception in the end zone to return the ball to the Bobcats.
Bates drove as far as the Middlebury 7 before settling for another field goal attempt, which DeWald hooked wide left from 25 yards out. Middlebury then assumed the lead for good midway through the quarter, driving 80 yards on the strength of two big plays -- a 33-yard catch by Minno on 3rd and 10, and Banky's 34-yard touchdown catch on 3rd and 7. Bates kept the score at 14-10 at the half as junior Brandon Williams (Gardner, Mass.) recorded his conference-high fifth interception, all in the past three games, picking off Milano in the end zone in the final minute.
Middlebury opened the third quarter with a key interception by Kevin Hopsicker, made on a tipped, broken-up pass intended for Riley, which set up the Panthers at the Bates 27. Bates' defense forced Middlebury into a 4th and 2, which the Panthers converted and then some, as Milano found Minno for a 19-yard score and a 21-10 lead.
DeWald made a 26-yard field goal to close the gap to 21-13 with 2:57 left in the third quarter. But Middlebury, which was 4-of-4 on fourth down conversions in the game, opened up a 28-13 lead before the half as Milano completed to Tanner Contois for 36 yards on 4th and 1.
Before the end of the quarter, Bates embarked on what would be a 15-play, 75-yard scoring drive, capped by a 25-yard touchdown pass from Dugan to Riley deep in the end zone. Senior wide receiver Mike Decina (Hopkinton, Mass.), pressed into slotback duties, kept the drive alive with a 10-yard rush on 3rd and 8. Riley's touchdown closed the gap to 28-20 with 11:20 left in the game.
Coulibaly's second interception of the game returned the ball to Bates at its own 33, but two plays later, Wesley Becton picked off Dugan at the Middlebury 43.
The Panthers then mounted another scoring drrive, keyed by a 4-yard pass from MIlano to Rizzo to convert a 4th and 3 at the Bates 21. Three plays later, Milano found Rizzo open again near the right pylon for a 3-yard touchdown pass, making it 35-20 Middlebury with 6:49 let.
Bates' injury-depleted offense then mounted an impressive 10-play, 67-yard touchdown drive, featuring rookie Marcus Ross's (Mansfield, Texas) first two career receptions, including a 3-yard leaping catch for a touchdown that again brought Bates within one possession of Middlebury, at 35-27. But Lebowitz, taking his first snap of the game at quarterback, rushed up the middle untouched for 40 yards to make it 41-27 with 3:38 left. Middlebury iced the win with Dan Pierce's interception of Dugan on Bates' final drive.
Gil Araujo recorded a game-high 13 tackles for Middlebury, including one sack, three tackles for a loss, a forced fumble and a pass breakup. Addison Pierce (11 tackles), Tim Patricia (10 tackles) and Jake Clapp (10 tackles, 3.5 for a loss) also keyed the Panther defense.
For Bates, Coulibaly had eight tackles, one for a loss, to go with two interceptions, a pass breakup and two quarterback hurries. Upton also had eight tackles and forced a fumble, and Barndon Williams and junior Sam Francis (Newburyport, Mass.) had seven tackles apiece.
Bates' injuries continued to mount throughout the game, including senior wide receiver Lani Eversage (Fairfield, Iowa), a starter and the team's game captain. With senior and usual starting slotback Shaun Carroll (Clinton, Maine) already ruled out of the game, both of the Bobcats' starting slotbacks, Nichols and Frank Williams, left the game with injuries. Some players, including Riley and Brandon Williams, returned after missing some plays with physical setbacks.
Consequently, four Bates players made their collegiate debuts, in first-year running back Peter Boyer (Dover-Foxcroft, Maine), sophomore wide receiver Brian Daly (Marblehead, Mass.), first-year slotback Kyle Flaherty (Litchfield, Maine) and Peterson. Others were pressed into far more extensive duty than they had experienced yet this season, such as Ross, Decina and junior running back Ryan Spillane (Medfield, Mass.).
Next Saturday, Bates begins defense of its CBB title with a 1pm game at Colby.