Middlebury scored touchdowns on five of its first six possessions on its way to a 40-3 thumping of Bowdoin in the season opener for both teams. The Panthers gained 517 yards of total offense, averaging 6.5 yards per play. Middlebury returns to action next Saturday with a 1:00 kickoff at Colby, while the Polar Bears host Amherst at the same time.
Bowdoin's only points came on its first possession of the game, as they marched 64 yards on 12 plays. The drive stalled at the Middlebury 16, but Andrew Sisti came on to boot a 33-yard field goal for the early lead.
Middlebury answered, going 68 yards on 11 plays with a 16-yard reception by Ryan Rizzo and a 12-yarder from Diego Meritus setting up the score. James Burke reached high into the air to pull down an 11-yard touchdown pass from Jared Lebowitz for the 7-3 lead.
A short punt left the Panthers the ball on the Bowdoin 35 on its next drive. Lebowitz connected for 25 yards over the middle to Tanner Contois, setting up a three-yard strike to tight end Daniel Fulham for the touchdown.
Leading 14-3, the Panthers did not let up, going 72 yards in just 2:14, taking a 21-3 lead at the 11:58 mark of the second quarter. Lebowitz connected with Rizzo three times for 48 yards on the drive before scoring from two-yards out on a keeper.
Bowdoin's Daniel Wanger blocked a 20-yard Panther field goal attempt on the host's next drive, before Matthew Daniel blocked a Bowdoin punt on its ensuing drive. The block left the Panthers the ball on the Bowdoin 28, where Lebowitz found Conrado Banky over the middle on the first play from scrimmage to make it a 28-3 game.
Following a three-and-out hold by the Middlebury defense, the Panthers started on their own 37 with 1:57 remaining. A big connection from Lebowitz to Banky for 21 yards set up the scoring strike from 28 yards out to Rizzo. It appeared the ball would be intercepted by Jibrail Coy, but it bounced as the players were falling to the ground with Rizzo gathering it in for the touchdown. The Panthers took a comfortable 34-3 into the halftime break.
After a scoreless third quarter, Middlebury increased its lead with a nine-play, 85-yard scoring drive. Lebowitz threw passes of 12 and 14 yards to Banky, while gaining 10 and 20 yards on a pair of rushes. The touchdown pass came from 12 yards out, as Burke again made an impressive catch with quick hands for his second of the day and the game's final score.
Lebowitz finished the day 26-39 for 369 yards (283 in the first half), throwing five touchdown passes, while rushing for another with 33 yards on the ground. Drew Jacobs gained 43 yards on eight carries, while Meritus had 52 yards of total offense. Rizzo caught eight passes for 125 yards with a touchdown, while Banky had eight receptions, earning 98 yards and a touchdown. Burke finished the afternoon with a pair of scores on four catches for 59 yards.
John Jackson led the Panther defense with 10 tackles, including 2.5 for lost yardage. Justin Fahey finished with nine stops and forced a fumble, as the Middlebury defense earned nine tackles for lost yardage on the afternoon.
Tim Drakeley went 15-30 at quarterback for Bowdoin, throwing for 126 yards, while Nate Richam gained 63 yards on 14 carries. Nick Vailas caught five passes for 66 yards, while Bryan Porter gained 23 yards on four catches. Andrew Joyce finished with 11 tackles, Latif Armiyaw had 10, while Wanger blocked three kicks.
The Panthers last scored 35 points in a half in 2013, when they did it in back-to-back games against Hamilton and Tufts. Middlebury outgained Bowdoin 517-194 in the game, despite the Polar Bears holding a 31:02 to 28:58 time of possession advantage. After allowing 64 yards on Bowdoin's opening drive, the Panther defense held the visitors to 130 for the remainder of the game.