Defense Dominates as Football Tops Bates to Remain Undefeated

John Jackson led the Panther defense with 13 tackles and 1.5 sacks.
John Jackson led the Panther defense with 13 tackles and 1.5 sacks.

Middlebury moved to 5-0 on the season with a 28-9 victory over Bates (1-4) on Youngman Field at Alumni Stadium. The Panthers have now won 28-straight games against the Bobcats and will look to go 6-0 for the first time since 1977 when they visit unbeaten Trinity next Saturday.

Bates' Joe Frake picked off a pass on Middlebury's first drive, but the Bobcats went three-and-out. The drive ended on a positive note as Justin Foley punted the ball to the Panther one-yard line. On the ensuing play, Middlebury running back Drew Jacobs was stopped in the end zone by Mark Upton, as Bates took a 2-0 lead early with a safety.

After receiving the free kick, Bates drove 69 yards on six play, capped off by a 48-yard touchdown pass from Sandy Plashkes to Brian Daly as a Panther defender lost his footing. Those nine points would be all Bates scored on the day, as the Panther defense only allowed the Bobcats into Middlebury territory on three more occasions.

Middlebury was driving early in the second quarter, but Upton picked off a pass at the Bates' 38. The Bobcats turned the ball back over on their second play from scrimmage, with Nate Leedy intercepting a ball at the Bates' 40-yard line. After a pair of incomplete passes, Panther quarterback Jared Lebowitz hit Conrado Banky for a 25-yard scoring strike over the middle, cutting the lead to 9-7.

After holding Bates, the Panthers marched down the field once again, going 77 yards on eight plays in just 3:20. Lebowitz found Maxim Bochman for a 20-yard connection on the drive and James Burke for 13 yards. The touchdown came on a very similar play to Middlebury's previous score, as Lebowitz found Banky over the middle, this one from 26 yards out.

The teams exchanged five punts through the rest of the quarter as the Panthers took a 14-9 lead into the halftime break.

Middlebury scored on its first possession of the second half, going 73 yards on eight plays. Running back Diego Meritus had 36 combined yards on the drive, setting up a 33-yard touchdown pass from Lebowitz to Burke. The Panthers led 21-9 with 10:51 remaining in the third quarter.

After a field position battle, Bates drove from the Middlebury 27-yard line to the 10,  before linebacker John Jackson stuffed Bobcat running back Peter Boyer on a fourth-and-four play.

Later, a 20-yard punt return by Kevin Hopsicker helped set up Middlebury's final touchdown of the game in the fourth quarter. Lebowitz found Jacobs for 11 yards, Banky for 14 and Jimmy Martinez on an 11-yard strike before Meritus scored on a three-yard rush.

Middlebury's Frankie Purritano picked off a pass later in the fourth quarter as the Panthers cruised to a 28-9 final.

The Panther defense held Bates to 10 first downs on the day, forcing them to punt 11 times. Middlebury outgained its opponents 454-229 on the afternoon, including 394 yards through the air. Bates entered the game second in the NESCAC, allowing just 148 yards passing per game.

Lebowitz finished the wet afternoon with 35 completions on 56 attempts, throwing for 394 yards with three touchdowns and a pair of picks. Banky caught seven passes for 89 yards with two touchdowns. Martinez pulled down the first seven passes of his career, finishing with 90 yards, while Burke caught six balls for 90 yards with a touchdown. Meritus rushed for 61 yards and a touchdown, while catching three passes for 38 yards.

Jackson led the defense with 13 tackles and 1.5 sacks, while Addison Pierce finished with 11 tackles and a sack. Justin Fahey added eight stops with a fumble recovery, while Wesley Becton earned six tackles.

Plashkes completed 7-16 passes for 80 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions for the Bobcats. Boyer rushed for 56 yards on 13 carries, while Daly caught three passes for 55 yards with a touchdown.

Upton paced the Bobcat defense, making 13 tackles with a sack and an interception. Trevor Lyons finished with 10 solo tackles and a fumble recovery.