Middlebury jumped out to a 7-0 lead, but it was all Wesleyan after that, as the Panthers fell 52-21 on the road in the season opener for both teams. Middlebury will play its home-opener next weekend when they entertain Bowdoin at 1:00 p.m.
Middlebury got off to a great start, driving 80 yards on nine plays in just 2:17 in their opening possession of the season. Quarterback Jack Meservy completed passes of 10 yards or more to five different players, including two for 29 yards to Conrado Banky. The scoring strike came on an 18-yard play to running back Peter Scibilia.
Wesleyan answered with a 16-yard pass from Mark Piccirillo to Glenn Smith, before taking advantage of a turnover when Piccirillo connected with Joe Scancarella from 18 yards out.
The Cardinals added to their lead with a 27-yard field goal by Patrick Wolff with 5:49 remaining in the second quarter. The lead grew to 24-7 on a four-yard rush from Sean Penney with 2:12 on the clock before the Panthers battled back.
Middlebury drove 72 yards on 12 plays in 2:02, cutting the lead to 24-14 at the half. Meservy found five different receivers on the way down the field, before connecting with tight end Frank Cosolito from three yards out.
Wesleyan took back momentum in the second half as Ben Thaw returned an interception 30 yards for a touchdown on the Panthers' first possession. Following a three-and-out drive, the Cardinals went up 38-14 when Sean Penney scored on a two-yard rush.
Wesleyan extended its lead to 52-14 before Middlebury reserve quarterback Will Jernigan scored on a 23-yard run to make it a 52-21 final.
The Cardinals led 358-293 in total offense, holding the Panthers to just 27 yards on the ground. Wesleyan turned four Middlebury turnovers into 21 points in the contest.
Meservy went 25-43 for 216 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions, while Jernigan was 5-6 for 50 yards. Banky caught five passes for 61 yards, while Maxim Bochman had six receptions for 52 yards. Kevin Maxwell led the Middlebury defense with seven tackles.
Piccirillo completed 12-19 pass for 155 yards with a pair of touchdowns, while rushing for 45 yards on six carries. His top target was Dario Highsmith, who caught six passes for 87 yards. Cole Harris earned a team-high seven stops on defense, Thaw had a pair of interceptions, while Jackson Eighmy recorded two sacks.