Clay Hunt intercepted a pass in the final minutes, preserving a 35-34 win for Middlebury (4-2) over Bates (0-6) on Homecoming weekend. The win was the 30th straight for the Panthers over the Bobcats. Middlebury returns to action next Saturday at Trinity, while Bates will entertain Colby.
Bates answered with an eight-play, 75-yard drive ending in a five-yard rush from Jaason Lopez seconds into the second quarter. The extra point was blocked by Ian Blow, leaving Middlebury with a 7-6 lead.
The Panthers increased their lead 4:55 into the second quarter on a 92-yard touchdown pass from Jernigan to Rye. Rye caught the ball at his own 45, before breaking away from a defender and racing 55 yards to the end zone.
After a defensive hold, Middlebury added to its lead when Jernigan found Conrado Banky wide open in the end zone on a 17-yard pass. The lead now stood at 21-6 with 6:05 remaining in the second quarter.
Bates fumbled on its next play from scrimmage, leaving Middlebury the ball on the 11-yard line. The Panthers capitalized three plays later when Drew Jacobs extended his arm forward for a three-yard rushing touchdown at the 4:42 mark.
The Bobcats responded quickly with a one-yard touchdown run from Christian Sanfi after a big 44-yard rush by quarterback Brendan Costa on the drive. The score cut the Panther lead to 28-13 at the break.
Bates took advantage of a Middlebury turnover early in the fourth quarter when Costa found Jackson Hayes wide open up the middle for a 49-yard touchdown pass. The drive was set up by an interception by Joe Frake at the Middlebury 49-yard line.
Middlebury answered with an 11-play, 75-yard drive capped by a seven-yard rush up the middle by Jacobs into the end zone. The Panthers now held a 35-20 advantage with 6:34 remaining in the third quarter.
Bates scored on a 75-yard drive of its own on the ensuing drive, as Costa found Marcus Ross from 17 yards out, making it a 35-27 contest late in the third quarter.
The Bobcats scored on their third-straight possession when Costa found Sanfi on a five-yard score midway through the fourth quarter. Bates elected to kick the extra point and found themselves trailing 35-34 with 8:20 remaining.
The teams punted on each of the next five possessions, with Bates having one last chance when it took over on its own 20 with 2:20 remaining. The Bobcats moved to their own 41-yard line, before Hunt picked off a pass near midfield and sealed the Panther victory.
Jernigan finished the day 17-26 for 266 yards with three touchdown passes and one interception, while rushing for 47 yards on 20 carries. Cosolito caught six passes for 60 yards, while Rye finished with three receptions for 110 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Banky made three catches for 33 yards and a touchdown, moving into third place on the school's all-time list with 1,999 yards. Hunt paced the Panther defense with nine tackles, 1.5 for lost yardage and an interception, while Charles Roselle and Jonathan Hobart each made seven stops.
Costa went 11-22 for the Bobcats, throwing for 177 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. He led all rushers with 111 yards on 13 carries. Hayes caught three passes for 63 yards and a touchdown, while Lopez gained 53 yards on 19 carries. David Campbell made nine tackles to lead the Bates defense, while Jon Lindgren and Chase Fulton each had eight.
Middlebury outgained Bates 388-354 on the day, but suffered through six penalties for 70 yards.