Middlebury became the first team in NESCAC history to finish with a 9-0 record, as the Panthers captured their fourth NESCAC Championship after a 31-24 win over Tufts (4-5) on Saturday. The 2019 Middlebury squad joins the 8-0 teams of 1936 and 1972 as the only undefeated teams in school history.
Middlebury went up 7-0 on its second drive of the game when quarterback Will Jernigan capped an eight-play drive with a two-yard keeper.
Tufts drove to the Middlebury 35 on its next drive, but was stopped on fourth down on a tackle by Jack Pistorius.
The Jumbos took advantage of a turnover on their next possession, as quarterback Jacob Carroll found Frank Roche on a 16-yard scoring strike to knot the game at 7-7.
The Panthers answered with an eight-play, 75-yard drive that elapsed just 2:04 off the clock. Jernigan connected with Maxim Bochman for 24 yards down the right side, before the duo hooked up again from 10 yards out for the touchdown.
Finn Muldoon and Kevin Hartley intercepted passes on the next two Tufts drives, as the Panthers held onto the 14-7 lead. The second turnover resulted in 22-yard field goal for Carter Massengill, the 15th of his career, giving his team a 17-7 lead.
The Panther defense forced a third-straight Tufts turnover on the host's next possession, as Pete Huggins earned the interception.
Middlebury drove to the Jumbo 33 as the second quarter was winding down, but turned the ball over on downs.
The Panthers extended the lead to 24-7 at the 4:44 mark of the third quarter, when Jernigan again found Bochman, this time on a play-action pass for an 11-yard score.
Tufts cut the lead to 24-14 with 2:10 remaining in the third quarter on a 56-yard touchdown pass from Carroll to OJ Armstrong.
Middlebury answered, driving 82 yards on eight plays, as Alex Maldjian scored on a three-yard rush to his right.
The Jumbos came right back, cutting the lead to 31-17 on a 27-yard field goal by Matt Alwanger. The drive was set up by a 56-yard pass from Carroll to Jack Donohue.
Tufts drove to the Middlebury 43-yard line with 4:05 remaining, but Hartley picked off his second pass of the contest to seal the game.
The Jumbos added a late touchdown to make it a 31-24 final.
Jernigan completed 18-32 passes for 264 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, while gaining 74 yards on the ground (338 total yards). Maldjian earned his fourth game with over 100 yards rushing, gaining 136 yards on 35 carries with a touchdown. Bochman caught five passes, two of them for touchdowns, while gaining 89 yards on the afternoon. Greg Livingston had four receptions for 74 yards, while Maxwell Rye made six catches to gain 67 yards.
Huggins led the defense with 10 tackles and an interception, while Pistorius and Muldoon each made seven stops with Muldoon adding a pick. Hartley finished the contest with four tackles and two interceptions.
Carroll went 28-48 for Tufts, throwing for 367 yards with three touchdowns and four interceptions. Roche led all receivers with eight catches for 103 yards, with two of them going for touchdowns. Brendan Dolan added six receptions for 91 yards in the game. Greg Holt led all tacklers with 12 in the contest.
Middlebury held a slim 473-453 edge in total yards, gaining 209 yards on the ground, while holding Tufts to 86.
Maldjian finishes the season third on Middlebury's all-time list with 905 yards rushing in a season and second with 212 carries.
With the four interceptions in the game, Middlebury finishes the season with a league-leading 17. The Panthers also boasted a NESCAC-best 26 sacks after three this afternoon.
The Panthers previously earned NESCAC Championships in 2000, 2007 and 2013.