Football holds on to top Panthers 37-27

Bryce Bennett '11 runs through a Middlebury tackle. Bennett had 46 yards rushing on Saturday.
Bryce Bennett ’11 runs through a Middlebury tackle. Bennett had 46 yards rushing on Saturday.

Football (3-1) stayed on track last weekend and soundly defeated Middlebury (1-3) 37-27. The Ephs were dominant throughout the first half, taking a 23-7 lead into half time. The Panthers managed to threaten in the second half, but after they reduced the lead to 30-27, the Ephs responded by driving down the field and scoring a touchdown with 2:12 left on the clock, putting the game out of reach for the Panthers for good.

The Ephs’ offense clicked on Saturday. Williams put up a season-high 37 points and held the ball for 38:28 to Middlebury’s 21:19. The passing game was fueled by the quarterback combination of Pat Moffit ’11 and Matt Coyne ’12 who combined for 163 passing yards, but the real offensive attack came from the Ephs running game. Ryan Lupo ’11 had an impressive day and rushed for three touchdowns and 139 yards while Coyne added nine rushes for 51 yards and one touchdown. Scott Sobolewski ’10 added three field goals with a long of 36 yards.

“The offensive line really played well,” said Lupo. “We wanted to keep their offense off the field, and we were able to keep them on the sidelines by running the ball a lot. The offensive line opened up big holes, and we were able to utilize the run.”

The Ephs used a balanced attack to start the game and scored on a Lupo five-yard run after a six play, 41 yard drive made possible by great field position after the defense stopped the Panthers at their own 35. Short drives by Middlebury ending in punts followed by scoring drives for Williams were the norm for the first half. The Ephs scored on six consecutive drives putting up 30 points on a beleaguered Panther defense. The Ephs’ defense was also stellar, allowing only seven points until four minutes left in the third quarter.

Head Coach Mike Whalen was pleased with both the offensive and defensive effort in the first 45 minutes of the game. “Middlebury only ran 22 plays in the first half so our defense did a great job getting the ball back,” he said. “The offense also did a very good job driving down the field. We rushed for almost 300 yards, and we played well. We dominated for three quarters.”

However, at the end of the third, things turned around for the Panthers. Middlebury appeared to pick up some ideas from the Williams sidelines and replicated the strategy that put Williams ahead 30-7. Led by quarterback Donald McKillop, who became Middlebury’s all-time passing leader during the game, the Panthers’ offense used quick strikes to make it a competitive contest while the Panthers’ defense was able to shut down the Ephs’ run game and expose a passing attack that had not been very efficient throughout the game.

Utilizing short runs that opened up the field, McKillop, who finished with 315 yards and three touchdowns with one interception, moved his team down the field with quick passes. After making the game 30-20 in favor of Williams with almost 14 minutes left in the fourth quarter, McKillop connected with a receiver for a 61 yard score that brought the Panthers within three.

“We let them get back into the game a little bit,” said Lupo. “The offense could not convert on a few short-yardage plays, and they took advantage of the field position and were able to make it close but we did end up putting the game away, it just took a lot longer than it should have.”

“It was a combination of their good offense and our missed opportunities,” said Whalen about Middlebury’s comeback. “You are not going to shut [their offense] down the whole game. Our offense had the opportunity on a fourth and one. . . to put the game away, but they stopped us. Then they came out and [we] missed three tackles and gave up a 61-yard play. We played well; [we] were just a few plays away from stopping them, but they pushed through and made it a close game.”
The Ephs were able to respond, and the defense came up with a huge stop midway through the fourth quarter that allowed the offense to put the game away. A quick drive that lasted 1:34 ended with a three-yard Lupo touchdown with 2:12 left to play, sealing the game and giving the Ephs’ their third victory.

Football’s second victory came in a much more dominant performance on Oct. 10 against Bates (0-4). Despite freezing rain, a good crowd came out to support the Ephs during their home opener. The fans cheered the team on to a 31-7 victory.
Williams came out of the gate strong, scoring 14 points in the first quarter, and the Ephs never looked back as they walked away with their easiest win of the season. Complacency did not set in for the men; football scored in every quarter and held Bates to a single touchdown.

The Ephs will play Tufts (2-2) at Weston Field on Saturday as they look to go to 4-1 and keep up with Trinity and Amherst, both undefeated atop the NESCAC.