Football (1-3) struggled to contain a dominant Middlebury offense on Saturday, as the Panthers (4-0) surged past the Ephs 30-13 at Weston Field. The loss came one week after the team traveled to Bates, where the men fell 33-6 on Oct. 6.
The scoring began in Saturday’s game when Middlebury quarterback McCallum Foote connected with Zach Driscoll for a 28-yard touchdown strike. Jake Fuery’s PAT put Middlebury up 7-0 with nine minutes remaining in the first quarter.
The Ephs responded with a scoring drive of their own, marching 61 yards under the leadership of quarterback Adam Marske ’14. After trying to penetrate the Panthers’ goal line defense, the Ephs settled for a 21-yard field goal by kicker Joe Mallock ’14, bringing the score to 7-3 with two minutes left in the first quarter.
Middlebury countered with an 82-yard drive, highlighted by a 48-yard pass to Driscoll on third down. The men showed strong defense at the goal line, however, as Middlebury was unable to find the endzone. Jake Fuery converted a 20-yard field goal to move Middlebury to a 10-3 lead early in the second quarter.
The only other score of the first half came from a 24-yard Mallock field goal, which placed Williams at a 10-6 deficit with nine minutes to go in the half. Middlebury’s offense gave the Panthers a scoring opportunity with five minutes left in the second quarter. However, when Fuery attempted a 28-yard field goal, the Ephs rose to the occasion and blocked the kick, giving the Ephs a measure of confidence heading into the second half.
The third quarter began on a sour note for the men, when Foote found Driscoll for a Panther 50-yard touchdown. After Fuery tacked on the extra point, Middlebury extended its lead to 17-6. The men’s offense took control after this and finally broke into the endzone with a five-yard rush by Kevin Lapointe ’14. Mallock added the PAT, but Williams still trailed 17-13.
The Panthers went to work on their following drive, with a series of passes that the Eph defense was unable to contain. A Panther touchdown pass and extra point put the men at a 23-13 disadvantage near the end of the third quarter. Middlebury put together yet another successful scoring drive, hurling a 41-yard touchdown strike to Driscoll to start the fourth quarter.
“The biggest problem with the defense so far this year is that we are blowing assignments, which leads to big plays,” co-captain Chris Cameron ’13 said. “One player may go the wrong way on a blitz and therefore we don’t get a sack when we should have, or we will not cover a wide receiver and it will lead to a touchdown.”
In the fourth, critical mistakes prevented the men from threatening Middlebury’s lead. The first Williams drive of the final quarter ended with an interception. Two penalties extended the subsequent Panthers’ drive, including a false start on the Ephs on fourth down that granted the Panthers an automatic first down.
Williams received the ball with six minutes left in the game and marched the ball down the field. The men continued to face goal line struggles and ultimately could not find the endzone, turning the ball over on downs. The Ephs had a last chance at scoring with less than two minutes remaining, but Panther Daniel Kenerson intercepted Marske to end any of the team’s last hopes.
Marske ended the day with 137 passing yards, completing 13 of 29 passes with three interceptions. Middlebury’s Kenerson caught all three of Marske’s interceptions, tying a Middlebury school record. Panther Driscoll also had a memorable performance, racking up 250 yards and three touchdowns with 12 receptions. The versatile Driscoll also doubled as punter for the Panthers, with four punts for 119 yards.
“The team is struggling because of inexperience and our poor execution. We haven’t been able to be consistent in all phases of the game,” Head Coach Aaron Kelton said. “We have to keep working hard and improve on our execution this week. We have run the ball better the last couple of games and I expect that to continue.”
On Oct. 6, the men had an equally disappointing result in a 33-6 loss against Bates. Williams had four turnovers and was outgained 420-173 in total yards. Lapointe scored the only touchdown for Williams on a one-yard touchdown run, but backup quarterback Tom Murphy ’15 was unable to execute the two-point conversion.
Next Saturday, Williams hopes to get back on track as the men travel to Tufts for a 1:30 game. “I am proud of the team because it would be easy for us to give up and mail the season in at this point, but everyone is continuing to work hard,” Cameron said.