Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics
MIDDLEBURY, Vt. â€“ Middlebury held off a late charge by Wesleyan, earning a 24-21 win over the Cardinals on Youngman Field at Alumni Stadium. The game was the season-opener for both teams, with the Panthers earning their third straight win over the Cardinals.
Middlebury opened its season with a 13-play, 56-yard drive ending in a 35-yard field goal from Anthony Kuchan. Wesleyan answered by scoring on its first drive of the season, marching 70 yards in just five plays. A 15-yard rush by Vince Miller preceded his 25-yard touchdown run to give the Cardinals a 7-3 lead.
The Panthers regained the lead on their ensuing drive, with Donald McKillop hitting tight end David Reed twice for 23 yards. The scoring play saw McKillop find Matt Rayner for a 10-yard scoring strike with 4:40 left in the first quarter.
Middlebury had a great chance to increase its lead early in the second quarter, as an Andrew Durfee interception and return gave them the ball at the Wesleyan five. Four plays later, the Panthers turned the ball over on downs.
Leading 10-7 at the break, a 15-yard punt return by Rayner gave Middlebury the ball on the Wesleyan 35. Andrew Plumley rushed twice for 13 yards before scoring in a nine-yard connection with McKillop to make it a 17-7 game.
Wesleyan answered once again, as tight end Joe Giaimo hit quarterback Matt Coyne with a 52-yard pass on a double reverse, putting the ball at the Middlebury 11. Three plays later, Shea Dwyer scored with a 10-yard rush up the middle to cut the lead to 17-14 at the 7:32 mark of the third quarter.
Anthony Capatina returned the ensuing kick-off 37 yards to the Wesleyan 45, setting up a 33-yard scoring strike from McKillop to Zach Driscoll just three plays later.
Middlebury led 24-13 lead in the fourth quarter, when it appeared that Wesleyanâ€™s Miller was on his way into the endzone to tighten the score. The ball came loose just before the goal line as Middleburyâ€™s Daniel Kenerson recovered the ball in the end zone. The Panthers took the ball all the way down to the Wesleyan 23, before McKillop was picked off by Justin Freres in the end zone.
With 9:59 left in the fourth, Wesleyan drove 80 yards on 16 plays, but ate up 7:41 off the clock as they cut the lead to 24-21 with 2:18 remaining. Dwyer gained 48 yards on the ground during the drive, while Miller found paydirt from just two yards away.
Following the touchdown, the Cardinals attempted an onside kick and recovered the ball at their own 43-yard line with a chance to take the lead. Wesleyan was unable to move the ball, turning the ball over on downs after four plays. The Panthers took over and ran out the clock to secure the win.
Plumley gained 140 yards of total offense on the afternoon (84 rushing), while scoring his first career touchdown. McKillop went 25 of 40 for 255 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Driscoll (92 yards, TD) and Rayner (35 yards, TD) caught six passes each, while Plumley had four receptions for 40 yards. Defensively, Michael Bilodeau paced the team with a dozen tackles, Andrew Poulin had 11 with a tackle for lost yardage (TFL), while Andrew Durfee made nine tackles with two TFLâ€™s, an interception and a sack. Paul Carroll made three TFLâ€™s and earned a pair of sacks.
The backfield duo of Dwyer and Miller were the first Wesleyan twosome to both earn 100 yards in a game since Tom Themistocles (110 yards) and John Pascucci (144 yards) accomplished the feat in a 51-33 win over Tufts in 1997. Dwyer gained 119 yards on 16 carries with a touchdown, while Miller scored twice, gaining 114 yards on 17 carries. Coyne connected on 16 of 29 passes for 113 yards with an interception, hitting Kyle Weiss six times for 28 yards. Freres and Cyprian Oyomba paced the Wesleyan defense with 14 tackles apiece. Freres added an interception and a pass break-up, while Oyomba also had a pass break-up and a half sack.