Middlebury survived a turnover plagued first half with an incredible special teams play to end the first half, as edge rusher Matthew Crimmins blocked a 28-yard field goal attempt and Joel Blockowicz returned the ball 84 yards the other way for a touchdown. As Jack commented after the game, “you could feel the air go out of the balloon for Colby” who were not the same team in the second half. Mac Foote passed for 240 yards in just over 18 minutes of second half play, taking a seat on the bench with 9 minutes left and Middlebury up 42-13.
Foote passed for 388 yards in total and 5 touchdowns, 4 of which were caught by Zach Driscoll who was named NESCAC Player of the Week. Nine of Driscoll’s 11 receptions went for first downs or scores as Foote consistently looked Driscoll’s way on third and fourth down.
Brendan Rankowitz followed up a 7-catch, 77 yard game last week with 7 more catches Saturday, good for 110 yards and his second touchdown of the season.
The offensive line kept Foote upright for the second consecutive week, not allowing a sack on any of Foote’s 56 drop backs. The only area of concern for the Panthers — four turnovers aside — was their inability to get the run game in motion. Remi Ashkar rushed 10 times for just 27 yards, though he added 40 in the air on 4 receptions.
Defensively, Middlebury was dominant, allowing just 231 yards of total offense and limiting Colby to 13 points despite four turnovers from the offense, one of which led to a short field score on the Mules first touchdown. The final three quarters were superb for Doug Mandigo’s unit, which blanked the home team over the final 47:33 of play.
Defensively, first-year linebacker Tim Patricia is turning heads. He totaled 11 tackles, including one for a 3-yard loss that almost resulted in a safety. Through two games he leads the team with 20 tackles. Both head coach Bob Ritter and defensive captain John Wiet raved about his play this week, saying that his awareness and playmaking ability are incredible for a player with such limited experience at this level.
The Middlebury defense seems vastly improved from last year’s unit, though it is hard to tell how much better it really is given the mediocrity of the offenses it has faced and even more so because of the injuries those teams have sustained.
This weekend Middlebury, which improved to 2-0 for the first time since the 2007 NESCAC championship season, hosts defending NESCAC champions Amherst, which will be a great test for the upstart Panthers. Middlebury has played Amherst tough the last two years and could — could — pull off a big upset this weekend if they solve their tendency to come out of the gate slow and continue to make big plays on defense and in special teams.
We will have a longer preview on Amherst later in the week, but there are two numbers that jump off the page at you right way: first, the Lord Jeffs rushing attack is averaging over 300 yards a game; and secondly, their defense is allowing a league-best 107 yards per game through the air.
Check back in Friday for a much longer preview of Amherst-Middlebury.