Middlebury capped off its tremendous season with a 35-13 win at home over Tufts this afternoon. Mac Foote led the way with 389 yards and 4 touchdowns, putting the finishing touches on the best statistical quarterback season in NESCAC history.
Although the Middlebury defense started off flat, they made up for it with a great second half, highlighted by an unbelievable play in which John Wiet recovered a fumble in the red zone, returned it sixty yards, was caught by Tufts tight end Nick Kenyon, then lateraled the ball to a trailing Jared Onouye who took it the rest of the way for six. The score turned a potential upset into a blowout, and allowed Middlebury to enjoy the final eight minutes of their 2012 season with a comfortable lead.
Give credit to Tufts’ offense, which looked sharp throughout, and was led by elusive first-year running back Justin Weaver, who finished the game with 145 total yards. Quarterback John Dodds was inconsistent but made a lot of impressive throws underneath, and finished the game with 246 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. His wide receivers did a nice job on short routes, and Nick Kenyon looked as good as any tight end we have seen play against the Panthers, finishing with 60 yards receiving and two very tough catches down the seam in traffic. Until the fumble return in the fourth quarter, Tufts’ offense outperformed the Panther D. It is surprising that they did not win one of those close games this season.
Tufts defense, however, could not keep up with the Middlebury passing attack from the start. Mac Foote had his best first half of the season, going 23 of 32 for 220 yards and 2 touchdowns, throwing an interception on a tipped pass, but hitting wide receivers in stride all over the field. It looked like Tufts wanted to force Middlebury to throw underneath and Foote was happy to oblige. The consistent protection afforded by the Panther offensive line made Foote’s work that much easier.
In the first half, Zach Driscoll broke the NESCAC single-season receptions and touchdown records, and he ended up with 10 catches, 124 yards, and 2 touchdowns. His final season statline, the best in NESCAC history, looks like this: 83 receptions, 1134 yards, 15 touchdowns. He is a likely first-team All-American based on where his per-game stats rank nationally. Mac Foote’s end-of-year stats are equally impressive: 2897 yards (362 YPG), 31 TD, 8 INT, 63% CMP. Billy Chapman, the senior pre-season All-American tight end, had an amazing catch and run in the fourth quarter to finish with seven catches and 105 receiving yards. His final season statistics: 61 receptions, 693 yards, 8 touchdowns.
While we were all waiting with baited breath as Wesleyan was on the verge of giving the Panthers a share for the NESCAC title, and disappointed that they let the Bantams come back, the second-place finish and the high level of performance throughout the season are far from disappointing. At the start of the year, we were expecting Middlebury to go 5-3; instead they blew out every team they faced except Trinity, and were a pleasure to watch from start to finish. The senior core of Driscoll, Chapman, Moores, Ashkar, Huguenard, Wiet, Kenerson, Ashley, Tilson, Rogers, et. al left a great mark on this program, and it was a pleasure to follow the 2012 Panthers.