Panther football wins in OT to stay in first place
AMHERST, Mass. — The Middlebury College football team defeated host Amherst on Saturday, 34-31, in double overtime in what was a showdown between two unbeaten teams seeking to retain a share of first place in the NESCAC standings.
The Panthers improved to 4-0 and are tied for first place with Wesleyan, the league’s only other undefeated team. The Mammoths fell to 3-1 after dropping Saturday’s dramatic, back-and-forth game to the Panthers. Middlebury will host Colby at 1 p.m. this Saturday.
The winning play at Amherst came on the Panthers’ second possession in overtime after both teams tossed interceptions on their first possessions, which per college rules start on the offensive 25-yard line. Panther Finn Muldoon picked off Mammoth quarterback Ollie Eberth.
On the Mammoths’ second possession they took the lead on a Conor Kennelly 31-yard field goal.
The Panthers then advanced to the 9-yard line, where they faced a third down. From there Middlebury scored the game-winner on a third-and-six play from the Amherst nine. Panther QB Will Jernigan rolled to his right and, under pressure, threw across his body and found Maxwell Rye alone in the back middle of the end zone for the three-point win.
Middlebury took a 21-0 lead in the game. On the Mammoths’ opening possession Kevin Hartley picked off a deflected Eberth pass at the Panther 42, and Middlebury marched 58 yards for the score. On a third-down play Jernigan connected with Rye on a short pass on the right sideline, and Rye broke it for 53 yards down the right sideline, setting up a two-yard touchdown run by Alex Maldjian.
Following a defensive stop the Panthers marched 89 yards on 10 plays to make it 14-0 at 4:47 of the second quarter. Jernigan found Maxim Bochman for 9, 10 and 22 yards on the drive, once on third-and-long, before Maldjian broke loose for a 40-yard touchdown run.
Michael Carr intercepted Eberth on Amherst’s next possession, and Jernigan found tight end Frank Cosolito over the middle for a 32-yard scoring strike.
Amherst got on the board in the second quarter when Ollie Eberth tossed a four-yard touchdown pass to James O’Regan. The extra point failed, as the Mammoths trailed 21-6 with 8:56 left in the half.
Amherst drove twice more in the half, but Alex Norton broke up a pass on a fourth-down play, and a Zander Bailey interception ended the Mammoths’ final possession.
Amherst scored on its first possession of the third quarter, when Eberth found Luke Mallette for a six-yard touchdown. The two-point conversation made it a 21-14 with 9:55 left in the third quarter.
On Middlebury’s ensuing drive the Mammoths blocked Carter Massengill’s 28-yard field goal attempt.
Amherst later took advantage of a Panther fumble to tie the game with 1:29 left in the third quarter on a four-yard touchdown rush from Brandon Huff.
The Mammoths took advantage of an interception to go on top, 28-21, 3:39 into the fourth quarter on a Kellen Field two-yard rush.
The Panthers tied the game with 6:21 remaining in the quarter, when Jernigan found Greg Livingston wide open over the middle and he raced 35 more yards for a 54-yard touchdown.
Middlebury drove late in the game, reaching the Amherst 10 after taking over on their own 12-yard line, but Mammoth John Ballard picked Jernigan off with 27 seconds remaining to force overtime and lead to the dramatic finish.
Maldjian finished with 125 yards rushing on 30 carries with a pair of touchdowns on the day. Jernigan completed 17 of 36 passes for 306 yards. Rye led the receivers with five catches for 86 yards, while Bochman finished with four catches for 47 yards. Middlebury outgained Amherst, 469-367.
Jack Pistorius made 13 tackles in the game, two for losses, and was named the NESCAC defensive player of the week. Wyllis McKissick had 10 stops, while Pete Huggins finished with eight.
Eberth went 20-24 for the Mammoths, throwing for 176 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions. He also gained 55 yards on the ground. O’Regan led the Amherst receivers with five catches for 74 yards and a touchdown.
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