Middlebury beats Bates in historic shootout, 49-43

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LEWISTON, Maine -- McCallum Foote hit Nick Resor for a 10-yard touchdown pass with 12 seconds left to lift Middlebury to a 49-43 win over Bates at Garcelon Field on Saturday. The teams combined for 991 yards of offense -- 537 for Bates, 454 for Middlebury -- in the highest-scoring game in the 117-year history of Bates football.
The Panthers (2-3) pulled even with the Bobcats (2-3) in the NESCAC standings and extended their win streak in the teams' annual rivalry to 23 games, dating to 1989. Bates scored its most points since a 48-28 win over Bowdoin in 2002, and gave up its most points since a 55-14 loss to Bowdoin in 2008.

Middlebury took its first lead of the game with 8:06 left in the fourth quarter, when Philip Cutler blocked David Kurey's punt attempt at Bates' 18-yard line. Andrew Donnelly won the scramble to come up with the ball, scooping it up at the 2-yard line and twisting into the end zone inside the right pylon. Drew Millier's extra-point attempt made it 43-36 in Middlebury's favor.

Only once in the game did either team lead by more than eight points: that came when senior Cam Evans (Norwell, Mass.) returned an interception of Foote 59 yards to the end zone, giving Bates a 33-21 lead with 9:33 to go in the third quarter.

Foote completed 39 of 53 passes for 412 yards and five touchdowns. Billy Chapman led Middlebury receivers with 11 catches for 122 yards and a score. Zach Driscoll and Remi Ashkar put up identical receiving numbers of nine catches and 116 yards apiece, with Driscoll scoring twice. Resor caught eight balls for 44 yards and two scores. Ashkar was limited to 65 net yards rushing, but did run for a 1-yard touchdown in the second quarter: Bates held Middlebury to 42 yards rushing, compared to 256 for the Bobcats.

Bates quarterback Trevor Smith (Malvern, Pa.) completed 20 of his 29 passes for 281 yards and two touchdowns. He hooked up with wide receiver John Squires (Swampscott, Mass.) in a career-high day for the 6-foot-7 receiver of 11 catches for 174 yards and one touchdown.

Bates rushed for 256 yards total, getting a career-high 94 yards from sophomore Teddy Downs (South Boston, Mass.) on 10 carries, 77 yards and a score on 15 carries by sophomore slotback Ryan Curit (South Portland, Maine), and 67 yards on 17 carries by junior Patrick George (Gloucester, Mass.). Curit also caught five passes for 46 yards.

The game began with both teams putting together lengthy scoring drives. The Bobcats received the opening kickoff and marched 67 yards in 13 plays, capped by a pitch to Curit for a 9-yard score and sophomore Charlie Donahue's (Plymouth, N.H.) point-after. Middlebury answered just as easily, moving 70 yards in nine plays, including a 26-yard completion in the flat to Ashkar, who was Foote's effective safety valve all day.

Bates went ahead 14-7 in a three-play, 49-yard drive later in the first quarter, as Smith hit senior Tom Finkenstaedt (Norwell, Mass.) for 15 yards, Squires for another  13, and handed off to Downs, who rumbled up the middle for a 21-yard score.

Middlebury drove to the doorstep as the game continued into the second quarter. Bates stopped Ashkar form scoring on three straight runs from inside the 5, but on fourth and goal at the 1 the Panthers' lead back got in, tying the game at 14-14.

Bates answered that with another long scoring drive, moving 69 yards in 10 plays, with Smith diving into the end zone from the 1 to put the Bobcats back on top at 21-14 with 9:05 left in the half.

Middlebury turned the ball over on downs on its next possession, but Bates couldn't take advantage and had to punt. Middlebury got the ball back with 3:08 to go in the quarter, and scored quickly: on three consecutive plays, Foote hit Driscoll for 15 yards, Chapman for 27 and Driscoll again for a 32-yard touchdown with 1:27 still on the clock. The teams headed to the locker rooms at halftime tied 21-21, with Foote at that point having completed 19 of 21 passes for 218 yards.

The third quarter started with Middlebury punting the ball away, with its offense derailed by a holding call and a rare incompletion by Foote. Smith had a 26-yard completion to Squires carry the Bobcats into Panther territory, and on 3rd and 13 from the 38, Smith again found Squires for a leaping catch near the right sideline, and Squires ran down the sideline for the score after the Panther covering him had fallen to the ground. Donahue's point-after was blocked by Keegan Ashley, keeping the lead at 27-21.

The Bobcats climbed into the driver's seat on Middlebury's next possession. Foote hit Chapman for 19 yards on 3rd and 10 to bring the Panthers into Bates territory, but on second down, Foote's pass over the middle was tipped into the air by Bates linebacker Kevin Helm (Norwell, Mass.). Evans gathered the ball, broke a tackle and ran through a broken field and into the clear for a 59-yard score. The Bobcats tried going for two points but failed, giving them a 33-21 lead with 9:33 left in the third.

Middlebury was then induced into a three-and-out, but Matthew Wassel's punt was muffed by Bates and Middlebury's Matthew Crimmins fell on it, giving the Panthers the ball back right away at the Bates 38. They took advantage with a four-play touchdown drive, keyed by Foote's dump-off to Ashkar for 26 yards on 3rd and 11. Foote then completed to a wide-open Driscoll over the middle for a 13-yard score, closing the gap to 33-28.

With momentum swinging back toward Middlebury, Smith was picked off by Joel Blockowicz, who returned the ball 18 yards to the Bates 31. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty by Bates gave the Panthers another 15 yards, allowing the offense to take over at the 16. The Panthers got to the 1 before Ashkar fumbled the ball through the end zone for a Bates touchback. Given new life, Bates also took advantage of an adrenaline injection from Downs, who took handoffs on the first four plays of the drive for gains of 5, 2, 27 and 21 yards. An eight-yard throw to Curit was followed by a 14-yard jaunt by Downs, bringing the Bobcats to the 3.before settling for a 22-yard field goal by Donahue, his first this season.

The ensuing kickoff was returned by Middlebury's Josh Amster for 66 yards, setting up the Panther offense in terrific field position again, at the Bates 24, as the third quarter wound down. Five plays later, Foote found Chapman for an 11-yard touchdown, and immediately passed to him again for a two-point conversion that tied the game at 36-36 with 13:18 left in the game.

The Panthers got their first lead of the game on the blocked punt, putting them ahead 43-36. Smith was then sacked by Chris Dola at the Middlebury 49, turning the ball over on downs.

But the Bobcats came back with a big defensive play of their own, as senior Tyler Kuehl (Plymouth, N.H.) crashed through the Panther line, stripped the ball from Foote, and scrambled on his elbows to beat Middlebury to the ball at the Bates 45.

The Bobcats kept their drive alive with two big plays. Smith scrambled before passing to Curit for a 25-yard gain on 3rd and 5, and later the Bobcats faced a 4th and 8 situtation that was converted into a first down with a 15-yard catch by Squires to the Middlebury 8. They stood at 4th and goal from the 4 when Smith again bought time by scrambling, then finding junior Ryan MacDonald (Melrose, Mass.) open in the end zone for a 4-yard score. Donahue's big extra-point attempt was good, tying the game again at 43-43 with 1:19 left in the fourth quarter.

The Panthers started their game-winning drive from their own 40, and it was all Foote from there. Middlebury faced a 4th and 1 at the Bates 32 with 27 seconds remaining, and Foote connected with Chapman over the middle for seven yards. Middlebury then called timeout with 22 seconds on the clock. A pass interference penalty was then called against Bates, moving the Panthers up 15 yards to the 10 with 18 seconds to play. On first and goal, Foote threw to a well-covered Driscoll, but the taller receiver outleaped his defender and came down safely with the ball near the right sideline for the deciding touchdown with 12 seconds left.

Bates first-year Sam Hundley (Cheshire, Conn.) downed the ensuing squib kickoff at the Bates 30, and the Bobcats got off two plays in the final 10 seconds. Smith hit Squires for 11 yards over the middle, and the Bobcats called timeout to set up a final play. Smith then lofted a pass down the middle of the field to Finkenstaedt, who fell to the ground with a 34-yard catch at the Middlebury 25 as time expired.

Jared Onouye and Zach Roeder had 10 tackles apiece to lead the Panther defense. Helm totaled 14 tackles with one sack to pace the Bobcat defense. Senior Will Taft (South Hamilton, Mass.) and junior Kyle Starr (Concord, N.H.) both had career-highs with nine tackles apiece. Senior Brett McAllister (Exeter, N.H.) totaled eight tackles, including a stop of Ashkar for a loss in the red zone.

Bates plays at Colby next Saturday at 1 p.m.

Stats and Play by Play: Middlebury 49, Bates 43

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