College Football: Middlebury Survives, Edges Colby 27-26

Courtesy Middlebury Sports Information

MIDDLEBURY — Colby missed a game-winning field goal with 22 seconds left, as Middlebury remained undefeated with a 27-26 win over the Mules (0-5) on homecoming at Alumni Stadium. The Panthers (5-0) will host Wesleyan next Saturday at 1:00 p.m. Colby will visit Trinity next weekend.

Colby scored on its second possession as a 53-yard pass from Matt Hersch to Jack O’Brien set up the score. Hersch later connected with Pat Sweetnam for an 18-yard scoring strike in the corner of the endzone. The extra point failed, leaving the Mules with a 6-0 lead.

Colby made it a 13-0 game just 54 seconds into the second quarter on a similar connection from Hersch to Sweetnam, this one also from 18 yards out.

Middlebury got on the board late in the half, as Coleman Brown forced a fumble that was recovered by Wyllis McKissick on the Colby 33-yard line. Will Jernigan found Greg Livingston for 26 yards before scoring on a one-yard keeper. The extra point missed as the Panthers trailed 13-6 heading into the halftime break.

Middlebury tied the game (13-13) on its opening drive of the second half on another one-yard keeper from Jernigan. The drive was set up by a 15-yard rush from LeeCharles McNeil and a 17-yard pass reception by Aidan Power.

Middlebury took its first lead of the game at the 3:38 mark of the third quarter on a six-yard touchdown run from McNeil, the first of his career.

The Panthers extended their lead to 27-13 when Jernigan broke away from the pack for a 62-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter.

The Mules later got back in the game, aided by a pair of Panther turnovers. Colby cashed in on the first fumble when Hersch found Andrew DeFranco on an 11-yard connection after a short 42-yard drive.

Leading 27-20, the Panthers fumbled the first play of their next possession, as Colby took over on the Panther 42-yard line. The touchdown was an odd one as Mules fumbled the ball into their own end zone where offensive lineman Ty Mahar recovered for the touchdown. Colby was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct after the touchdown, as the lengthy extra point attempt by Moises Celaya hit the upright, leaving the Mules with a 27-26 deficit.

Middlebury was forced to punt on its next possession, as Colby took over on ITS their own 35-yard line. A key pass interference call extended the drive, as the Mules drove to the Panther 15 before attempting a game-winning field goal. The 32-yard kick had plenty of distance but sailed just right as the Panthers hung on for the win.

Jernigan completed 12 of 30 passes for 172 yards with an interception, while rushing for a career-high 153 yards with three scores. McNeil finished the game with 18 carries for 63 yards and a touchdown. Jimmy Connell (3-46) and Maxim Bochman (3-34) were Middlebury’s top receivers.

The Middlebury defense, which entered the weekend tied for second in the NESCAC with 11 sacks, added six more to its total. Jack Pistorius and Pete Huggins each made 11 stops on the day with a sack from Pistorius and a pair by of Alex Norton.

Hersch went 14-31 for the Mules, amassing 230 yards with three touchdown passes. O’Brien caught three passes for 85 yards, Rory Glavin earned 62 yards on three catches, while Sweetnam earned two-18-yard touchdown receptions. Marcus Bullard led all tacklers with 15, to go along with two tackles for loss and an interception.