Bates Football Shutout at Middlebury


Sarah Kimmel, Middlebury ‘24

The Bobcats played the Middlebury College Panthers on Saturday in Vermont and ultimately came up short.

Every so often in the course of one’s life, they find themselves at a crossroads. These moments allow an individual to make a statement about who they are, and the person they want to become. 

Do I want to get in shape and stop using my Peloton as a drying rack? Should I start planning for my retirement instead of spending all of my money at the OTB? Would I be happier if I tried to settle down with a girl as opposed to trying to pick up Lewiston cougars at The Blue Goose? These are all examples of crossroads that one may find themselves at. 

The Bates football team was at such a crossroad. After their nail-biting loss to Amherst last week, would they rebound and get a win against Middlebury? Or, like a poorly constructed burrito, would they continue to fall apart? 

As the Bobcats loaded onto the bus for the nearly five-hour trek across state lines to Vermont, they hoped to reverse their fortunes against a solid Middlebury team that went undefeated in 2019. The Bobcats were at a critical juncture—would they meet the challenge that lay ahead? 

On a sunny Saturday afternoon, Archie Green Jr. ’24 launched the ball into the air, kicking off the Bobcats’ road opener in front of a crowd of over 2,600 in Vermont. 

After an 18-yard return, Middlebury’s senior quarterback Will Jernigan took command over his high-powered offense that averaged over 30 points per game last season. Jernigan and running back Peter Scibilia ‘22 worked in tandem to march the Panthers through the porous Bobcat defense into the redzone on the game’s opening drive. 

Jernigan then found Greg Livingston ‘22 in the endzone to cap off the 78-yard drive. Thinking back to the crossroads the Bobcats faced, letting someone with a name as unathletic-sounding as Greg score on them was probably not a step in the right direction. 

While the touchdown was certainly a gut punch to the ‘Cats aspirations, all hope was not lost. If Brendan Costa ‘22 and the offense were able to channel last week’s performance, they would be able to hang with the Panthers. 

Costa and his offense took the field only to be taken off after a three-and-out put them on the sideline quicker than a night in bed with a Mormon. When the Panthers took over, Jernigan once again sliced his way through the Bates defense to put the team in scoring range for their second time in as many tries. 

After the Bobcats finally stopped the Middlebury offense on third down, freshman kicker Andrew Haas came on for a 37-yard field goal hoping to score the first points of his college career. Unfortunately for Haas, this milestone would have to wait as he put his attempt wide right. 

The Bobcats then took over at their own twenty yard-line and began to put together an impressive drive that took them into Middlebury’s territory for the first time that afternoon. Just when it appeared as if the offense was going to find last week’s form, Brendan Costa threw a costly interception that snuffed out any chance of scoring. 

Despite a hopeful showing against Amherst on Sept. 18, the Bobcats could not find the endzone against the Panthers. (Sarah Kimmel, Middlebury ‘24)

The teams each then traded a pair of punts—neither of which surpassed thirty yards. If you never thought you could be a DIII punter, it may be time to dust off the cleats and try out for one of these teams.  

The second quarter began with Middlebury once again in Bates territory, this time driving the ball down to the Bobcat 2-yard line before Andrew Haas knocked through an easy 20-yard field goal to make the score 10-0 in favor of the Panthers. 

Facing another double-digit deficit early in the game, the Bobcats hoped to bounce back as they did a week prior against Amherst. The comeback, unfortunately, would be put on hold as the Bates offense struggled mightily against the tenacious Middlebury defense. 

The ‘Cats obtained just one first down in the second quarter—a performance so weak it left fans wondering if they had suddenly become allergic to offensive progress during the break between quarters. Meanwhile, the Panthers tacked on another touchdown, taking a 17-0 lead into halftime. 

Although the game was certainly still in reach, the mood amongst spectators was much different than that of the week before. One could sense that things were not going to improve.

The ‘Cats began the second half in similarly tragic fashion, as Costa had his pass intercepted by Gordon Pollock ’22, who then returned the ball to the Bates 34-yard line, putting Middlebury in scoring position once again. 

Jernigan and the Middlebury offense punished the Bobcats for their mistake as the senior quarterback capped off the drive with a 20-yard touchdown run making the score 24-0 early in the second half. 

The Bobcat offensive woes continued as a series of penalties saw the ‘Cats squander a clutch fumble forced by Nolan Potter ’22 and recovered by Tony Hooks ’23 inside Middlebury territory. They then had a pair of three-and-outs that resulted in zero first downs on their first four drives of the half. 

Only with three minutes left in the third quarter did the Bobcats begin to mount some offensive pressure. Costa connected with Sean Bryant ’22 twice to get the Bobcats in the redzone for the first time in the afternoon. Unfortunately, a gutsy call to go for it on fourth down saw the drive end with an incompletion that effectively killed any chances of a comeback. 

The fourth quarter served as a continuation of the offensive struggles for the Bobcats. Two more costly interceptions from Costa and Jack Bryant ’22 drained the life from the Bates offense and sealed their second consecutive defeat. Costa’s third interception of the day was his fourth of the year and has raised concerns about his quarterback position. 

The ‘Cats’ 24-0 defeat was the opposite of the performance the program was hoping for following last week’s loss. In desperate need of a rebound, Bates simply was not up to the task. 

The defense was lackluster, giving up 24 points in two and a half quarters, while the offense was about as useful as a screen door on a submarine. This is no shock though. Bates has been outscored 158-57 in their last five meetings with Middlebury. 

Brendan Costa threw for 115 yards, zero touchdowns, and three interceptions while backup quarterback Jack Bryant threw for seven yards and one interception. The Bobcats’ run game was also nonexistent amassing just 79 yards with an average of 2.9 yards per carry. 

Sean Bryant ’22 led the team with 32 yards receiving across three receptions. The Bobcats offensive performance paled into comparison to last week’s—Bates had only 122 yards of offense against Middlebury compared to the 432 against Amherst last week. 

Additionally, the ‘Cats only collected ten first downs, compared to 21 the game prior. All told, Bates’ offensive performance against Middlebury was comparable to that of a piece of wet cardboard: soft, weak, and flat. 

The Bobcats must put this loss behind them if they wish to stand any chance when Wesleyan comes to Lewiston next weekend. Bates has yet to defeat Wesleyan since their 30-29 overtime victory in 2005. 

Additionally, next week’s annual Parents’ Week celebration will make the stage even bigger. One remains hopeful that the Bobcats will turn around their losing season and shine once again come next Saturday in front of what is expected to be a large hometown crowd.