Football preview: Bobcats host high-flying Middlebury Saturday

Frank Williams was off to the races for a 39-yard touchdown run in Bates' 41-27 loss to Middlebury on Oct. 24, 2015. Now-captain Williams and the Bobcats host the Panthers for the first time since that game this Saturday, Oct. 21 at Garcelon Field. (File photo by Brewster Burns for Bates College)

LEWISTON, Maine -- Seeking its first win of the season, the Bates College football team meets a stiff challenge in Middlebury College, who visit Garcelon Field with a 4-1 record and still stinging from their one-point loss to Williams last weekend.

With former UNLV quarterback Jared Lebowitz now in his senior season at Middleburyk, the Panthers rank second in the NESCAC in total offense (438.0 yards per game), including 323 yards passing per game. They are fifth in total defense (340.2). Bates is eighth in the league in total offense (269.0), with first-year quarterback Brendan Costa (Westport, Mass.) now ranking second in the NESCAC in rushing, at 81.0 yards per game. Bates ranks ninth in the conference in total defense (464.8).

What: Middlebury (4-1) at Bates (0-5)
When: Saturday, Oct. 21, 1:00 p.m.
Where: Garcelon Field (Lewiston, Maine)
Live Coverage: Video (NSN) | Stats
All-Time Series: Middlebury leads 43-14-3
Previous Meeting: Middlebury 28, Bates 9 (Oct. 22, 2017 in Middlebury, Vt.)

Middlebury Last Week:

Williams quarterback Bobby Maimaron found Frank Stola in the end zone from 15 yards out on the final play of the game, lifting the Ephs (4-1) to a 27-26 road win at Middlebury (4-1) last Saturday.

Middlebury outgained Williams 432-378 on the day, as the teams combined for 14 penalties totaling 142 yards.

Quarterback Jared Lebowitz connected on 24-37 passes for 304 yards with three touchdowns. Maxwell Rye finished with a career-high 133 yards receiving on seven catches with a touchdown.

Maimaron completed 21-29 passes for 195 yards with a pair of touchdowns, while rushing for 93 yards and a score.

Following a Middlebury punt, Williams took over on its own 20 with 2:04 remaining and no timeouts. Maimaron completed his first six passes on the drive, moving the ball to the Panther 48. An 11-yard completion to Frank Stola and a 17-yard rush of his own left the ball at the Middlebury 15. With 6.2 seconds remaining, Maimaron had time in the pocket before Stola found a seam in the Panther defense to catch the game-winning touchdown in the end zone.

Bates Last Week:

Costa carried the ball 18 times for 170 yards and a touchdown, but Wesleyan's Mark Piccirillo threw for 370 yards and tallied three total touchdowns to lead the Cardinals past Bates 41-23 Saturday in Middletown, Conn.

The Bobcats (0-5) held a 23-21 lead at the half thanks to senior Grant DeWald (Duxbury, Mass.) nailing a career-long 43-yard field goal with 26 seconds left in the second quarter.

But the Cardinals (4-1) took the lead for good in the third quarter when they went on a 14-play, 63-yard drive, setting up a Corey Phillips 31-yard field goal. After a Bates three-and-out, Wesleyan marched 79 yards on nine plays.

After an explosive first half, the Bobcats struggled on offense in the second half, getting out-scored 20-0 by the Cardinals and recording only three first downs.

But in the first half, the young Bobcat offense showed the potential they have this season.

Wesleyan tallied 537 yards of total offense while holding Bates to 384 yards of total offense. The Bobcats outrushed the Cardinals 287-167 but the Cardinals threw for 370 yards to the Bobcats' 97. Costa did not turn the ball over after throwing four interceptions the previous week at Williams.

Bates' and Middlebury's Last Meeting:

Jared Lebowitz passed for 394 yards and three touchdowns as Middlebury overcame an early 9-0 deficit with 28 unanswered points in a 28-9 homecoming victory in Vermont on Oct. 22, 2016. The Panthers rose to 5-0 and dropped Bates to 1-4.

Bates turned four great plays in the early going into a 9-0 lead within the game's first seven minutes.

The first of them came on the Panthers' game-opening drive. Defending receiver James Burke, Joe Frake (Windham, N.H.) caused the Panther receiver to bobble the ball. Frake gobbled up the pop-up and scampered 19 yards up the sideline, giving Bates its first possession starting at the Middlebury 35-yard line.

Bates' offense went nowhere on its first series, but Justin Foley bounced his punt out of bounds at the Middlebury 1-yard line. On first down from the 1, Middlebury handed off to Drew Jacobs, who spun around one tackler in the end zone before he was wrapped up by Mark Upton for a safety.

Bates' offense then took over at its own 49-yard line and on third down, Sandy Plashkes (Del Mar, Calif.) hit Brian Daly (Marblehead, Mass.) in stride over the middle, and Daly sprinted untouched into the end zone for a 48-yard touchdown. DeWald's extra point made it 9-0 in Bates' favor with 8:49 left in the first quarter.

Upton later picked off a long pass by Lebowitz, giving Bates' offense great field position again at its own 46.

But Middlebury's Nate Leedy answered with an interception of his own, and a facemask penalty called against Bates on the play allowed the Panther offense to start at the Bates 25. Facing third down after two incompletions, Lebowitz found Conrado Banky open in the end zone for a 25-yard connection.

The Panthers then forced a three-and-out from Bates and drove 77 yards on eight plays, ending with a second Lebowitz-to-Banky connection for 26 yards, giving Middlebury its first lead at 14-9 with 8:50 left in the half.

Bates started the third quarter with a three-and-out, giving the Panthers the ball at their own 27. Running back Diego Meritus picked up three first downs for Middlebury en route to the Bates 33, where Lebowitz found Burke for a 33-yard score and a 21-9 Middlebury lead with 10:51 to go in the third.