Football blanked 28-0 by Middlebury in home opener

Junior quarterback Brendan Costa looks to pass the ball in front of a packed house at Garcelon Field on Saturday, September 21, 2019 against Middlebury. (Theophil Syslo/Bates College)

LEWISTON, Maine -- Will Jernigan completed 22-30 passes for 292 yards and three touchdowns to lead the visiting Middlebury Panthers to a 28-0 win over the Bates football team Saturday at Garcelon Field. 

Middlebury (2-0, NESCAC) tallied 468 yards of total offense and held Bates (0-2, NESCAC) to 188 yards on the day. Penalties plagued the Bobcats all afternoon. They were called for 13 penalties for a total of 117 yards. By comparison, Middlebury got called for five penalties for 36 yards. Alex Maldjian ran the ball well for Middlebury, tallying 18 carries for 141 yards and a touchdown. Maxwell Rye led the Panther receivers with seven catches for 83 yards and a touchdown.

First-year Tyler Bridge (Wells, Maine) led Bates with 11 carries for 45 yards. He also caught a pass for 11 yards. Junior Liam Spillane (Byfield, Mass.) added five carries for 30 yards and sophomore Christian Olivieri (Hull, Mass.) added a pair of receptions for 39 yards.

Bates struggled on offense in-part due to the loss of starting quarterback junior Brendan Costa (Westport, Mass.) to an injury. He completed six passes for 36 yards before leaving the game. With backup quarterback sophomore Jack Bryant (Falmouth, Maine) already injured, first-year Liam Foley (Foxboro, Mass.) stepped up and made his collegiate debut.

Foley completed seven passes for 58 yards and did not turn the ball over. Bates won the turnover battle, picking off Jernigan twice and recovering two fumbles. 

On Middlebury's first drive of the game, the Panthers fumbled at the Bates 44. Senior Zach Doyon (Eliot, Maine) forced the fumble, but the ball bounced forward all the way to the Bobcat 35 where Panther offensive lineman Kevin Woodring fell on it for a first down.

After a first down pass to Frank Cosolito got Middlebury to the Bates 21, the Panthers seemed to be going in the wrong direction when Jernigan mishandled a snap. He was able to fall on the ball back at the Bates 31. Facing 3rd and 21, Jernigan completed a pass to Jimmy Connell for 15 yards. A targeting call against the Bobcats gave the Panthers first and goal at the nine.

One play later, Jernigan found Rye with 8:47 left in the opening quarter for the first touchdown of the afternoon, capping off a chaotic drive that featured 11 plays and totaled 73 yards.

The Bobcats were forced to punt on their next drive, but Middlebury's Greg Livingston fumbled the ball at the 11 and sophomore Tyler Hamilton (White River Junction, Vt.) jumped on the loose ball for Bates.

Bridge rushed five yards to the Middlebury six. But he was stuffed on his next attempt and Costa ran for two yards down to the Panther four. On fourth and goal, Costa's pass fell incomplete and the Bobcats turned the ball over on downs.

The Panthers marched down the field, only to get stopped after 11 plays and 80 yards when sophomore Jose Calleja (Secane, Pa.) picked off a Jernigan pass at the Bates one yard line with one second left in the first quarter.

The Bobcats picked up a first down on their next drive thanks to a pair of Bridge runs. Facing second and seven at their own 21, the Bobcats could not get anything going through the air and punted the ball away. 

On Middlebury's ensuing drive, a huge penalty burned the Bobcats again. Maldjian rushed for 14 yards on the first place from scrimmage to the Bates 41. And a personal foul gave Middlebury 15 more yards. Maldjian ran the ball to the Bobcat 15 and Jernigan connected with Aidan Power for his second passing touchdown of the afternoon, putting the Panthers up 14-0 with 13:04 left in the half after the extra point.

The teams traded punts but the Panthers won the field position battle, getting the ball at midfield with 6:12 left in the half. Facing third and three at the Bates 43, Jernigan found Power again, this time for 20 yards, down to the Bobcat 23. Middlebury kept the ball on the ground until Jernigan aired it out to Livingston for 11 yards on second and 14 from the Bobcat 15. On third and three from the Bates four, Maldjian pounded it in for the Panthers' third touchdown of the half. 

At this point, Costa was out of the game due to an injury. Bates initially brought in senior Matt Golden (New Bedford, Mass.) to take some snaps at quarterback. He ran the ball once for two yards. Then a false start pinned Bates behind the sticks and Spillane ran for a two-yard loss on second down.

After the Panthers called timeout with 2:08 left in the half, Foley came in off the bench. His first collegiate pass attempt was a deep bomb to first-year Mohamed Diawara (Philadelphia, Pa.) on 3rd and 15 that fell incomplete. 

Bridge punted the ball away and the Panthers fumbled again. Doyon jumped on the loose ball at the Middlebury 46.

But Bates went three-and-out as the half came to a close.

Down 21-0 at halftime, the Bobcats couldn't get much going on offense in the second half. 

After stopping the Panthers on fourth down on the opening drive of the third quarter, Bates went three-and-out. Foley did complete his first collegiate pass on the drive, a four-yarder to sophomore Jackson Hayes (San Marino, Calif.).

The Panthers marched down the field on their second drive of the third quarter, going 58 yards in nine plays. Jernigan found Cosolito from 10 yards out for the final score of the afternoon for either side.

Bates did show some life on offense on its next drive, with Spillane busting out a run of 26 yards and on fourth and one Foley found Hayes for a 14-yard gainer to the Panther 21. But the drive stalled and the Bobcats turned it over on downs in the red zone for the second time.

Sophomore Owen Straley (Norwell, Mass.) recorded his first career interception on the next Middlebury drive. The rest of the game featured a number of punts from both sides. Bridge averaged 37.2 yards per punt on the day, punting 10 times, with a long of 56. He pinned Middlebury inside the 20 twice. Rye punted three times for Middlebury, twice in the fourth quarter.

The Bobcats' first two opponents (Amherst and Middlebury) are now a combined 4-0 on the season. Their next opponent is also undefeated. Bates heads to Wesleyan (2-0) for a 1pm kick next Saturday.