MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury College football team on Saturday knocked Trinity from the ranks of the undefeated, 27-24, in a game not decided until Middlebury freshman Nate Leedy intercepted a pass in the end zone on the final play of the game. Middlebury’s win snapped Trinity’s 14-game winning streak.
Both teams are 5-1, tied with Amherst for second place behind 6-0 Wesleyan in a four-way race for the NESCAC title. The schedule appears to favor the Panthers: Wesleyan must still host Williams and travel to Trinity, Amherst hosts Trinity and visits Williams, while the Panthers finish with Hamilton and Tufts, both now 0-6.
Middlebury stopped Trinity on a fourth-down play on its first possession and took over at its own 48. Ten plays later, quarterback McCallum Foote found Matthew Minno over the middle for a 10-yard strike to put his team on top, 7-0. The Panthers lost a chance to extend the lead on their next possession, when Michael Dola missed a 24-yard field goal.
Trinity took advantage of a Middlebury turnover in the second quarter. Brendan Bader picked off a pass at the Panther 35 and returned it to the 15. Three plays later, Ben Crick scored on a four-yard rush to knot the game at 7-7.
Foote was again picked off on the Panthers’ ensuing possession. Casey Tanner returned the ball 27 yards to the Middlebury 35, but Trinity settled for a 37-yard Ben Rosenblatt field goal.
Middlebury answered with an 11-play, 71-yard drive to take a 14-10 lead at 5:31. Foote found tight end William Sadik-Khan three times on the drive for 32 yards, including a 17-yard scoring strike.
The Bantams scored on their next possession to regain the lead with a 12-play, 75-yard march keyed by a 27-yard pass from Sonny Puzzo to Chris Ragone to the Panther 15. Crick scored on the next play to put his team up, 17-14, at 0:38 of the second quarter.
Middlebury tied the game in the third quarter when Dola connected from 28 yards out to make it 17-17. Foote found Minno for 23 yards and Grant Luna for 17 during the drive.
Dola struck again early in the fourth quarter, this time from 37 yards away to put his team on top, 20-17. Foote found four receivers during the drive.
Trinity regained the lead with an 85-yard drive on seven plays in the fourth quarter. Puzzo hit Ragone for 34 yards and then for 39 yards out for the touchdown that made it 24-20 with 4:57 remaining.
Middlebury moved the ball to the Trinity 30 on its next possession, but turned the ball over on downs. The Panthers’ defense forced Trinity to punt after three plays, giving them the ball on their own 25 with 2:21 left to play.
A Bantam penalty moved the ball 15 yards down the field before Foote completed three straight passes. The third was a 40-yard connection with Brendan Rankowitz to the Trinity seven. On the fourth down, Foote found Minno over the middle, rifling a pass into the receiver’s hands through heavy traffic to make it 27-24.
Trinity got the ball on its own 25 with 1:12 remaining and one timeout. Puzzo completed several short passes and rushed the ball three times for 23 yards to move the ball to the Middlebury 33. On the final play of the game, Puzzo threw a long ball to the left corner at the goal line, where Leedy picked it off to seal the win.
Foote finished 29 of 64 for 310 yards. With Middlebury’s top two rushers out, Ryan Hislop carried the ball 19 times for 69 yards. Minno caught nine passes for 110 yards, while Rankowitz (100 yards) and Sadik-Kahn (60 yards) each caught seven balls. Matthew Benedict made 19 tackles, 10 solo. Tim Patricia finished with 11 stops, while Addison Pierce had 10 tackles.
Puzzo finished 20 for 33 for 229 yards and rushed 18 times for 58 yards. Crick led the ground game 14 carries for 62 yards. Bunker caught five passes for 47 yards and gained 28 on the ground, while Ragone made three receptions for 100 yards with a touchdown.