Middlebury Defeats Football 35-24 in Season Finale at the Oval

SOMERVILLE – Junior quarterback Jack Meservy threw for three touchdowns and ran for two more leading visiting Middlebury College to a 35-24 victory at Tufts University in the NESCAC finale on Saturday at Ellis Oval / Zimman Field.

Liam Thau and 16 senior classmates were honored in a pre-game ceremony

With the win, the Panthers finished at 7-2 and took second place in the 2017 conference standings. Tufts, led by 145 yards rushing from junior quarterback Ryan McDonald, finished the year at 5-4.

Meservy, who finished 26 of 45 for 275 yards passing, connected three times with sophomore TE Frank Cosolito for touchdowns. Included among their trio of scores was a 15-yard TD which put the visitors up 26-21 at 13:11 of the third quarter and an 18-yard scoring reception that gave Middlebury a two-possession lead at 33-24 with 7:50 left in the fourth. Cosolito finished with nine catches for 100 yards.

The Jumbos had come back from being down 14-0 barely five minutes into the game with three unanswered scores to take a 21-14 lead early in the second quarter. However, after Middlebury regained the lead, a sack for a safety by senior Wesley Becton and an interception by sophomore Kevin Hartley both in the fourth quarter sealed the victory for the Panthers. Those plays capped a day in which the Middlebury defense sacked McDonald eight times for 57 yards in losses and held the Jumbos under 300 yards overall (297). Becton recorded 3.5 sacks for 34 yards in losses.

The Jumbos fumbled the opening kickoff with Middlebury junior Ian Blow forcing it and freshman Zander Bailey recovering at the Tufts 18. After a 14-yard Meservy to freshman Peter Scibilia pass down to the 4, Meservy and Cosolito hit for their first TD of the day just 36 seconds into the game for a 7-0 lead.

The Panthers extended the margin to 14-0 on their second possession. A 26-yard Meservy pass to Cosolito down to the one-yard line led to the quarterback's first rushing touchdown of the season and a 14-0 Panther advantage at 9:50 of the first.

Tufts had a much-needed answer after taking possession. They converted a third and 16 early in the drive with a 27-yard pass from McDonald to junior WR Frank Roche. McDonald then passed 21 yards to junior Jack Dolan to the Panther 38 before rushing three times for 24 yards down to the 9. Freshman RB Mike Pedrini took it from there, finishing with a seven-yard touchdown pulling the Jumbos within 14-7 at the six-minute mark of the first. The Jumbos went 10 plays and 80 yards in under four minutes.

The Jumbos then fully grabbed the momentum early in the second quarter with a pair of take-aways. Sophomore Stephen Timmins blocked a punt that was recovered at the Middlebury five-yard line. Two plays later, Pedrini was in the end zone from five yards out and the game was tied 14-14. The score was the fifth in the last two games for Tufts' freshman back.

Middlebury then fumbled the ensuing kickoff, which was forced by Tufts sophomore Robert Jones and recovered by senior Micah Adickes at the Panther 28. Two plays later, McDonald scored on a 23-yard run giving Tufts a 21-14 lead with 12:11 to play until halftime. The two touchdowns came just 1:09 apart.

Jumbo penalties would help lead to Middlebury's next score. Three infractions and three tackles for losses by the Panthers gave the Jumbos a fourth and 54 situation at their own seven-yard line. After a 32-yard punt, Middlebury took over at the Tufts 39. A 27-yard pass from Meservy to junior Conrado Banko (six catches, 77 yards) coverted a third and 13 for Middlebury. On the next play, Meservy rushed for his second one-yard score of the game making it 21-20 Jumbos after the extra point was blocked.

Following the wild first half, the second half took off quickly as well. The Panthers opened with a five-play, 67-yard drive to take the lead. A 15-yard run by Scibilia, a 12-yard pass from Meservy to sophomore WR Maxim Bochman and a 19-yard reception by Cosolito set up a first and 10 from the Tufts 15. Meservy then passed the 15 yards to Cosolito and Middlebury led 26-21 after failing on a two-point rush attempt.

McDonald rushed five times for 41 yards on Tufts' next possession, which resulted in a career-long 41-yard field goal by Jumbo freshman Matthew Alswanger. That pulled Tufts within 26-24 at 9:21 of the third.

However, the Panthers had a quick reply. Meservy passed 44 yards to junior WR Jimmy Martinez down to the Jumbo 18. Then on fourth and 10, he and Cosolito connected on the 18-yard touchdown that gave Middlebury a nine-point advantage at 7:50 of the third quarter. The Panthers covered 66 yards in six plays and 1:31 of game time.

After 57 combined points were scored in the first 37 minutes of play, the offenses stalled over the final 13 minutes. Both defenses had fourth-down stops in the fourth quarter . Middlebury's defense would score after Panther sophomore Maxwell Rye put a punt out of bounds at the Jumbo 8. Becton sacked McDonald for a 10-yard loss and a safety inching Middlebury's lead to 35-24 with 3:05 remaining on the fourth-quarter clock.

The Jumbos recovered an onside kick, but Hartley's interception sealed the win for the visitors.

Becton had 11 tackles overall (eight solo) and 4.5 tackles for losses to lead Middlebury. Senior LB John Jackson finished with eight tackles including 1.5 sacks.

Brett Phillips and Steve DiCienzo, two of 17 Jumbo seniors honored in a pre-game ceremony, led Tufts with nine stops apiece.

The Jumbos rushed for 176 yards but had eight penalties for 77 yards.