WILLIAMSTOWN, MA— On a glorious October afternoon in the Berkshires, the Williams College Ephs (0-4) fell short after a spirited effort against the undefeated Middlebury College Panthers, losing by a score of 49-23.
Williams, coming off a tough loss to Bates, jumped out to an early lead with an exhilarating 80-yard catch and run by Tyler Patterson, catapulting the Ephs to a 7-0 lead less than two minutes into the game. A couple possessions later, however, the Panthers equalized. After a costly roughing-the-passer penalty on Williams, Middlebury QB Jared Lebowitz scrambled six yards toward the end zone but was hit right before crossing the goal. The ball popped out of Lebowitz's arms and right into those of Panther TE Frank Cosolito for the score, technically on a fumble.
After a 40-yard field goal attempt by Eph placekicker Adam Regensburg clanged off the left upright, Lebowitz, on the run, found his go-to receiver Conrado Banky for a 40-yard gain. A few plays later, Lebowitz threaded the ball over the hands of the Williams defender to Adam Rizzo for the go-ahead touchdown with 3:36 left in the first quarter.
Williams took advantage of excellent field position at the start of the second quarter to the tune of three points; Adam Regensburg capped the drive with a 25-yard field goal to narrow the margin to four, 14-10.
Middlebury answered, however, after Clay Hunt picked off Eph QB Jansen Durham near midfield. The Panthers put together three consecutive first downs before Lebowitz, under significant pressure after a bad snap, found Alex Rizzo in the front corner of the end zone for the score. Williams failed to answer in the first half, and the score at halftime was 21-10.
Middlebury struck again on the opening drive of the second half, relying again on Lebowitz's arm and his two favorite targets: he connected first with Adam Rizzo for 21 yards and then with Conrado Banky in the end zone for a 22-yard touchdown.
Despite the 18-point deficit, the Ephs were far from out of this game. Following this score by Middlebury, the Eph defense seemed to come alive, forcing three consecutive punts and not allowing the Panthers out of their own territory. Taking advantage, Williams marched down the field, featuring back-to-back first down runs and a 14-yard pass from Durham to Patterson, and capped the drive with a 3-yard completion from Peter Cahill to a sliding Jaelon Moaney. Two possessions later, Durham lofted a beautiful ball into the arms of an open Tyler Patterson in the end zone, reducing the margin to just five with 1:41 left in the third, 28-23 Middlebury.
The defensive stand that characterized the third quarter came to an end in the fourth, however. Lebowitz hit Conrado Banky for a 30-yard TD pass with 11:53 to go in regulation, and the Middlebury defense came up with two consecutive interceptions, both of which were converted to points by a 12-yard Diego Meritus run, the first rushing touchdown for a Middlebury back this season, and then a 7-yard scramble by Lebowitz. These three fourth quarter touchdowns sapped the Ephs' morale, and the score sat at 49-23 when the final whistle blew.
Williams notched season highs not only in points but also in total yards (398), pass yardage (208), and rush yardage (190) in the loss; Middlebury, who gained 498 yards of total offense, dramatically improved their rushing performance, gaining 206 yards on the ground against the Ephs after failing to net any rush yards against Amherst last week.
For the Panthers, Jared Lebowitz went 22-43 for 292 yards, four touchdowns, and an interception. On the ground, Diego Meritus, the Panthers' lead back, nearly doubled his season total with 122 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown. Conrado Banky and Ryan Rizzo each continued their impressive seasons with two touchdowns apiece; Banky led Middlebury with 159 yards receiving on 9 catches, while Rizzo notched 86 yards on 6 receptions.
The Eph offense was led by Jansen Durham, who completed 12 of his 28 pass attempts for 205 yards and 2 touchdowns, and by Connor Harris, who followed up his career game against Bates with 86 yards rushing on 24 carries. Noah Sorrento also added 79 yards on the ground. Tyler Patterson, who, prior to this game, had a career total of one catch and eight yards, led all receivers with 176 yards on 7 catches and two touchdowns.
After the game, Williams head coach Mark Raymond addressed Patterson's breakout performance, saying "Tyler did a great job, he really stepped up this whole week. He was eager for his opportunity and he definitely took advantage of it."
On defense, Panther Addison Pierce led all tacklers with 11 (8 solo). Clay Hunt, Kevin Hopsicker, Wesley Becton came up with Middlebury's interceptions; Becton contributed 8 tackles, including the team's only sack, in addition to his pick. Alex Brandeis led the Eph defensive effort with 9 tackles (5 solo) and an interception. Russell Monyette contributed a sack along with seven additional tackles, Khari Dawkins forced a fumble, and Luke Apuzzi and Sam Gowen both were credited with fumble recoveries.
Coach Raymond stressed that improvement will come with teamwork and persistence: "I'm proud of the way they played—they played together, they played hard, we battled, played physical football, and that's where it all starts…It'll come if they keep battling. We'll keep grinding, and it will get there if we work hard enough."
Next week, Williams will travel to Tufts to face the 3-1 Jumbos, while Middlebury will look to keep their perfect streak alive at home against Bates.