This past Saturday, the 4–2 Colby Football Team traveled to Middlebury, Vermont to take on the 4–2 Middlebury Panthers for a battle of top NESCAC seeds. Colby came into this game tied for third place and Middlebury sat in second.
The last time these two teams played was at the Harold Alfond Stadium last year when Colby went on to win 28–14. That game gave the Mules their first win versus the Panthers in the last ten matchups. Historically, Colby has struggled to beat Middlebury.
Now, coming off a two-game win streak, the Mules looked to win on the road against the Panthers.
Statistically, Colby dominated almost every category. Led by quarterback Matt Hersch `23, the Mules’ offense had more passing and rushing yards than Middlebury. Led by linebacker Julian Young `25, the defense didn’t allow much for the Panthers. The Mules also had far too many penalties and had a few more turnovers than Middlebury.
This game was a defensive battle. Coming into play, Middlebury had the second-ranked defense and Colby had the third-ranked defense. Despite the combined thirty-seven points on the scoreboard, the two opponents combined for fifteen punts in the contest, as well as four turnovers.
Colby struck first at the beginning of the second quarter when Lowell Carr `23 connected on his fifth field goal of the season. The Mules made it 10–0 on their next possession. Hersch started the drive with a 54-yard lob to Jack Sawyer `25 to put Colby in scoring position. Donovan Ganges `23 rushed up the middle for a four-yard touchdown, and Carr converted the extra point for the double-digit lead.
The Panthers were able to get on the board before the break when they connected on a field goal following a Colby fumble deep in their end.
No touchdowns were allowed in the third quarter, with the only points on the board coming from a short Middlebury field goal in their first possession which cut the Colby lead to 10–6.
Colby marched down the field on their next drive, hoping to extend the lead, but a strong Middlebury defensive stand turned the Mules over on downs just shy of the red zone after a nearly 10-minute possession.
After taking over at midfield and slowly making their way toward the end zone, the Panthers took their first lead of the contest with five minutes remaining, but Colby answered right back.
The Mules collected 75 yards on three plays and, with the help of a pass interference penalty, jumped back in front, 17–13 when Hersch connected with running back Keon Smart `25 for a thirty-seven-yard scoring strike with four minutes to go in the fourth.
Both teams doubled down on defense, forcing punts on each of the next possessions.
On their 25-yard line, with 2:01 showing on the clock, Middlebury began its game-winning drive. With a series of passes, the Panthers marched down the field and took the lead for good with forty-one ticks left on the clock.
The Mules took over at midfield, and Hersh looked to launch the ball towards the 22-yard line, but Middlebury picked off the pass, securing victory.
Ganges collected a career-high 19 carries in the contest for sixty-nine yards and one score. Wide receiver Sawyer also hit career marks with ten receptions for 139 yards. Hersch tallied his second consecutive 200-yard passing performance, posting 249 yards in the air to go with twenty-seven on the ground. Young tallied his fifth double-digit tackle performance of the season, collecting thirteen tackles and registering his first sack of the season. Seniors Marc Dougherty and Luke D’Aloia `23 had nine tackles apiece. Nick Donatio `24 recorded his third interception of the season, second in the NESCAC.
Colby falls to 4–3 on the season and, now historically, 0–9 against Middlebury on the road.
Colby is back in action Saturday for their final home game of the season, taking on the fourth-ranked Jumbos (4–3) of Tufts University. The winner of that game will break the tie for the fourth spot.
~ Julian Cangieter-Hernandez `25
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