|Date and Time:||09/20/2008, 1:00PM|
MIDDLEBURY, Vt. - In a game that featured over 885 yards of total offense, the reigning NESCAC Champion Middlebury College football team survived Bowdoin 42-28 in both team's season-openers on Saturday. The Polar Bears (0-1), who held a 25-20 lead midway through the third quarter, will host Amherst in their home opener next Saturday at Whittier Field (1:00 p.m.). Middlebury travels to Colby next Saturday.
The Polar Bears opened the season with an impressive drive, receiving the opening kickoff and traveling 80 yards in 12 plays to paydirt. Oliver Kell, who went 4-5 passing on the drive, scampered four yards around the right side to give the Polar Bears a 6-0 lead after a blocked PAT. Middlebury responded quickly with a 60-yard drive in seven plays, ending on a swing pass from Donald McKillop to Erik Rostad for the score. Anthony Kuchan nailed the extra point to give the hosts a 7-6 lead with 7:26 remaining in the opening quarter.
After the squads traded possessions, Bowdoin pieced together a 10-play drive that covered 85 yards to regain the lead. A 23-yard strike from Kell to Ian Merry set up the Polar Bears and Nick Tom capped the drive with a five-yard run up the middle to give Bowdoin a 13-7 advantage just one minute into the second quarter. First-year defensive back David Mandelbaum interrupted the next Panther possession when he collected a tipped pass for an interception at the Bowdoin 10. The Polar Bears marched down the field again, as Kell rushed for 31 yards and passed for 31 yards, ending the drive on a 10-yard scoring run to give the visitors a 19-7 lead with 7:43 remaining in the half.
McKillop led Middlebury back with an 80-yard drive before halftime, completing a 26-yard pass down the seam to Evan Beilin and finding Andrew Matson with a 24-yard strike. Ryan Bohling muscled it in from one yard out to trim the Bowdoin lead to 19-14 at the break.
The Panthers regained the lead on the opening drive of the second half with a nine-play, 80-yard drive. McKillop went 5-5 for 68 yards, setting up another one-yard touchdown plunge by Bohling to give Middlebury a 20-19 lead following a missed PAT. Later in the third quarter, with the Panthers owning possession, Bowdoin's Tyler Tennant stepped in front of a McKillop pass at the Middlebury 37 and returned it to the two yard-line. Bowdoin first-year Ian Vieira punched it home one play later to give the Polar Bears a 25-20 edge after an unconverted two-point attempt.
Middlebury rebounded the longest drive of the day, a 13-play, 76-yard drive that culminated in another Bohling touchdown run from two yards to make it 27-25 Panthers. Then, following a Bowdoin fumble at midfield, McKillop found Matson for 26 yards down to the Polar Bear three yard-line. Rostad pounded it home on the first play of the fourth quarter to push the lead to 34-25.
The Polar Bears didn't go away, converting on a 4th-and-8 and capitalizing with a Nolan McNair 30-yard field goal to trim the lead to 34-28 with 9:19 remaining. Middlebury put the game away on their next possession, however, scoring on another Rostad one-yard dive to cap a 60-yard drive that killed over five minutes on the clock and gave the Panthers the final margin of victory.
McKillop finished the day 27-31 with 344 yards passing and a touchdown. Matson had five catches for a team-high 114 yards for the Panthers, who received 64 yards on the ground and three scores from Bohling. Brian Marcks led Middlebury with 14 tackles. Bowdoin's Oliver Kell sparked the Polar Bear offense accounting for 346 yards of offense, including 250 yards on 22-36 passing and 96 rushing. Ian Merry led Bowdoin with 98 yards receiving while Kevin Zikaras set a Bowdoin record with 23 total tackles. The 70 combined points are the most in series history between the schools, as the Panthers upped their lead to 11-6-1 all-time.