Hartford, Conn. – Junior QB Matt Milano (New Canaan, Conn.) threw four touchdown passes, including three in the first half to classmate Matthew Minno (Tallahassee, Fla.), to lead the visiting Middlebury College Panthers to 27-7 victory over the Trinity College Bantams in New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) football action this afternoon on Jessee/Miller Field. Trinity, ranked No. 2 in New England, loses for the first time in six games and for the first time at home since September 29, 2001 to fall to 5-1 for the year. Middlebury improves to 4-2 with its third straight win while stopping the Bantam home winning streak at 53 games. Trinity falls one game behind Amherst in the NESCAC Standings, but can move back into a first-place tie with a win at home against the 6-0 Lord Jeffs. Middlebury stays alive in its hunt for a league crown, downing the Bantams for the second year in a row and for the first time since a 20-3 triumph in 2000.
Middlebury drive to the Trinity four-yard line on the opening drive, but the Bantam defense held the Panthers for no gain on three successive plays to force a field goal try. The snap was botched, and Bantam junior DE Lyle Baker (Andover, Mass.) stopped Panther K Michael Dola (Arlington, Va.) at the three-yard line to give Trinity possession. Later in the first quarter, Trinity sophomore DB Spencer Donahue (Naperville, Ill.) picked off a Milano pass down the middle that had been tipped by classmate Patrick Dorsey (Lynn, Mass.), but Middlebury's Addison Pierce (Greenwich, Conn.) and Dan Pierce (Needham, Mass.) came up with a sack and a tackle for loss on the next two plays to help force a punt.
Middlebury completed a 13-play, 91-yard drive, following a booming 62-yard punt by Trinity junior Kyle Pulek (Cheshire, Conn.), for the game's first touchdown when Milano connected with Minno on a 28-yard scoring pass. Later in the second, Trinity answered with a drive from its won 23-yard line to the Panther five-yard line, highlighted by a 19-yard run up the gut by senior RB Chudi Iregbulem (Torrance, Calif.) and a 23-yard strike on 3rd-and-7 from junior QB Henry Foye (Madison, Conn.) to sophomore WR Darrien Myers (North Andover, Mass.), but Dan Pierce intercepted a Foye pass and returned it 71 yards into Bantam territory. Milano found Minno from four yards away four plays later for a 13-0 Panther lead but a failed PAT kept the score there.
After punting the ball away, the Trinity defense came up big when Baker forced a fumble by Panther rookie RB Drew Jacobs (Marblehead, Mass.) and pounced on the loose ball at the Middlebury 36-yard line. Middlebury returned the favor, however, as Iregbulem was stopped for a two-yard loss on 3rd-and-5 by Gil Araujo (Norwalk, Conn.) and Tim Patricia (Los Angeles, Calif.) and Trinity's pass on fourth down fell incomplete. The Bantams fell just short of getting on the scoreboard in the final minute, after three completions from Foye to senior WR Chris Ragone (Sarasota, Fla.), but Trinity junior WR Ian Dugger (West Hartford, Conn.) was tackled after a reception at the Panther 20-yard line and time ran out.
The early moments of the second half saw two key special teams plays, as Middlebury opened the third quarter with a successful onsides kick and capitalized with a 24-yard Milano touchdown pass to Minno just 40 seconds after the break. Trinity senior Michael Budness (Belchertown, Mass.) was stopped a yard shy of a first down on a fake punt on the ensuing Bantam drive. Later in the third frame, Trinity drove to the Panther three-yard line, but the Panthers stopped Iregbulem for no gain on 4th-and-2 to take back the ball. The Bantams got on the board with 1:10 remaining in the third quarter, taking advantage of a short Middlebury punt from its own end zone with a 33-yard scoring pass from Foye to sophomore WR Nick Gaynor (West Hartford, Conn.). Trinity's comeback hopes ended when Dan Pierce picked off rookie QB Spencer Aukamp (North Haledon, N.J.), who had entered the game when Foye left the field after a Middlebury sack on an earlier drive, in the middle of the field and the visitors took advantage with a 26-yard pass to the end zone from Milano to senior co-captain WR Brendan Rankowitz (Westport, Conn.) with 6:07 remaining in the contest.
Foye finished 16-for-30 for 196 yards, while Milano was 25-for-36 for 286 yards through the air. Myers led the Trinity receivers with 86 yards on eight catches, while Ragone added seven grabs for 64 yards, and Iregbulem paced the Trinity runners with 69 yards on 20 carries. Middlebury sophomore WR Ryan Rizzo (Needham, Mass.) had nine catches for 79 yards, while Minno caught five balls for a game-high 90 yards, and Rankowitz finished with five catches for 75 yards. Jacobs totaled 64 rushing yards on 17 carries. Trinity junior ILB Frank Leyva (Pinecrest, Fla.) totaled a team-high nine tackles, while Baker had eight tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. Senior OLB Tom Szymanksi (Dracut, Mass.) contributed six hits and two pass breakups, and Donahue added six tackles in addition to his interception. Dan Pierce paced all tacklers with 12 and added 1.5 tackles for loss and two picks, while Addison Pierce recorded six tackles and a sack for Middlebury. Pulek averaged 45.8 yards on eight Trinity punts.