Middlebury rookie Nate Leedy intercepted a pass in the end zone on the final play of the game, preserving a 27-24 win for the Panthers (5-1) over previously unbeaten Trinity (5-1) on homecoming. Middlebury had taken the lead on its previous possession with just 1:12 remaining. The loss snaps a 14-game winning streak for the Bantams, leaving them along with Middlebury and Amherst in a three-way tie for second place in the league, behind 6-0 Wesleyan. The Panthers have now beaten Trinity in three of the last four meetings on Youngman Field at Alumni Stadium.
Middlebury stopped Trinity on a fourth down play on its first possession, taking over at their own 48. Ten plays later, quarterback McCallum Foote found Matthew Minno over the middle for a 10-yard strike to put his team on top, 7-0.
On their next series, the Panthers extended their drive when a bad snap on a punt led to a 23-yard rush for a first down by punter Michael Dola. Middlebury proceeded to march to the Trinity seven, but a 24-yard field goal attempt from Dola was wide left.
Trinity took advantage of a Middebury turnover in the second quarter, after Brendan Bader picked off a pass at the Panther 35 and returned it to the 15. Three plays later, Ben Crick scored with a four-yard rush to the right corner to knot the game at 7-7.
Foote was again picked off on the Panthers' ensuing possession, as Casey Tanner returned the ball 27 yards to the Middlebury 35. Trinity gained just five yards, settling for a 37-yard field goal from Ben Rosenblatt.
Middlebury answered with an 11-play, 71-yard drive to take a 14-10 lead with 5:31 left in the half. Foote found tight end William Sadik-Khan three times on the drive for 32 yards, including a 17-yard scoring strike.
The Bantams came right back, scoring on their next possession to regain the lead. The methodical drive lasted 12 plays and covered 75 yards over a span of 4:46. The big play was a 27-yard connection from Sonny Puzzo to Chris Ragone, leaving the ball at the Middlebury 15. Crick found pay dirt on the next play, scoring from 15-yards out to put his team up 17-14 with just 38 seconds left in the half.
Middlebury tied the game in the third quarter when Dola connected from 28 yards out to make it a 17-17 game. Foote found Minno for 23 yards and Grant Luna for 17 during the drive.
Dola struck again early in the fourth quarter, this time from 37 yards away to put his team on top, 20-17. Foote found four different receivers during the drive.
Trinity regained the lead with an 85-yard drive that elapsed just 2:54 off the clock on seven plays in the fourth quarter. Puzzo hit Ragone for 34 yards before connecting once again, this time from 39 yards out for the touchdown. Trinity now led 24-20 with 4:57 remaining.
Middlebury moved the ball to the Trinity 30 on its next possession, before turning the ball over on downs on a nice pass break-up by cornerback Brain Dones.
The Panther defense forced Trinity to punt after three plays, giving them the ball on their own 25 with 2:21 left to play. A Bantam penalty moved the ball 15 yards down the field before Foote completed three straight passes. The third of the three was a 40-yard connection with Brendan Rankowitz, who was streaking down the left sideline. The Panthers were left with a first and goal situation from the Trinity seven, facing the same situation three plays later. On the fourth and one play, Foote found Minno over the middle, rifling a pass into the receivers' hands through heavy traffic.
Trailing 27-24, Trinity had the ball on their own 25 with 1:12 remaining and one timeout. Puzzo chipped away at the Panther defense, completing several short passes while leading his team down the field. He rushed the ball three times for 23 yards, with a 12-yard strike to Ian Dugger and an eight-yard completion to Evan Bunker to put the ball at the Middlebury 33. On the final play of the game, Puzzo threw a long ball to the left corner at the goal line, where Leedy picked it off to seal the win.
Foote finished the contest 29 of 64 for 310 yards with three touchdown passes. With Middlebury's top two rushers out, Ryan Hislop filled in admirably, carrying the ball 19 times for 69 yards. Minno caught nine passes for 110 yards with two touchdowns, while Rankowitz (100 yards) and Sadik-Kahn (60 yards) each caught seven balls. Matthew Benedict had a huge day defensively, making 19 tackles, 10 solo and one for lost yardage. Tim Patricia finished with 11 stops, while Addison Pierce had 10 tackles, 2.5 for lost yardage.
Puzzo finished 20-33 for 229 yards with a touchdown and an interception, while rushing 18 times for 58 yards. Crick led the ground game with a pair of touchdown on 14 carries for 62 yards. Bunker caught five passes for 47 yards while gaining 28 on the ground, while Ragone made three receptions for 100 yards with a touchdown. Mike Mancini led the defense with seven tackles, while Nathan Cyr made six, 1.5 for lost yardage. The Trinity defense finished the game with 14 pass break-ups.