Middlebury College kicked a 33-yard field goal with 11 seconds left in the fourth quarter and the visiting Panthers went on to a 31-28 New England Small College Athletic Conference victory against Hamilton College at Steuben Field on Nov. 1.
Hamilton (2-5 overall) suffered another tough setback at home. The Continentals went 1-3 at Steuben Field this year with the three losses coming by a total of 15 points. Hamilton travels to Bates College for the regular season finale on Saturday, Nov. 8, at noon.
Middlebury (4-3) came into the game with the top scoring offense in the NESCAC, but trailed 21-13 midway through the fourth quarter. The Panthers then exploded for 18 points in the final 6:42 to rally for the win in the 29th Annual Old Rocking Chair Classic.
Middlebury's game-winning drive started with 64 seconds remaining after the Continentals downed a punt at the Panthers' 34-yard line. Middlebury completed a 50-yard pass on first down to Hamilton's 16 to get into field goal range.
The ensuing kickoff bounced through the end zone and the Continentals had the ball at their own 20. Jordan Eck '12 threw two incomplete passes before he found Max Foster '10 over the middle. Foster tried to lateral the ball to a teammate but missed him, and the Panthers recovered the fumble at the 29-yard line with no time left.
Eck was 21-of-47 for 209 yards and a season-high three touchdowns with no interceptions. Foster caught eight passes for 48 yards and one score. Mark Snickenberger '11 led all rushers with 51 yards. Dylan Isenberg '12 came on in the second half and finished with 44 yards on eight carries, including a touchdown.
Hamilton's defense limited Middlebury to 29 yards rushing on 25 carries (1.2 yards per rush), and sacked the quarterback three times. John Lawrence '10 was credited with a game-high 11 tackles, intercepted a pass and broke up two others. Lawrence has picked off a pass in six straight games and leads the conference with those six interceptions.
Trevor Pedrick '09 added eight tackles, including a sack. Jon Higginbotham '11 made seven stops, including six solo, and broke up two passes. Taylor Soobitsky '09 and Joe Bock '09 finished with one sack apiece.
The Panthers grabbed an early lead with a 43-yard touchdown pass on their first drive. The Continentals came back to tie the score after their special teams blocked a punt. Brian O'Malley '10 came up with the block and John Whitney '12 recovered at the Middlebury 18. Six plays later -- on fourth down and goal -- Eck found Foster in the back left corner of the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown with 4:16 left in the first half. George Taylor '11 added the extra point.
The Panthers went three-and-out on their next drive. Hamilton responded with a 14-play, 73-yard march that ended with another touchdown pass. The Continentals thought the drive was over on the 13th play, but a 2-yard TD strike to Snickenberger was wiped out due to an offensive pass interference call. Undaunted, Eck fired a 17-yard pass to Ryan Cray '12 in the end zone with 8 seconds remaining before the break.
Middlebury pulled to within 14-13 on a 33-yard pass midway through the third quarter, but a poor snap on the PAT cost the Panthers the extra point. Hamilton extended its lead to eight points on the next drive, which was aided by roughing the passer and pass interference calls on Middlebury. Isenberg scampered 15 yards for his first collegiate touchdown with 3:04 left in the third.
The Panthers roared back to tie the score with a 65-yard touchdown pass on third-and-20, and added a two-point conversion pass with 6:42 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Continentals regained the lead on their next drive, thanks in part to a 45-yard kickoff return by Cray to the Middlebury 32.
Hamilton's drive stalled at the Panthers' 15-yard line. Taylor's 32-yard field goal attempt was short, but the Continentals received new life and an automatic first down as Middlebury was flagged for a personal foul. Hamilton was pushed back five yards after the Continentals were called for a penalty, but Eck found Ben Saccomano '09 for a 13-yard touchdown pass with 3:40 left. Taylor's extra point made the score 28-21.
The Panthers' no-huddle offense kicked into high gear on the game-tying drive as Middlebury moved 59 yards in just 2:03. The Panthers' QB was 6-for-6 passing on the drive and then scored on a 4-yard burst through the line with 1:32 remaining.
The teams combined for 224 yards in penalties. Hamilton held the ball for nearly 34 minutes. The Continentals ended up with 20 first downs and 329 yards of offense.