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Tuesday, Apr 16, 2024

Football Gets Big Win Against Bates

Author: Neil Onsdorff Staff Writer

During the past week in the sports world, there have been some extremely audacious predictions (Seattle who?), but none as bold as the prediction made yesterday by linebacker Mark Danbe '03. "It's a new season for us. We are turning over a new leaf. I guarantee that we won't lose another game for the rest of the season and you can quote me on that." Well, that definitely is a quote worth printing.

Before this weekend's big win over Bates (in which the Panthers were able to snap a three game skid), Danbe could have been considered almost certifiable. Yet with 10 solo tackles and three assists against Bates, it seemed as if Danbe was playing like a man possessed while leading a hobbled defense that surrendered only one touchdown on Saturday. As well as the defense played, the game would not have gone the Panthers' way if "make-it happen" Denver Smith '03 had her monster performance. When Smith is done here at Middlebury, there might not be any reception records left unbroken. The Scott Roberts '02-to-Smith connection met 13 times for 204 yards and two touchdowns. It is a wonder that Smith is not triple teamed on every offensive play. Smith is now the leading receiver in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) with 39 receptions so far this year.

Smith's big plays gave the Panthers some breathing room throughout the game and the massive blocks of Chris Davis '03 and the powerful running of Billy Lazzaro '03 provided the needed momentum. The two were able to

work hand-in-hand in controlling the ball late in the game and running up numerous first downs when passing was not an option.

In weeks past, the Panthers seemed to be plagued by their opponents' big plays at the worst times. This week, in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, and with Bates driving, the Panthers were able to come up with some big plays of their own. Middlebury was staring at a Bates offensive drive that had a 3rd and 1 from deep inside Panthers territory.

Instead of yielding a costly first down, the Panthers were able to put together two huge stops—Craig Pittman '04 made the biggest tackle of his young Middlebury career on 3rd down, setting the Bobcats back another yard. On 4th down and two yards to go from the 20-yard line, Bates chose a play-action fake and bootleg to the outside. Defensive end Tim Collard '04 contained the quarterback perfectly, and blitzing linebacker Danbe '03 absolutely crushed the quarterback as the ball dribbled out of his hand and came to a rolling stop nowhere near any Bates receiver. Middlebury had successfully stopped the Bobcats and was able to get the necessary first downs, run out the clock and kneel the ball for any quarterback's favorite play-the "victory snap".

Truth be told, it was more or less a slipshod game with a ton of punts for both teams and some scoreboard-hurting turnovers. But the Panthers were able to score when they had to, and most importantly, kept the Bobcats out of the end zone when the game was still not completely in the Panthers' favor. Still, a fantastic win for the Panthers! Nobody wants to make the long and uncomfortable trip back from Maine without a victory.

With a good game plan, a fundamentally sound week of practice and the power of Danbe's potent prediction, the Panthers just may keep the winning going as they take on Trinity this Saturday during Homecoming Weekend.

Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. with the tailgating starting at

9 a.m.