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CNN Forecast - Middlebury, VT

Panthers run all over Mules in home opener

By Ben Freeman

After a tough loss to Weslyan in their first game, the Middlebury Panthers took out their aggression on the Colby White Mules last Saturday. Seizing the opportunity for an easy victory in front of a crowd of 2850, the Panthers jumped out to an early lead and never looked back.

One of the keys for the Panthers was their dominant rushing attack, which left Colby defenders in the dust. Bryan Sanchez '01 rushed for 108 yards and 3 touchdowns and Von Craig '02 added 65 yards on only 9 carries, including a 56-yard run.

The Middlebury rushing attack was balanced by an efficient passing game, led by senior quarterback John Wenner, who threw for 168 yards and 2 touchdowns.

The Panther's offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage from the beginning, allowing only one quarterback sack and opening holes all day for Sanchez and Craig. The key to their excellence was the rotation of fresh linemen to spell starters Ryan Brown '01, James Rudolph '01, Tim McCarthy '01, Sam Wilson '00, and Rick Huisman '00. Key reserves included Sam McVey '01, Jay Lugosch '01, and Matt Wilson '01.

The Middlebury defense also played well. They boasted a strong pass rush, crisp tackling and big play ability. The unit dominated the Colby offense, allowing only 237 total yards. The pass rush was led by E.J. Cooper '01 (three sacks) and Paul Shull '01 (two sacks). Shull also recovered one fumble and forced another. The leading tacklers for the Panthers were Andy Steele '01, with eleven, and Wills Allen '03, with seven. The Panthers' other big plays on defense included a 62-yard interception return by Michael Baumgardner '00, a fumble forced by Tab Howard '01 and a fumble recovery by Matt Murphy '00.

The Panther's scoring started with 22 seconds left in the first quarter when Sanchez recorded his first touchdown of the game on a one-yard run. The big play of the drive came when punter John Dickie '01 completed a fake punt to DB Howard. Sanchez's touchdown was the climax to a 14-play 60-yard drive that took over 7 minutes.

In the second quarter, the Panthers blew the game wide open, scoring 22 unanswered points. Their first score of the quarter came on a 3-yard Wenner touchdown run following a 5-play, 73-yard drive that took little more than a minute.

The big play of the drive was Craig's 56-yard run. After the score, Middlebury added a two-point conversion on a Wenner pass to Devon O'Neil (Jr.) '00 to make the score 13-0.

Middlebury's next score came on a beautiful 33-yard pass from Wenner to Sanchez, the highlight of a 51-yard, four-play drive.

The final score of the quarter came off of a crucial Colby turnover. Panthers senior DB Stephen Kelly blocked a Colby punt, which Middlebury recovered on the Colby 9-yard line. A 9-yard run by Sanchez on the first play from scrimmage quickly extended the score to 28-0, Panthers.

In the second half, Colby came out fired up. They scored quickly on a 4-yard pass from Matt Smith to Pete Hans. Then, off a Middlebury turnover, they scored again, this time on a 15-yard run by Thomas Keblin.

Middlebury sealed their victory late in the third quarter when the defense forced another turnover to set the Panthers up on the Colby 22-yard line. Middlebury then scored quickly on an 11-yard hookup from Wenner to Zac Campbell '01 to put the game completely out of reach.

Colby scored their final touchdown in the fourth quarter then Smith hit Andy Tripp on a 16-yard pass to culminate a 17-play, 81-yard drive. The Mules attempted a two-point conversion, but Smith's pass failed. This was Colby's most impressive drive of the game, but it hardly mattered.

The Panthers had the last score of the game, as Sanchez scored his fourth touchdown of the game off a 1-yard run, highlighting a 45-yard drive.

Middlebury will face a tougher opponent next week when Amherst comes to town. One thing the Panthers will need to improve upon is the 11 penalties they committed against Colby. Those mistakes penalized the team 104 yards.

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All material copyright 1998 The Middlebury Campus.