Jeffs Defeat Middlebury for First Time Since 2005, 20-10

First-year Sam Clark had a breakout performance with seven solo tackles and a pair of game-changing interceptions.

AMHERST, MA – The Amherst College football team defeated Middlebury College for the first time since 2005 Saturday afternoon at Pratt Field. With the 20-10 victory, the Lord Jeffs improve to 3-0 on the season and remain tied with Trinity College for first place in the NESCAC standings. The Panthers fall to 1-2 with the loss.

Both starting quarterbacks put in record-breaking performances. Junior quad-captain Alex Vetras (Clyde Hill, WA) completed 35 passes to break the previous Amherst single-game mark of 28, which was set by Paul Foye against Bates in 1986. His 54 pass attempts are also a new single-game school record, which had previously been set by Lucas Loeffler against Middlebury in 2007. Vetras threw for 234 yards and had a pair of touchdowns without being intercepted.

Donald McKillop set a new Middlebury career record by connecting on 47 of his 74 pass attempts, giving him 418 completions to surpass the previous high of 397, which had been set by Mike Keenan from 2002 to 2004. McKillop’s 47 completions on the day tied his own school and NESCAC record, while his 74 attempts broke his own school mark. McKillop threw for one touchdown and 438 yards but was picked off four times by an impressive Lord Jeff defense.

The quarterbacks put up the big numbers on the day, but it was Amherst first-year outside linebacker Sam Clark (Andover, MA) who stole the show with seven solo tackles and a pair of game-changing interceptions during a breakout performance.

Amherst and Middlebury each ran for 66 yards and the time of possession was virtually identical. The Panthers significantly outgained the Jeffs through the air, but McKillop’s 438 yards were negated by his four interceptions. The Panthers converted five of their 18 third down opportunities and were 1-for-4 on fourth down tries, while the Jeffs were 8-of-21 on third down chances. Each side made five trips to the red zone, with the visitors scoring twice and the hosts scoring four times.

Amherst’s third drive of the game resulted in the first points of the afternoon. Beginning on their own 46-yard line, the Jeffs used a pair of 14-yard completions from Vetras to junior Sean Legister (Ossining, NY) and a 10-yard completion to junior Brian Murphy (Evanston, IL) to march inside the Middlebury 20. The 12-play, 37-yard drive was capped off by a 34-yard field goal from sophomore Matt Rawson (Bethesda, MD), who gave Amherst a 3-0 lead with 3:21 to play in the opening quarter.

The Panthers came right back with a 10-play, 62-yard drive that got them inside the Amherst 5-yard line, but Amherst’s defense continued to shine in big moments when the Jeffs stopped Middlebury on a 4th-and-inches running play. McKillop led his team on the drive by completing six of his seven pass attempts, but the first quarter would end with the Jeffs’ 3-0 lead intact.

The second quarter opened with a bad snap on an Amherst punt from inside the Jeffs’ 10, but senior Matt Eberhart (Plano, TX) made a nice play and sent his attempt 52 yards to the Middlebury 38. The Panthers went three-and-out and made a costly error when a low snap caused their punter’s knee to touch the ground while he had possession of the ball, thus giving possession to Amherst on the visitors’ 27-yard line.

Amherst took advantage of Middlebury’s slip-up and needed only two plays to find the endzone. Junior Brandon Bullock (West Orange, NJ) ran the ball for 18 yards and Vetras finished things off with a nine-yard touchdown completion to sophomore Will Reed (Riverside, CT), giving the Jeffs a 10-0 lead with 13:12 remaining in the half.

Middlebury again came right back when a 28-yard McKillop completion to David Reed brought the Panthers to the Amherst 24, but Amherst’s Clark would make his first big play of the day when the Panthers faced 4th-and-6 from the 20. McKillop tried to find a receiver along the left sideline, but Clark picked him off and ran the ball back 64 yards to the Middlebury 19 to mark his first career interception. Clark’s play paid off immediately as the Jeffs put together a six-play scoring drive that ended with a three-yard pass from Vetras to Bullock in the endzone. Rawson’s extra point was good and gave the hosts a 17-0 lead with 7:33 on the clock.

The Jeffs kept rolling and forced Middlebury to punt on the ensuing possession, but during the punt the Panthers’ Mike Bilodeau made a heads-up play by pouncing on the ball after its first bounce hit an Amherst player and became live. Middlebury took over on the Amherst 26 and was working with much-needed momentum, but Amherst’s Fran Florio (Staten Island, NY) quickly took that momentum away by intercepting McKillop on the 3-yard line and returning it 21 yards.

Each team would march inside the red zone in its final drive of the half, but neither was able to score as Amherst took its 17-0 lead into halftime. Each quarterback completed 20 passes in the first 30 minutes, with the Jeffs possessing the ball for 15:51 and the Panthers for 14:09.

Alex Vetras set school records in completions (35) and attempts (54) while passing for 234 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Middlebury’s second possession of the third quarter resulted in McKillop’s third interception, this time with junior Nick Edwards (Greenwich, CT) picking him off at the Amherst 21. The interception would not lead to any points, however, as both teams came up empty on their first three possessions of the second half.

With its fourth drive beginning with 6:09 to play in the third frame, Middlebury put together an impressive series thanks to five completions from McKillop, including a pair of 15-yard connections with James Millard and a 19-yard strike to David Reed. Facing 1st-and-goal from the Amherst 7-yard line, McKillop was picked off by Clark in the endzone to once again take the wind out of Middlebury’s sails.

Middlebury began its first scoring drive late in the third quarter, but the Panthers would not get on the scoreboard until the fourth. Facing 2nd-and-goal from the Amherst 7-yard line, McKillop connected with Matt Rayner for a touchdown that finished off an eight-play, 57-yard drive and brought the score to 17-7 in favor of Amherst.

The Panthers’ next drive would result in a field goal to make it 17-10 with 9:21 to play. During the drive, Edwards got two hands on the ball and nearly came down with another interception, but the ball was tipped to Middlebury’s Tim Monaghan, who made a heads-up play by catching the tipped ball for a 21-yard completion. The 11-play, 51-yard drive was capped by a 37-yard field goal from Anthony Kuchan.

The Jeffs responded with a field goal of their own when a 21-yard attempt from Rawson split the uprights to give Amherst a 20-10 lead with 4:33 remaining in regulation. Vetras opened the drive with five consecutive completions, including a 17-yard connection with Legister on 3rd-and-11.

The teams traded three-and-out possessions before McKillop completed a pass to Alex Englert at the Amherst 38, but Edwards knocked the ball loose and senior Vincent DiForte (Staten Island, NY) was there to recover the fumble, returning it 27 yards to all but seal the deal for the Jeffs. The Panthers would make one final march down the field but did not have enough time for a comeback, as Amherst held on for the 20-10 win.

Junior inside linebacker Brandon Quinn (Atlanta, GA) and senior defensive back Fred Argir (Lakeville, MN) had 15 and 13 tackles, respectively, with Argir adding three pass breakups. Senior defensive linemen Eric Pender (Drexel Hill, PA) and Edwin Urey (Quincy, MA) each had four tackles and a sack for Amherst.

Andrew Poulin and Eric Kamback recorded 11 and 10 tackles, respectively, to lead the Panthers, with each player also breaking up a pass. Connor Green had 2.0 tackles-for-loss and nine tackles in total, with Dan Haluska adding eight tackles on the day.

Erik Rostad led all rushers on the day with 65 yards on 14 carries, with McKillop adding 12 yards on eight carries. Rayner and Millard each had 111 receiving yards with 12 and 10 catches, respectively, while Rostad caught 11 of McKillop’s passes for a total of 84 yards.

Femi Oyalowo (Bowie, MD) led the Amherst running game with 30 yards on nine carries. Eight Lord Jeffs had at least two catches, with six players racking up at least 20 receiving yards. Murphy had 10 catches for 39 yards, while Legister had 66 yards on five catches.

The Lord Jeffs will travel to take on Colby College Saturday, Oct. 17, with the Panthers set to host Williams College.