3:02 AM EDT, October 28, 2012
The numbers were impressive, even a little scary. Middlebury led the NESCAC with 479 yards offense per game. Middlebury led the NESCAC with an average of 35 points. Middlebury led the NESCAC by a mile with 384 yards passing. And …
"I think our defensive players were just tired hearing about their offense," coach Jeff Devanney said after his Trinity Bantams crushed Middlebury 45-7 Saturday in what was supposed to be a terrific battle of league unbeatens.
"All week we were hearing about Middlebury's offense and their quarterback," senior safety Rae Haynes said. "We took that as a challenge, like no way we're going to let that happen."
Middlebury quarterback McCallum Foote was averaging better than four touchdowns and nearly 400 yards passing a game. His favorite target, Zach Driscoll, was averaging 11 catches and 156 yards. Tight end Billy Chapman was pulling in eight per game. And …
On Middlebury's first play from scrimmage, Foote tossed a little flair in the backfield to Remi Ashkar. Linebacker Brett Cde Baca hit Ashkar so hard folks in Montpelier yelped with pain. It was an immediate statement.
"Nobody comes onto this field," Devanney said, "and plays more physical than we do."
Third play from scrimmage, Foote's pass intended for Chapman somehow pinballed off his leg, popped in the air and linebacker Stephen Goniprow intercepted it.
"Lucky play," Goniprow said.
From that point there was little luck involved. The Bantams crushed Middlebury physically, mentally, spiritually. They probably took their lunch money, too.
Was it a shock?
"Definitely not," Haynes said. "We never lose in The Coop."
Yet it was in taking all those gaudy Middlebury offensive numbers and leaving them splattered all over Jessee/Miller Field in Hartford that Trinity left its most impressive message. The game was over by halftime. Trinity had a 31-0 lead. Middlebury had 99 yards of offense. Foote was 9-for-24 for 46 yards and two interceptions. It was over. In the end, the Panthers managed 274 yards — 205 yards below their average — but nearly 100 of those came in the fourth quarter with the second units playing. Driscoll? Five catches and 54 yards. Foote? 133 yards passing.
"Our goal was not to allow No. 11 [Driscoll] to have the ball," Devanney said. "I said, 'If we're going to lose, we're going to lose with somebody else catching the ball.' That's why I was [upset] when he caught that fade down there [for a third-quarter touchdown]. We were double-teaming him, too. Our corner should never have let him outside."
Spoken like a true coach. OK, it wasn't perfect. Just don't tell Middlebury. Play after play, the Trinity defense left messages. Driscoll went over the middle once early on and Haynes laid him out and barked over the fallen receiver.
"I'm not going to say exactly what I said," said Haynes, who grew up in Hartford two minutes from campus on Monroe Street. "It was about how it was going to be a long day for him, that it's not going to be easy like other weeks."
And it was a long day. Middlebury coach Bob Ritter pointed to Trinity's athleticism in the secondary as a factor.
"We practiced their routes," said Haynes, who had an interception called back after a holding penalty. "We studied their film every day. We knew what they were going to. We came out aggressive on their receivers, especially No. 11 and No. 8 [Chapman]. We were jamming them at the line. They couldn't get off the ball. We messed up their timing. The quarterback was flustered."
The Bantams rushed three men a lot at the start, Devanney said, and his defensive ends did a strong job playing the run and pressing the pocket. That allowed Trinity to drop eight men into coverage.
"Quite honestly, we weren't going to blitz much, but then we blitzed a couple of times early and hit them. I could tell by their body language they didn't like it much. So we started blitzing like crazy."
The Bantams had three sacks, six plays for losses.
"I don't think they wanted to keep playing through four quarters once it got going," said Goniprow, who filled out the stat sheet beyond his interception with seven tackles, a sack and two tackles for loss. "We rolled coverage to Driscoll. He had a long day. I think our team speed and our physicality is overwhelming teams right now."
Even when the Panthers had chances in the first half, they couldn't convert. A 51-yard drive ended with a terrific interception along the sideline at the goal line by senior cornerback Nick Campbell.
"Unbelievable play," Devanney said. "They ran a double move, a post corner and he was singled up on his man. We were rolling the other way to No. 11. For Campbell to make that play, that's above and beyond. He was beat and came back."
After Ian Dugger fumbled away a punt, Middlebury had the ball fourth down on the Trinity 10. Senior Julian Brown broke up Foote's pass on the wheel route in the end zone.
"They hadn't run that play on film," Devanney said. "Julian is responsible for the wheel, but we hadn't practiced it and for him to recover and be disciplined enough to get his hand up was big. Nick and Julian are seniors. They play the game with confidence."
And Middlebury seemed to lose theirs as the game went along.
"We wanted them to throw short, just don't get beat over the top," Devanney said. "Some of those dropped passes and alligator arms they had, they don't have that on film. On film, they are very efficient on offense. They didn't look that efficient today."
Yep, the Bantams did a real number on Middlebury.
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