MIDDLETOWN, Conn. – Sean Penney '21 rushed for three touchdowns and Ben Thaw '20 recorded two interceptions, including a 30-yard pick-six, as the Wesleyan University football team cruised to a decisive 52-21 win over Middlebury College in the 2018 season-opener at Corwin Stadium Saturday afternoon.
The Panthers scored the first touchdown of the game but Wesleyan responded with 24-straight points and eventually held a 24-14 lead at halftime. The Cardinals pulled away in the second half with 28 unanswered points including two defensive touchdowns.
FIRST HALF HIGHLIGHTS:
- The Panthers' offense came out strong as their first drive of the game went 80 yards on nine plays in just over two minutes. QB Jack Meservy found RB Peter Scibilia for a short completion and Scibilia ran 18 yards untouched for the score.
- Wesleyan answered nicely with a 9-play, 75-yard drive of its own capped off by a 16-yard touchdown from QB Mark Piccirillo to RB Glenn Smith '21.
- On Middlebury's ensuing possession, Thaw picked off Meservy and returned it 16 yards to the visitor's 24-yard line. Three plays later, Piccirillo tossed his second TD of the game with an 18-yard score to WR Joe Scancarella '21.
- The next three drives resulted in punts until Wesleyan took over with 10:36 left in the second quarter and finished off a 10-play, 29-yard drive with a 27-yard field goal from Patrick Wolff '21 to go ahead 17-7.
- Middlebury was forced to punt once again and WR David Estevez '22 returned it 59 yards down to the Middlebury-2. Two plays later, Penney rushed four yards to the right for his first TD of the game to give the home team a commanding 24-7 lead with 2:21 to play in the second quarter.
- The Panthers, however, ended the half the same way they started. Meservy completed nine consecutive passes and eventually connected with TE Frank Cosolito for a 3-yard score with just 14 seconds remaining.
SECOND HALF HIGHLIGHTS:
- It was all Wesleyan in the second half. The Panthers received the ball first but just three plays in, Meservy was intercepted by Thaw once again and this time the junior DB returned it 30 yards for a touchdown to increase the home team's lead to 27.
- After a Middlebury three-and-out, the Cardinals took over at their own 48-yard line. Piccirillo connected with WR Dario Highsmith '20 on the first play for 34 yards and four plays later, Penney found the end zone for the second time with a 2-yard run.
- Wesleyan tacked on another touchdown late in the third to claim a 45-14 lead, essentially putting the game out of reach. Estevez started the drive with a 16-yard rush and Penny capped it off with a 3-yard TD dive up the middle.
- With eight minutes left to play, the Cardinals scored another defensive touchdown as LB Will Kearney '20 picked up a fumble and ran in from three yards out.
- QB Will Jernigan ended the Panthers scoring drought with a 23-yard rush with 2:44 left in regulation. It proved to be the final score of the game.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS:
- Wesleyan dominated the ground game, rushing for 203 yards while holding Middlebury to a mere 27. Smith led the way for Wesleyan with 15 rushes for 71 yards while Penney rushed 10 times with three scores.
- The Cardinals got to the quarterback four times as DL Jackson Eighmy '21 led all players with two sacks.
- Middlebury held a 266-155 edge in passing. Meservy threw 43 times with 25 completions, 216 yards, and two scores. However, he also threw three interceptions. Piccirillo finished 12-19 for 155 yards, two TDs and zero INTs. He also rushed six times for 45 yards.
- Twelve different players caught a pass for the Panthers with WR Conrado Banky leading the way, pulling in five catches for 61 yards. Highsmith, a former running back turned wide receiver, led all players with six catches for 87 yards.
- Defensively, LB Cole Harris '19 led Wesleyan with seven tackles and Kevin Maxwell led Middlebury with seven. LB Brandon Morris '19 finished with five and three break-ups, while DL Taj Gooden '21 and DL Sam Green '19 each recorded a sack.
- Wesleyan is back in action next Saturday, Sept. 22 as it heads to Medford, Mass. to face Tufts in a night game. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.