Bates fought valiantly in the face of numerous injuries to its offense Saturday, but ultimately the Bobcats couldn’t stop Middlebury’s aerial attack in a turnover-filled, 41-27 NESCAC football verdict at Garcelon Field in Lewiston.

The Bobcats fell to 0-5 with the loss. Bates and Hamilton are the only remaining winless teams in the conference.

Patrick Dugan passed for career bests of 217 yards and two touchdowns in the defeat. That was overshadowed by a monster day for Matt Milano of Middlebury, who overcame three Bates interceptions to complete 31 of 53 for 405 yards and five touchdowns.

Dugan (19 of 32) and Bates took to the skies after losing both starting slot backs during the game. All-conference receiver Mark Riley grabbed a career-best 10 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown. Sean Peterson caught four passes for 55 yards in his Bates debut.

Middlebury picked off Dugan three times.

Bates led 10-7 at the end of first quarter and lurked within one possession on the scoreboard for most of the day.

Grant DeWald gave the Bobcats an early lead with a 34-yard field goal, the longest of his career, after a personal foul sidetracked a promising Bates series.

Milano answered with the first of his many bombs, a 47-yarder to Conrado Banky, to set up his initial touchdown, a 13-yard grab by Matthew Minno.

Frank Williams raced 39 yards to the end zone to restore Bates’ lead, and the Bobcats kept that momentum when Mark Upton forced a fumble that Max Breschi recovered.

Middlebury forced and scooped up a Bates fumble to return the favor, but a diving interception in the end zone by Ben Coulibaly protected the Bobcats’ advantage.

Bates’ ensuing drive ended in a missed field goal from 25 yards, and Middlebury drove 80 to take the lead for good. Milano threw consecutive strikes of 33 yards to Minno and 34 to Banky for the touchdown.

Another touchback, this one earned by Brandon Williams’ fifth interception in three games, kept Bates within four points at the break.

Kevin Hopsicker made an interception of a tipped ball early in the third quarter to put the Panthers in business once again. Milano went 19 yards to Minno on fourth-and-2 to cap the drive and make it 21-10.

That became a familiar refrain: Middlebury was 4-for-4 on fourth down.

DeWald’s second field goal of the day, a 26-yard boot, sliced the deficit to 21-13 with 2:57 to go in the third. Middlebury capped the quarter by transforming another fourth-and-short conversion into six, this time a Milano throw to Tanner Contois that covered 36 yards.

Bates crept within eight, 28-20, with 11:20 remaining on a 25-yard strike from Dugan to Riley. Mike Decina kept the drive alive with a 10-yard run on third-and-8 for Bates, which had possession for more than 38 minutes in the contest.

Coulibaly briefly stoked the Bobcats’ comeback hopes with an interception, but Wesley Becton took it back for the Panthers with a pick of his own. That led to a 3-yard TD catch by Ryan Rizzo, who also made a 4-yard grab to move the chains on yet another Middlebury fourth down.

Marcus Ross’ 3-yard TD grab gave Bates a fighting chance at 35-27. Backup quarterback Jared Lebowitz ran 40 yards to the house with a quarterback keeper to give Middlebury breathing room. Dan Pierce picked off Dugan to seal it.

Minno caught 10 passes for 138 yards to lead Middlebury. Banky added five for 112, and Rizzo reeled in seven for 61.

Bates rolled up a season-high 444 yards. The Bobcats, assured their first losing season since 2011, now look to defend their CBB championship. Bates’ final three opponents, Colby, Bowdoin and Hamilton, have a combined record of 2-13, compared to its first five which are now 18-7.

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