WILLIAMSTOWN >> It was a great start for the Williams College football team Saturday afternoon. The finish was anything but.
It took the Ephs (0-4) only three plays to score a touchdown, but visiting Middlebury scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns to break open a close game and hand Williams a 49-23 defeat at Farley-Lamb Field.
The Panthers (4-0) converted a 10-yard punt and two interceptions into those 21 points that ended Williams' effort to score an upset that would have shocked the NESCAC football world.
"It was a really close game up until the end of the fourth quarter. We played our asses off until then," said Eph safety Alex Brandeis. "We lost it mentally, not physically. We just have to close out games. The score would have been different and I'd be walking off here with a win."
Williams trailed 28-23 going into the fourth quarter. After stopping Middlebury's offense, the Ephs stalled on offense. Adam Regensburg shanked a 10-yard punt. Two plays later, Jared Lebowitz hit Conrado Banky for a 30-yard touchdown pass play. That sent the Panthers on their way.
Williams' sophomore tight end Tyler Patterson had a career-high seven catches for 176 yards, scoring on a third-play 79-yard touchdown pass from Jansen Durham and a 32-yard TD pass at the end of the third quarter. Those were the last points scored by Williams.
"Coach [Mark Raymond] keeps telling us to empty the tank, give all you've got and get better every week," Durham said. "I think you can see it. I think we got better this week.
"But it's a tough one because we thought we could play with them."
While the loss was the ninth straight for Williams, counting back to last year, there were some positives on the statistic sheet.
The 23 points scored by Williams was the most scored by an Eph team since they beat Bowdoin 27-7 in last year's home opener. The Ephs had 398 yards in total offense, the most since losing to Tufts a year ago. Durham and backup Peter Cahill combined to throw three touchdown passes, the most for the Ephs since Austin Lommen threw for three scores in a loss at Tufts in 2014.
Both teams had three turnovers. Williams forced three fumbles and recovered two, and picked off Lebowitz once. Durham, who was 12 for 28 for 205 yards, threw a career-high three interceptions. All three of Middlebury's turnovers led to touchdowns. Two of the three picks came in that 21-point fourth quarter.
Raymond said that was a major difference in the two teams on Saturday.
"That comes with experience. That comes with working together," the first-year coach said. "It'll come if they keep battling. We'll keep grinding and it will eventually get there."
One of the more interesting developments from Saturday's game was the sudden appearance of Patterson in the box score and on the stat sheet. The sophomore from Brookline High School had only caught one pass in his career, an eight-yard reception last year against Amherst. He got on the field for the first time Saturday and more than made his presence felt.
"Tyler did a great job today. He really stepped up this week," the coach said. "He was eager for his opportunity and he took advantage of it."
He "took advantage of it" early. On third down from the Williams 21, Patterson ran a slant pattern, got behind the Middlebury secondary as Durham dropped in a perfect ball. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound receiver outraced the secondary to the end zone.
"You know, that's actually funny. I started walking to the sidelines. I did believe he could outrun the secondary," said Durham. "He's a freakish athlete."
The Panthers, meanwhile continued to put up points and yards. Lebowitz was 22 of 43 for 292 yards and four touchdowns. Banky caught nine passes for 159 yards and two scores. Tailback Diego Meritus had 122 yards rushing on 20 carries.
For the Ephs, Connor Harris carried the ball 24 times for 86 yards, while Noah Sorrento chipped in with 79 yards on 19 carries.
Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.