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UMass football falls short of upset at K-State

FootBFor three quarters, it was clear which team was better.

In quarters one, three and four, the Massachusetts football team shutout Kansas State while piling up 17 points of its own, but a lackluster second quarter did the

Minutemen in, as they fell short of their first upset over a Football Bowl Subdivision team with a 21-17 loss at Kansas State.

“I thought our [players] played extremely hard, we stood up to the test, that is no question, but we didn’t win,” UMass coach Kevin Morris said after the game. “We didn’t make enough plays to win and they made those critical plays that put them over the top tonight.”

After gaining a 3-0 lead in the first quarter when UMass (0-1) forced a fumble and made an interception on consecutive Kansas State drives, the Minutemen gave up 21 unanswered points in the second quarter.

The first Wildcat (1-0) touchdown came early in the quarter on a 1-yard run by quarterback Carson Coffman and the final two came in the last 5 minutes, 34 seconds to put UMass in an 18-point hole going into the locker room.

The Minutemen were strong in the second half, especially on defense and special teams, as they chipped away at the Kansas State lead, cutting it to four with 14 minutes remaining in the game. The defense forced numerous three-and-outs while holding the Wildcats scoreless for the final two quarters and the special teams came up with a fumble recovery and a blocked punt, both of which resulted in scores for UMass.

The Minutemen were forced to punt late in the third quarter, but Kansas State’s Brandon Banks muffed the return and Ke’Mon Bailey jumped on the loose ball at the Wildcats 18-yard line. After three rushes left UMass four yards away from the goal-line, new starting quarterback Kyle Havens found tight end Andrew Krevis in the end-zone for the score. The touchdown was the first of Havens and Krevis’ careers.

On the following Wildcat drive, the defense forced a three-and-out and the special teams came up big again. Jeromy Miles – who was called for roughing the kicker penalty in the first quarter – made sure to not make the same mistake twice as he got to Kansas State punter, Ryan Doerr, to block the punt. D.J. Adeoba grabbed the ball at the Wildcat’s 26-yard line and returned it for a touchdown, cutting the lead to four.

“It just shows that we can play with the best and if we can compete at this level, then we can definitely compete at our level and we got a good solid team here,” Havens said after his first career start at UMass.

After the game, Morris – also in his first game at the helm of the Minutemen – didn’t credit his team’s improvements in the second half on adjustments, just more on his team getting focused.

“It comes down to just making sure your guys are doing the right things,” Morris said. “We had a couple of missed assignments in that first half, nothing that couldn’t be corrected with just a little bit more focus. With regards to the second half, we got focused and we got unbelievable effort which we expect at UMass.”

On offense, the play didn’t seem as focused. Havens went 10-for-34 for 102 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. But his numbers do him no justice. On at least double-digit occasions, UMass wideouts dropped passes, and tailback Tony Nelson had the ball fall through his hands on four separate screen plays.

But Nelson made up for his drops on the ground as he rushed for 107 yards on 19 carries. Anytime the offense found a rhythm, it came with the ball in the senior’s hands, as he found holes in the Kansas State’s defensive line, a line that has been hurt by injuries.

Numerous penalties also hurt the Minutemen in the first half, including a pass interference call on Julian Talley that cost them a touchdown.

On one of the few long drives that the UMass offense put together on the night, Nelson and Havens engineered a drive that began at their own 20-yard line and reached the Wildcat 11-yard line. On 3rd-and-1, Havens floated a pass to the corner of the end zone where he found Victor Cruz, only to have the play called back because of the Talley penalty.

Jeffrey R. Larnard can be reached at jlarnard@dailycollegian.com.

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