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January 19, 2018

Minutemen make it 3 straight with 44-17 win over Stony Brook

Maxwell SparrJeremy Horne waited for his day to breakout for the Massachusetts football team. After Saturday night, he no longer has to wonder when that day will come.

The redshirt senior receiver had his fifth career 100-yard receiving game with 124 yards on five catches, as the Minutemen (3-1, 1-0 Colonial Athletic Association) rolled to a 44-17 win over Stony Brook at McGuirk Stadium. The Seawolves (1-3) picked off quarterback Kyle Havens twice during the game, but could do nothing to prevent UMass from having its way.

Havens never threw a touchdown, but finished the game 12-of-24 with 259 yards. That didn’t seem to matter, as UMass still found plenty of scoring opportunities.

The Minutemen finished with five rushing touchdowns and 241 yards, even without their leading rusher. Backup Jon Hernandez filled in for starter Tony Nelson, who was out with an upper body injury. Hernandez finished with 29 carries for 140 yards, including three touchdowns.

It was Hernandez’s first time in his career rushing for over 100 yards.

“It’s a testament to our offensive line, tight ends and fullbacks,” UMass coach Kevin Morris said of Hernandez’s performance. “It takes more than just the running back to get all of those good yards that we were getting.”

UMass controlled the game from the very first play, as Havens completed a 49-yard pass to Horne on SBU’s 27-yard-line. That drive ended 2 minutes, 21 seconds later after fullback Chris Zardas found the end zone on a 3-yard rush to push the Minutemen out to a 7-0 lead with 12:39 to go.

SBU quarterback Michael Coulter (14-of-23, 126 yards) completed two passes for 12 yards to knot the game up after running back Conte Cuttino had three rushes for 20 yards and a catch for 14. On their next possession, the Seawolves took their only lead of the game on a field goal with 6:02 left in the first quarter.

They kept that lead for about four minutes, before the Minutemen went on a 14-0 run with two straight rushing touchdowns by Hernandez.

“Our line did a tremendous job today,” Hernandez said. “The front five came out today. I just ran behind them, hit my holes and found my assignments.”

SBU scored its last points of the game capitalizing on an interception from Havens with a 15-yard pass from Coulter to receiver Jordan Gush, but still trailed UMass at the half, 24-17.

Throughout the game, the Seawolves struggled on third-down conversions, finishing 3-of-11 while making just two trips inside the red-zone. True freshman Perry McIntyre led the defense with eight tackles, filling in for Kurt Filler at linebacker, who was sidelined due to an injury.

“We always want to come out hot for the second half,” linebacker Tyler Holmes said of his team’s defense.

UMass scored again in the first five minutes of the third quarter with a 36-yard run by Hernandez to give him his third and final touchdown of the game.

The Minutemen followed that up with two field goals, and Zardas’s second rushing touchdown of the game, which came with 40 seconds left in the third quarter on a 4-yard run.

“We played well, particularly in the second half, which I think was the difference in the game,” Morris said.

The Seawolves caught a break late in the third quarter, when a face mask penalty gave the Minutemen second-and-25 on the 50-yard-line. But a 32-yard pass by Havens, which led to a field goal from 42 yards out by kicker Armando Cuko put UMass up 17, negating any advantage that SBU might have had from that penalty.

Cuko finished the game with a perfect night on three tries. The kicker has made 9-of-11 field goals this season.

Backup quarterback Scott Woodward came in mid-way through the fourth quarter when the game was out of reach, throwing the ball once and having an 11-yard rush.

UMass has what Morris calls a “well-timed bye week” before it heads to Delaware for its second away game of the season.

Morris hopes to use the time off to improve on some of his team’s weaknesses, which he believes are still a problem despite blowing out its last three opponents by at least 20 points.

“We still have lapses in our game, which we need to continue to get better at and this off week will help towards that,” Morris said.

Adam Miller can be reached at amiller@dailycollegian.com.

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