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December 28, 2016

Minutemen can’t overcome early deficit, fall to Delaware

FootBThe Massachusetts football team never returned from its bye week last week.

After rolling off three straight victories prior to its weekend off last Saturday, the No. 12 Minutemen were unable to capitalize on mistakes by Delaware and overcome an early deficit as the fell 43-27 Saturday night at the University of Delaware Stadium.

The Blue Hens (4-2, 2-1 Colonial Athletic Association) turned two early UMass (3-2, 1-1 CAA) fumbles – one by Tony Nelson and another by Kyle Havens – into touchdowns and opened up an early 20-0 lead in the first 11 minutes of the game, and never looked back as they held at least a 16 point lead the rest of the game.

“Well you’re not going to win in the CAA when you do things like that,” UMass coach Kevin Morris said after the game. “We certainly did that tonight and took ourselves right out of it.”

Four plays into the first drive of the game, the Minutemen had driven to the Blue Hens 31-yard line, and looked poised to score as they easily marched down the field. But on the fifth play, as Havens dropped back to pass, he was hit by a Delaware rusher. As Havens fell to the ground, the ball came loose and was recovered by the Blue Hens Paul Worrilow at the Delaware 33-yard line.

Quarterback Pat Devlin capitalized on the fumble, driving the Blue Hens to the other end of the field and throwing a 15-yard strike to Mark Mackey. Anthony Monette blocked the ensuing extra point attempt, only putting Delaware up 6-0.

UMass found little success on its next drive as it went three-and-out and the Blue Hens would score again on a 22-yard touchdown pass by Devlin.

“Well we recruited [Devlin], I know the kid and I knew he was going to be a really good player,” Morris said. “He showed it on tape and it showed more of the same tonight.”

Devlin gave UMass’ defense trouble all night. The Penn State transfer finished the night 19-of-26 for 284 yards and four touchdowns with one interception. Devlin also showed off his legs at time rushing five times for 18 yards.

On the Minutemen’s next drive, Nelson fumbled the ball when he was hit by Delaware’s Chris Morales. The Blue Hens Marcus Burley picked up the ball and returned it 42 yards to make the score 20-0 with 4:17 remaining in the first quarter.

UMass scored on its next drive on a career long 51-yard field goal into the wind by Armando Cuko – the third longest in school history – to cut the deficit to 17.

Devlin would throw the last two of his four touchdowns in the third quarter – the second of which was a 27-yard pass to Duncan on the first play after a Havens interception – building a 37-6 lead.

Havens would find some holes in the Blue Hens defense in the fourth quarter, as he would connect with tight ends Andrew Krevis and Emil Igwenagu for touchdown passes. Havens finished the night 24-of-36 for 275 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.

Scott Woodward would come in late in the game as well going 4-of-8 for 50 yards and a 20-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Fears, the first of Fears’ career.

UMass lacked a running game the entire night, as Nelson ran 15 times for 33 yards, an average of 2.2 yards per carry, as well as failed to capitalize on turnovers. In the second quarter the Minutemen defense forced an interception and a fumble on consecutive Delaware drives, but turned neither into points.

After Jeromy Miles picked off Devlin, Havens had three consecutive incompletions and Cuko attempted a 52-yard field goal that fell short. On the Blue Hens next drive, Michael Hanson sacked Devlin, jarring the ball loose where Eric Dickson recovered the ball at the Delaware 49-yard line. UMass would drive 15 yards before having to punt the ball away.

“We had too many lapses offensively, defensively and then some special teams,” Morris said. “We didn’t capitalize on any fundamentals at all tonight.”

Jeffrey R. Larnard can be reached at jlarnard@student.umass.edu.

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