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January 13, 2017

Minutemen fall to No. 1 Richmond, Havens, Woodward combine for six INTs

FootA

As if battling the pouring rain and the No. 1 team in the country wasn’t enough, the Massachusetts football team made things even more difficult by turning the ball over seven times and giving up the ball again on a botched punt.

Those turnovers put UMass (4-3, 2-2 Colonial Athletic Association) in a 20-3 hole at halftime, a hole they did not overcome as they fell 34-12 to Richmond Saturday evening.

“We took ourselves right out of the ball game and didn’t even have a chance to win,” UMass coach Kevin Morris said.

The No. 14 Minutemen led the Spiders (7-0, 5-0 CAA) after Armando Cuko hit a 33-yard field goal on the first drive of the game. The defense came up strong, as it was the entire game, on the next drive with a three-and-out, but Richmond’s offense got the ball back quickly after Kyle Havens threw his first of four interceptions on the day, giving the Spiders the ball on the UMass 27-yard line.

Richmond capitalized to take a 7-3 lead, and then extended the lead to 14-3 in the second quarter after a Havens fumble was recovered by the Spiders’ Justin Rodgers and Justin Forte rushed the ball in from 17 yards out.

UMass was stalled again on its next offensive possession and the Spiders tacked on a field goal after a low snap on a punt resulted in punter Caleb Violette being tackled for a 16-yard loss and a turnover on downs. However, the defense held its ground on the drive, holding Richmond to the field goal and then did the same on the last possession of the half, despite being deep in its own territory.

The defense continued to dominate in the second half, but the numerous turnovers by the offense were too much for even the stellar play by the defense to overcome. On Richmond’s first three drives of the second half, UMass’ defense stopped them on fourth down including an interception in the endzone by Tyler Holmes.

“The defense played extremely hard, we just kept them out there all night,” Morris said after the game. “They had a lot of short fields to work with and I’m really proud of the guys, they really kept their heads up and really played hard.”

On the next drive, backup quarterback Scott Woodward replaced Havens, who finished 10-of-25 for 78 yards, but found similar trouble. Woodward was picked off on his first pass of the game by Parker Miles who returned the interception 15 yards for a touchdown and a 27-3 Richmond lead.

UMass later pulled to within 15 yards after a safety on a poor snap on a Richmond punt and a 68-yard, six-play drive orchestrated by Woodward and his second touchdown pass of his career. Woodward finished 11-of-22 for 137 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. His second interception came on the final play of the game.

The Minutemen offense was without some of its major weapons, possibly explaining why it struggled throughout the rain-soaked game. Tailback Tony Nelson, who missed most of last week’s victory over New Hampshire, did not even make the trip with the team, and his back up Jon Hernandez who has helped the offense not miss a beat without Nelson, only played in the first half.

Hernandez rushed for 37 yards on 12 carries in the first half, but gave way to Chris Zardas in the second half in the backfield. It was uncertain why Hernandez did not return to the backfield in the second half, but was not believed to be due to an injury.

Richmond’s Eric Ward proved that he is a dual-threat quarterback against UMass, but was more effective with his legs as he rushed for 62 yards on nine carries while he threw for 52 yards on 8-of-20 passing. While the Minutemen held Ward’s arm at bay, they did give up some yardage on the ground beyond what Ward did with his legs. Forte rushed for 118 yards and two scores on 26 carries.

Game notes

The win for Richmond now gives them 16-straight victories, a streak that started last year with a win over UMass … the loss on the road keeps the Minutemen winless on the road at 0-3 in 2009 … UMass had five more first downs than Richmond in the game, gaining 18 first downs compared to Richmond’s 13 … Tyler Holmes led the Minutemen with 17 tackles including a sack to go with his interception … UMass out-gained Richmond in total offensive yards 277-236 … The Minutemen converted higher percentages of third and fourth downs than the Spiders going 5-of-17 on third down compared to Richmond going 2-of-14 and converting 2-of-3 fourth downs compared to the Spiders 1-of-5 …

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

As if battling the pouring rain and the No. 1 team in the country wasn’t enough, the Massachusetts football team made things even more difficult by turning the ball over seven times and giving up the ball again on a botched punt.

Those turnovers put UMass (4-3, 2-2 Colonial Athletic Association) in a 20-3 hole at halftime, a hole they did not overcome as they fell 34-12 to Richmond Saturday evening.

“We took ourselves right out of the ball game and didn’t even have a chance to win,” UMass coach Kevin Morris said.

The No. 14 Minutemen led the Spiders (7-0, 5-0 CAA) after Armando Cuko hit a 33-yard field goal on the first drive of the game. The defense came up strong, as it was the entire game, on the next drive with a three-and-out, but Richmond’s offense got the ball back quickly after Kyle Havens threw his first of four interceptions on the day, giving the Spiders the ball on the UMass 27-yard line.

Richmond capitalized to take a 7-3 lead, and then extended the lead to 14-3 in the second quarter after a Havens fumble was recovered by the Spiders’ Justin Rodgers and Justin Forte rushed the ball in from 17 yards out.

UMass was stalled again on its next offensive possession and the Spiders tacked on a field goal after a low snap on a punt resulted in punter Caleb Violette being tackled for a 16-yard loss and a turnover on downs. However, the defense held its ground on the drive, holding Richmond to the field goal and then did the same on the last possession of the half, despite being deep in its own territory.

The defense continued to dominate in the second half, but the numerous turnovers by the offense were too much for even the stellar play by the defense to overcome. On Richmond’s first three drives of the second half, UMass’ defense stopped them on fourth down including an interception in the endzone by Tyler Holmes.

“The defense played extremely hard, we just kept them out there all night,” Morris said after the game. “They had a lot of short fields to work with and I’m really proud of the guys, they really kept their heads up and really played hard.”

On the next drive, backup quarterback Scott Woodward replaced Havens, who finished 10-of-25 for 78 yards, but found similar trouble. Woodward was picked off on his first pass of the game by Parker Miles who returned the interception 15 yards for a touchdown and a 27-3 Richmond lead.

UMass later pulled to within 15 yards after a safety on a poor snap on a Richmond punt and a 68-yard, six-play drive orchestrated by Woodward and his second touchdown pass of his career. Woodward finished 11-of-22 for 137 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. His second interception came on the final play of the game.

The Minutemen offense was without some of its major weapons, possibly explaining why it struggled throughout the rain-soaked game. Tailback Tony Nelson, who missed most of last week’s victory over New Hampshire, did not even make the trip with the team, and his back up Jon Hernandez who has helped the offense not miss a beat without Nelson, only played in the first half.

Hernandez rushed for 37 yards on 12 carries in the first half, but gave way to Chris Zardas in the second half in the backfield. It was uncertain why Hernandez did not return to the backfield in the second half, but was not believed to be due to an injury.

Richmond’s Eric Ward proved that he is a dual-threat quarterback against UMass, but was more effective with his legs as he rushed for 62 yards on nine carries while he threw for 52 yards on 8-of-20 passing. While the Minutemen held Ward’s arm at bay, they did give up some yardage on the ground beyond what Ward did with his legs. Forte rushed for 118 yards and two scores on 26 carries.

Game notes

The win for Richmond now gives them 16-straight victories, a streak that started last year with a win over UMass … the loss on the road keeps the Minutemen winless on the road at 0-3 in 2009 … UMass had five more first downs than Richmond in the game, gaining 18 first downs compared to Richmond’s 13 … Tyler Holmes led the Minutemen with 17 tackles including a sack to go with his interception … UMass out-gained Richmond in total offensive yards 277-236 … The Minutemen converted higher percentages of third and fourth downs than the Spiders going 5-of-17 on third down compared to Richmond going 2-of-14 and converting 2-of-3 fourth downs compared to the Spiders 1-of-5 …

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

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