Tony Nelson strong in return, Armando Cuko breaks records
Tony Nelson had seen little of the field for the Massachusetts football team recently, but Saturday, in a 37-7 rout over Northeastern, the tailback looked just as he did before he was sidelined with a contusion to his thigh.
After only 10 carries at Maine, not traveling to Richmond, playing one series against New Hampshire and rushing for 33 yards at Delaware, Nelson found himself rushing for 116 yards on 20 carries and three touchdowns against the Huskies (1-8, 1-5 Colonial Athletic Association).
“It was tough sitting out in my senior year, but I’m glad just to be back healthy and helping out the team,” Nelson said after the game. “You can see the offense did a great job and pushing the ball up downfield and getting the ball into the end zone. The linemen did a great job, the backs did a great job and it felt real good to get back out there.”
The three touchdowns in the game were the most for the senior since he rushed for three in 2006 against William & Mary. Nelson entered the game tied for 11th all-time rushing touchdowns in UMass history, but moved up to sixth to tie Kevin Smellie’s 21 career rushing touchdowns that he posted from 1985-88.
Nelson scored from one yard out on two occasions in the first five minutes of the second quarter for the Minutemen (5-4, 3-3 CAA) to increase UMass’ lead from three to 17 early in the game. The tailback would later punch it in from nine yards out with six minutes, 33 seconds left in the third quarter to give UMass a 34-0 lead.
With this performance Nelson appears to be back to himself, but the senior still feels he has room for improvement, despite rushing for his third 100-yard rushing game of the season.
Kicking for the books
With the offense often struggling deep in its opponents’ territory at times this year, UMass has leaned on kicker Armando Cuko to help put points on the board. The senior has not disappointed as he has hit 18-of-23 field-goal attempts on the year and is a perfect 24-for-24 on extra-point attempts, as well as going 3-for-3 against Northeastern.
The strong season and Saturday’s performace have moved Cuko’s names to the tops of many UMass’ record books, including career field goals, single season field goals and career PATs, with still two games to go.
“I kept an eye on it but I try not to think about breaking anything,” Cuko said. “If it comes my way it comes my way. I can’t control how many chances I get.”
Cuko’s 36-yard field goal at the end of the second quarter was his 17th of the season – he would alter add his 18th – and put Cuko first place all-time in UMass history for most made field goals in one season. Chris Koepplin (2006) and Sandro Vitiello (1978) were tied for first place with 16 in one season entering the game, but Cuko jumped both of them against the Huskies.
A 35-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter gave Cuko 30 career field goals and moved the Beverly, Mass. native into a tie for first place for career field goals with Silvio Bonvini who also hit 30 from 1985-88.
In PATs, Cuko currently ranks fourth all-time on the career total with 95, two behind third-place Doug White’s 97 and 13 behind first-place Bonvini’s 108.
Not only is Cuko at the top of the UMass record books, he’s also among the nations’ best in field goals per game and points per game. The senior’s three field goals improved his nation’s best 2.14 field goals per game to 2.25 and the 13 points he scored increased one of the nations best points per game total from 9.29 to 9.75.
Jeffrey R. Larnard can be reached at email@example.com.