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Minutemen fall in season finale, 52-38, at Hofstra

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With 500 yards and four touchdowns through the air, Hofstra spoiled the Massachusetts football team’s hopes of finishing the 2009 season with a winning record with a 52-38 win Saturday afternoon.

The 52 points given up by the UMass defense were the most given up all year as the Pride (5-6, 3-5 Colonial Athletic Association) used a pass-heavy offensive attack to score at will against the Minutemen (5-6, 3-4 CAA).

UMass fell behind early and faced a 28-10 deficit at halftime, but was able to cut the lead to seven on two occasions in the fourth quarter. Both times, however, Hofstra responded with a touchdown drive of their own to hold off the Minutemen.

Trailing 38-24 heading into the final quarter, Scott Woodward, who got his first career start at quarterback in his final career game, engineered a 92-yard drive in two minutes, 59 seconds to pull UMass within one score. After a 50-yard rush by senior Tony Nelson (16 rushes for 103 yards and three touchdowns) put UMass into the Pride’s territory, Woodward moved the ball downfield before rushing into the end zone from 13 yards out.

Cory Christopher (38-of-50 for 484 yards passing and three touchdowns) found Christian Dennis a little over two minutes later with a 15-yard completion to extend the lead back to 14.

Christopher found success deep down field all game, completing numerous passes of more than 15 yards. The Pride’s other quarterback, Steve Probst, also found success, going 7-for-9 for 88 yards and one touchdown. Aaron Weaver was their favorite target on the day, catching 15 passes for 191 yards and one touchdown, while Dennis grabbed five passes for 78 yards and two scores.

The running attack of the Pride did its damage as well, as it piled up 99 yards and three scores. Christopher contributed on the ground as well with nine carries for 33 yards and a touchdown.

Nelson rushed in his third touchdown of the game 5:40 later to make the score 45-38, keeping UMass in the game, but a 10-yard rush by Miguel Maysonet with 1:41 left in the game put it out of reach.

Uncharacteristically, UMass’ defense struggled to stop anything, while the offense found ways to put points on the board. With one turnover – an interception in the third quarter – Woodward (19-of-30 for 277 yards) and the offense protected the ball but could not keep up with the points put up by Hofstra’s offense, after falling behind in the first half.

Hofstra got on the board early with the opening drive of the game, after the Pride’s Cory Christopher dropped back and found Aaron Weaver from five yards out for a touchdown. Christopher found success with some deep passes on the 11-play, 79-yard drive, completing three passes of over 13 yards to move Hofstra downfield.

The Minutemen responded with a 7-play, 65-yard drive of their own led by Nelson and Woodward.  Woodward found Emil Igwenagu for a 30-yard reception to put UMass inside Hofstra’s 5-yard line. After a false start by Vladimir Ducasse, Nelson went nearly untouched from 7-yards out to tie the game at seven.

UMass created its only lead of the game on its next drive after a 40-yard field goal by Armando Cuko. The field goal was the 31st of Cuko’s career – the all-time high in UMass history – breaking the record of 30 set by Silvio Bonvini from 1985-88.

The three-point lead didn’t last as the Pride responded with a 90-yard touchdown drive. Again Christopher found success with longer passes, completing passes of 17, 18 and 21 yards before quarterback Steve Probst had a seven-yard rush for a touchdown and a 14-10 lead.

Probst would help extend the lead to 11 on a 16-yard pass to Dennis later in the second quarter. The drive only took two plays after Christopher found Maysonet for a 47-yard completion.

Heading into the locker room at halftime the Pride would lead 28-10 on a two-yard touchdown run by Christopher.

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

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