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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Top-ranked Delaware trounce Minutemen

Samantha Webber/Collegian

In its final home game of the season, the Massachusetts football team suffered a 45-27 loss to second-ranked Delaware after battling uphill all afternoon on Saturday at McGuirk Stadium.

The matchup featured two of the top offenses in the Colonial Athletic Association and saw 935 total yards of offense between the teams. It was the high-powered attack of the Blue Hens (9-1, 6-1 CAA), however, which had the most success and made the biggest plays.

Led by quarterback Pat Devlin, who threw for 240 yards and four touchdowns, Delaware had three of the first four scores in the contest and took a 24-14 lead into halftime.

The Minutemen (6-4, 4-3 CAA) received 228 passing yards and four touchdowns from quarterback Kyle Havens, but couldn’t capitalize on various drives and left points on the table.

Kicker Caleb Violette struggled in the loss, missing three field goals on the first four UMass possessions. The last two attempts missed with the ball in the red zone, from 23 and 25 yards out, respectively.

“We missed opportunities offensively three times down and came up with zero points with those field goals,” UMass coach Kevin Morris said. “So, we had to fight back through that the rest of the night.”

John Griffin had the best game of his UMass career with a season-high 145 yards on 12 carries, including a 59-yard scamper. Though the running game performed well for the Minutemen, they were forced to throw for the majority of the second half because of the deficit they faced.

“Offensively, all we can do is score,” Havens said. “We trust the defense, it was just the way it [went] tonight. We didn’t do what we needed to do to win.”

On defense, the UMass secondary had trouble slowing down Devlin and his receivers, as the Blue Hens picked up chunks of yards.

After Delaware recovered a fumble midway through the second quarter, Devlin connected with tailback Andrew Pierce on a 31-yard touchdown to go up 17-7 at the six minute, 16 second mark.

Then, following halftime, the Blue Hens extended their lead to 31-14 as Devlin found tight end Colin Naugle on a 31-yard pass to tie his career-high with four touchdown passes.

Despite the offensive outburst by Delaware, the Minutemen defense wasn’t caught off guard.

“They did everything the scout team showed,” UMass linebacker Tyler Holmes said. “I think it was more so us just making mental mistakes and making it easier on them today.”

A significant play in the contest came early in the third quarter with the Minutemen looking to slow down the Blue Hens’ offense. On a 3rd-and-long, defensive back Mike Lee was flagged for pass interference as the ball arrived to the receiver at the same time Lee did. On the ensuing play, tailback David Hayes found a seam and carried the ball 61 yards for a score to put Delaware up, 38-21.

Though the pass interference call was seen by some as questionable, UMass coach Kevin Morris didn’t use it as an excuse.

“It was more than just that call,” Morris said. “I mean there were plays throughout the course of the game, had we done this, had we done that, had they not thrown a flag, had they thrown a flag.”

Heading into the week, the Minutemen knew they would be facing a tough opponent, but weren’t intimidated following the contest.

UMass, meanwhile, is now one of four teams in the conference with a 6-4 overall record and one of five teams with three losses after New Hampshire’s 31-24 win at Villanova.

To wrap up the regular season, the Minutemen will travel to Rhode Island next Saturday with a 12:30 p.m. kickoff.

Jay Asser can be reached at jasser@student.umass.edu.

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