Big performances from redshirt sophomore quarterback Kellen Pagel and senior running back Jonathan Hernandez were not enough to lead the Massachusetts football team over Old Dominion on Saturday at Ballard Field, as the Minutemen fell, 48-33.
With nine minutes left to play in the second quarter, the Minutemen seemed destined for a second-consecutive loss as they found themselves down, 25-0.
However, the Minutemen came roaring back with a 26-point run of their own and the game was up for grabs as the game headed into the fourth quarter.
Old Dominion’s Jarod Brown kicked a 43-yard field goal to cap the Monarchs’ opening drive which lasted three minutes, 38 seconds.
ODU didn’t look back from there, as redshirt senior quarterback Thomas DeMarco engineered three consecutive scoring drives, all of which ended with a touchdown pass. The third touchdown capped the Monarchs’ run, as junior receiver Nick Mayers hauled in his second touchdown, a 35-yard pass for the score.
Down by 25 and unable to get anything going up to that point, Pagel settled in with just over six minutes left in the half as he put together a 14-play, 80-yard drive which ended when Pagel found redshirt senior tight end Emil Igwenagu for a 10-yard touchdown to make it 25-12 in favor of the Monarchs at the half.
Pagel came out firing in the second half, using all of his weapons, as redshirt senior receiver Julian Talley and senior receiver Jesse Julmiste both caught touchdown passes on consecutive drives to pull the Minutemen within six with 12 minutes, 49 seconds to go in the third.
Julmiste’s touchdown was the final touchdown pass of the game for Pagel, who was replaced by Brandon Hill in the fourth quarter after suffering an injury. Pagel finished 25-for-40 for 245 yards, a career-high three touchdowns and two interceptions.
The Minutemen took their first lead with five minutes, 30 seconds left in the third when Hernandez broke off an 8-yard touchdown run to put UMass up, 26-25.
The Monarchs proceeded to put together their second impressive run, rattling off 23-consecutive points behind freshman quarterback Tayler Heinicke who substituted for the injured DeMarco.
The Minutemen had one final bright spot with about a minute left in the game, when Hill threw a touchdown pass to freshman wideout Marken Michel.
Despite the loss, UMass proved that it can still count on its veterans.
Hernandez led the way on the ground, finishing with 25 carries for 121 yards and a touchdown.
In the air, Pagel looked to all of his senior receivers. Igwenagu finished with a career-high 10 receptions for 85 yards and a touchdown. Julian Talley finished with seven receptions for 82 yards and fellow senior Tom Gilson finished with six receptions for 72 yards. Julmiste added four receptions for 51 yards and a touchdown.
The Minutemen return to action on Oct. 8 when they host Central Connecticut on Band Day at McGuirk Stadium.
Steve Levine can be reached at email@example.com.