UMass football falls to Akron on Senior Day after leaping penalty
FOXBORO — Everything was set up perfectly for the Massachusetts football team.
Down by one point, the Minutemen had forced Akron to take a field goal with one minute, 30 seconds remaining, and if it made it, UMass would have a chance to march down the field and win the game with a timeout to spare.
But defensive end Justin Anderson was assessed a personal foul for leaping on the field goal attempt, which gave the Zips a first down. All UMass (1-9, 1-5 Mid-American Conference) could do was watch as Akron (4-7, 3-4 MAC) kneeled three straight times to claim a 14-13 win on the Minutemen’s Senior Day at Gillette Stadium in front of a listed attendance of 10,599.
UMass coach Charley Molnar did not see the leaping personal foul take place since he was watching the ball, but he was given an explanation from the referees for the call.
“Here’s how it was explained to me,” he said. “Our man lined up a yard past the line of scrimmage. He jumped, which is certainly legal, and he landed on top of the guys in front of him, which makes it a personal foul.”
Mike Wegzyn, who had come in to play quarterback after A.J. Doyle limped off the field in the third quarter, was getting ready for the chance to try to win the game but never got to due to the penalty.
“Talking about that last little bit there right at the end of the game, yeah, frustrating is probably the best word,” he said. “I was talking to the guys, we were ready to put together a two-minute drive there and kind of getting each other excited, kind of getting revved up, ready to go, and then what happened, happened and the clock ran out and we ran out of time.”
When senior tight end Rob Blanchflower saw that he wouldn’t get a chance to win his final game at Gillette Stadium, he said “it’s the worst feeling in the world.”
That wasn’t the only missed opportunity for the Minutemen on Saturday, though. UMass had forced three consecutive fumbles back in the first quarter, but didn’t convert any of those chances into points. It also had a chance on fourth and 1 from Akron’s 47 to pick up a first down late in the fourth quarter, but Jamal Wilson was stood up for no gain, which gave the Zips the ball, and they didn’t relinquish it for the rest of the game.
Akron took the lead for good at the 9:49 mark in the fourth when quarterback Kyle Pohl (20-of-33 for 208 yards and one touchdown) found Jawon Chisholm, who leaped for the pylon and just snuck the ball in for the winning touchdown.
Back in the third quarter, the Minutemen had regained the lead thanks to Wegzyn, who came in for the injured Doyle. Wegzyn was 4-of-4 for 76 yards on the drive, which concluded on a play action touchdown pass from Wegzyn (4-of-7 for 76 yards and one touchdown and interception) to Blanchflower with 6:58 remaining in the quarter.
“Everybody wants to play, but you do what you can, you control what you can control, and it’s in the coach’s hands whenever they want to put me in it’s up to them,” Wegzyn said when asked about coming into the game cold. “So what I do is just to try to play my best whenever I’m out there.”
One of the bright spots for UMass despite the loss was Blanchflower, who is now the all-time leader in receiving yards by a tight end in Minuteman history, surpassing Milt Morin’s previous record of 1,151. Blanchflower finished the game with five receptions for 26 yards and a touchdown. His historic moment came on a 9-yard completion from Doyle (13-of-21 for 75 yards and one interception) near the end of the first quarter.
“It happened in the midst of a drive,” Molnar said of Blanchflower’s historic catch, “so I’m not sure if I got a chance to congratulate Rob. Quite frankly, you expect to tell him that in a winning locker room and that is one of the biggest disappointments this afternoon for me.”
Brendon Levengood continued his perfect field goal streak with a pair of kicks from 37 and 33 yards in the first half to keep UMass within striking range.
The Zips were the only team to find the end zone in the first half after they marched down the field on a five-play, 63-yard drive that lasted 2:19, which was capped off by a Pohl scramble to his right for a touchdown.
The Minutemen were forced to use Wilson more at running back after Lorenzo Woodley was injured during the second quarter. Wilson answered the call, rushing for 70 yards on the afternoon.
While Saturday was the final home game for UMass, it will still play two more games on the road beginning with Central Michigan next Saturday.
Cameron McDonough can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @Cam_McDonough.