Cyr: UMass takes care of business in win over FCS Wagner
Saturday’s game was a good win for the Massachusetts football team.
UMass (2-7) finally played complementary football in all three phase of the game as it had zero difficulty snapping its five-game losing streak, defeating Wagner 34-10 on senior day at McGuirk Stadium.
“I thought our guys were focused,” Minutemen coach Mark Whipple said after the game. “(They) just went out a did what we had to do”
But as good – and satisfying – as Saturday’s win was for UMass, it was one that should have been a no-brainer as soon as the Minutemen saw it on their schedule.
Across the board, UMass had the advantage in size, speed and skill at every position on the field. A Super Bowl winning coach shouldn’t, and didn’t, have any difficulties creating a game plan to beat a FCS team.
“It’s a game we felt we should have won and did,” tight end Adam Breneman said. “Those kinds of games always scare you a little bit.”
The game was over after the first drive, which took all of two minutes, six seconds. Quarterback Andrew Ford orchestrated a no-huddle drive that ended in a 28-yard touchdown to Breneman, who the Seahawks couldn’t cover all afternoon.
Ford put up a Madden-esque stat line and it looked like he was in a seven-on-seven passing drill all afternoon with the amount of time he had to throw all. He finished 25-for-39 with 355 pashing yards and three touchdowns – including a 16-yard touchdown run on a broken play – while Breneman and Andy Isabella had over 100 receiving yards in the first half alone.
Breneman finished the day with eight catches for 138 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while Isabella also had eight catches, totaling 123 yards and a 55-yard touchdown reception, just a few plays removed from a dropped ball along the sideline that would have been a sure score.
Ford’s lone mistake was an interception in the first half when he underthrew Breneman with 3:20 remaining in the second quarter. The follow up? The Minutemen defense responded by forcing a three-and-out on the ensuing drive.
“They’ve done that all year for us,” Ford said. “Guys are going to make mistakes like I did and when I came off the field, they were just telling me that they were going to get the ball back for you. It’s really a confidence boost knowing the team believes in you even after a mistake like that.”
After enduring kicking issues throughout the entire season, Logan Laurent made both of his from 33 and 22 yards, respectively. Laurent also tied a career high with a 58-yard punt late in the third quarter.
UMass had a shutout brewing for most of the day before Wagner (4-4, 2-1 Northeast Conference) kicker James Cooper converted a 27-yard field goal with 2:42 remaining in the third quarter. The Seahawks did make their way to the endzone, scoring on a 2-yard pass from Alex Thomson to John Williams.
“The second half was a little disappointing,” Whipple said. “We’d like to get a bit more of the younger guys in there. Our guys haven’t been ahead 27-0 but hopefully that will happen again now that we have some experience there.”
Casali, who finished with seven total tackles and a sack, was disappointed in allowing the late touchdown.
“We had a good first half, but the second half we have to play better,” Casali said. “We should not have let them in the end zone so we could get the younger guys in. Overall it was a good win and I’m happy for the seniors.”
While it wasn’t the same kind of level of competition as Florida, Mississippi State or South Carolina, Saturday’s home win proved the Minutemen are taking care of business when they are supposed to.
The fact UMass still is leaving with regrets after playing its best game in a long time proves that its invested in the process, and understand that even in wins, there’s always room for improvement.
“I still think we could have finished a little bit better at the end there as far as offense and defense wise,” Breneman said. “But it was good. Our game plan worked really well, we had a good plan, guys got ready to play. It was good to finally put together that win – all 60 minutes of the game.
Andrew Cyr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and followed on Twitter @Andrew_Cyr.