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UMass football gets solid performances from top players in loss to Hawaii

(Jed Zuraw-Friedland/ Daily Collegian)

If the Massachusetts football team is going to have any success this season, its top players are going to have to consistently play well.

In the first game of 2017, UMass’ leaders performed admirably despite losing 38-35 to Hawaii Saturday night at McGuirk Alumni Stadium.

Quarterback Andrew Ford was the catalyst for the Minutemen (0-1) on the offensive side, going 21-30 for 275 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in front of 12,145 fans.

“We know Hawaii’s a quick strike offense and they have the ability to put up points,” Ford said. “We just needed to score one more time tonight.”

Ford had a rough first drive when his first pass attempt of the contest was intercepted by Solomon Matautia. However, after being briefly replaced by fellow quarterback Ross Comis in the second quarter, Ford returned to action and was smooth from then on out.

“That was the plan and Ross got in there and did good job,” UMass coach Mark Whipple said about Ford getting the majority of time under-center. “We got backed up and shot ourselves in the foot with some offensive mistakes which was very disappointing.”

Redshirt senior tight end Adam Breneman was the top target for Ford, catching nine passes for 179 yards, in the season-opening defeat to the Rainbow Warriors (1-0).

“We’ve been in a lot of close games like that, and we just got to find a way to put the nail on the head at the end of the game,” Breneman said. “We’ll be back here tomorrow getting ready for Coastal Carolina.”

Teammates at Cedar Cliff High School in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, Ford and Breneman have a long-lasting relationship on the gridiron that should continue to blossom this season for the Minutemen.

Junior wide receiver Andy Isabella also saw a bulk of the load on the receiving end for UMass, catching five passes for 40 yards and one touchdown. Isabella also contributed with a six-yard rushing touchdown.

Isabella was second on the Minutemen receiving leaders list last season with 801 yards, just seven yards shy of Breneman.

UMass’ running game did its job Saturday, compiling 115 yards on the ground, with junior Marquis Young racking up 85 yards and two rushing touchdowns, on 20 carries.

The running game was an issue for the Minutemen last season as they ranked fifth-worst in average running yards in the FBS with 99.5 last year.

On the defensive side, UMass struggled, allowing 503 total yards on 53 plays from Hawaii. The Minutemen did register one interception and three sacks, on Hawaii quarterback Dru Brown.

Redshirt junior linebacker Bryton Barr had the only complete sack of the evening for the Minutemen.

A loss to begin the season, especially a last-minute defeat, is never an ideal start to the year, yet Ford still believes in his team all the way.

“I have 100 percent faith in every single guy in that locker room,” Ford said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get it done tonight. But that doesn’t change how I think about anybody in that room, and that isn’t going to change how we attack next week at all.”

“Well its better than Colorado (two years ago) but I know we’re going to be fine,” Whipple said. “Like I said the kids fought and we believed.”

Ryan Ames can be reached at rames@umass.edu or on Twitter @_RyanAmes.

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