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Offensive line struggles doom UMass football

(Imogen Fairs/ Daily Collegian)

In its worst offensive showing of the season, the Massachusetts football team can point to many causes.

Above all may be its offensive line.

UMass had its opportunities in its 17-7 loss to Old Dominion Saturday, but a lack of consistency in the blocking game prevented the Minutemen from securing their first win.

UMass couldn’t slow the pressure from the Monarchs, allowing eight sacks in the defeat.

Coming off a goal line stop, in which the Minutemen (0-3) defense kept ODU out of the end zone on second, third and fourth down, the UMass offense appeared to have the momentum.

A 2-yard rush followed by two incomplete pass attempts by redshirt junior quarterback Ross Comis to redshirt senior tight end Adam Breneman forced the Minutemen to punt only a few feet from where their drive started.

If there was a time where UMass needed to put together a productive drive, it was then.

“Yeah that was a big stop for us,” redshirt junior quarterback Andrew Ford said. “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to do anything with that. But the defense played great today. This is on the offense, this is on me. Ali [Ali-Musa] and his guys did an unbelievable job today so we just got to get better.”

The ensuing Monarch (2-0) drive resulted in a touchdown giving ODU a 17-7 lead, one that ultimately handed UMass its third loss of the season.

The goal line stop which seemed so crucial at the time, may have hurt the Minutemen more than they realized. Being pinned in his own end zone, Comis had very little time and space to move the ball forward. He even came within inches of a safety when Old Dominion defenders sandwiched the quarterback in the end zone, right before he got the ball out of his hands.

“That series was big it flipped the field, but our guys showed a lot of resolve,” coach Mark Whipple said. “They can run the ball pretty well and they have good running backs. We held them on fourth down. You know, Ross missed maybe a throw there but we just didn’t get it out.”

Even with time being split between Ford and Comis, Ford took the majority of the snaps and pretty much all of the big hits. Ford was hit hard all the way up to the second to last play.

The offensive line made up of left tackle Raquan Thomas-Ishman, left guard Lukas Kolter, center Derek Dumais, right guard Jake Largay and right tackle Jack Driscoll did not do running back Marquis Young any favors either.

After running for 163 yards against Old Dominion a season ago, Young managed only 25 against the Monarchs Saturday afternoon.

The UMass offense, who played a fairly clean game, suffered a costly penalty when Thomas-Ishman was called for holding, negating a 16-yard run by Ford.

“Yeah we didn’t play very well up front,” Whipple said. “With Raquan that was a big hold, we had a 20-yarder just before the half. Andrew scrambled for 20 yards and we get hold and then Raquan gets a couple at the end of the half, he lost his mind a little bit but he’s competing.”

On a day in which UMass saw the best performance from its defense all season, the offense regressed greatly from the 38 and 28 point performances in its first two games.

“Just today I think that we went up against an extremely talented defense that just made more plays than us today,” Ford said. “It’s tough to get into a rhythm, I took some sacks today that I shouldn’t have and kind of put us behind the chains. When you’re behind the chains like we were today, it’s tough to get anything going.”

Being the leader of the offense, Ford said the poor offensive performance cannot be pinned on one guy.

“It’s not one guy, it’s the whole offense,” Ford said. “We just got to stick together. We can’t let one play whether it’s good or bad impact two or three plays down the line. So for us, it’s just taking it one play at a time and believing each other and trusting each other and we’ll turn this thing around.”

Philip Sanzo can be reached at psanzo@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @Philip_Sanzo.

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