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Record start powers UMass football to 55-20 win over Georgia Southern

(Caroline O’Connor/ Daily Collegian)

A 28-point first quarter powered the Massachusetts football team to its first victory of the 2017 season, in its 55-20 win over Georgia Southern Saturday afternoon.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Ross Comis tossed three touchdowns, and sophomore Bilal Ally rushed for his first career score in what was a demonstrative opening 15 minutes for UMass (1-6).

“Obviously [getting ahead] was the plan,” Minutemen coach Mark Whipple said. “It’s hard for an option team to come back; we finally got them in passing situations and took advantage of that.”

UMass’ four touchdowns in the first quarter were the most points scored in its FBS history.

“[It’s] one of those things you just have to go through,” Whipple said about playing with a lead. “I thought the quarterbacks did a good job with the clock when they’re bringing extra guys into the box.”

The Minutemen wasted no time getting on the board when Comis found redshirt senior tight end Adam Breneman for a 1-yard touchdown connection at 9:37 in the first quarter.

Following a fumble from Eagles (0-6) wide receiver Mark Michaud on their opening drive, UMass drove 97 yards on 11 plays to take a 7-0 lead right off the bat.

“Obviously it’s a big momentum swing,” Comis said. “You think they’re going to go in for a touchdown on the first play. It’s the kind of thing where you got to jump into it. We put a first drive together and put the ball into the end zone. The offense played the rest of the game well and the defense helped us out a ton.”

On the very next Minutemen possession, Comis found junior wide receiver Andy Isabella, who took it 68 yards to the endzone to quickly double UMass’ advantage to 14-0.

Georgia Southern couldn’t get out of its own way as redshirt senior Myles Campbell couldn’t control the proceeding Minuteman kickoff, giving UMass back the ball with prime field position.

Comis again struck through the air, hitting freshman wide receiver Jessie Britt on a 26-yard score at 7:10 putting the Minutemen up by three scores on their first three drives.

Continuing its impressive offensive performance, UMass tallied another score this time on Ally’s 19-yard rush, to put the Minutemen in the driver’s seat for the remainder of the contest.

“I wasn’t nervous at all,” Ally said about his first career start. “I just have to take it a play at a time when I’m in there. I just feel like without the O-line today, none of this would be possible.”

The Minutemen went on to score 27 more points over the next three quarters to earn their first win since Oct. 29, 2016 when UMass beat Wagner 34-10 at McGuirk Alumni Stadium.

“I thought the seniors did a good job; I kind of got after them in the middle of the week and I thought they stepped up and did a good job,” Whipple said. “Shane [Huber] did mention that they’ve never won a homecoming. It seemed to be standard practice the first time I was here that that was going to be a win. That’s another step in the right direction.”

 

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

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