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UMass football hosts Appalachian State in final contest at McGuirk

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts football team’s season is rapidly coming to a close with the final home game of the 2017 season already on the cusp.

UMass (1-6) will host Appalachian State in the Minutemen’s final game at McGuirk Alumni Stadium Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

The Minutemen look to win their second straight game after dominating Georgia Southern 55-20 last week.

“I just think we [have to] match the preparation we had last week,” quarterback Andrew Ford said about the keys heading into the matchup with the Mountaineers (5-2, 4-0 Sun Belt Conference). “I think last week was our best week of practice, and it showed on the field. If anything, just try to reciprocate everything we did Monday through Friday.”

It was an offensive explosion for UMass in its 35-point victory over the Eagles as Ford and fellow quarterback Ross Comis combined for four passing touchdowns, running backs Bilal Ally and Marquis Young totaled 216 yards on the ground, and four separate Minutemen receivers hauled in a score.

“I think we’ve been turning the corner each week, we just haven’t been finishing or getting the results,” Ford said. “I think we’re close, and I think we’re not where we need to be obviously, but we took that next step on Saturday, so I’m looking forward to taking the next [step] this week.”

A win over Appalachian State would certainly be a step in the right direction as the Mountaineers have had a strong year themselves. Most recently, Appalachian State beat Coastal Carolina 37-29 to further its dominance in the Sun Belt, climbing to 4-0.

The Minutemen fell to the Chanticleers 38-28 on Sept. 2.

“We had to change a couple things today and made sure we got some things in,” UMass coach Mark Whipple said. “We got a lot of good work in [Tuesday].”

Defensively the Minutemen played well against Georgia Southern, recording an interception and forcing four fumbles, keeping the Eagles from ever threatening on the scoreboard.

“I’m big into the 24-hour rule,” linebacker Steve Casali said. “I was happy, the whole team celebrated in the locker room [after Saturday]. But 24 hours after the game, it’s right back to work. We had a good Monday, and we had a good Tuesday, so we got to win the day and we’ll be good.”

Taylor Lamb is the current play-caller for the Mountaineers, throwing 60.7 percent (125-for-206) for 1624 yards and 13 touchdowns in seven games.

“He’s a dual-threat quarterback,” Casali said. “He’s a very athletic guy. Their O-line, I feel like that’s their biggest piece. They’re very, very athletic and move very well. Also, their running back [Jalin Moore] is very shifty, one of the better players in the Sun Belt. They’re definitely good overall. It’s going to be a great game Saturday.”

Overall Appalachian State averages 177.3 rushing yards per game, 241.3 passing yards a game and 418.6 total yards of offense.

Being the final go-around at McGuirk only adds to UMass’ motivation to take home the “W.”

“It’s weird to think that this is our last game in Amherst this year, but we know we have to take advantage of that opportunity one more time,” Ford said.

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

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