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Andrew Ford’s injury sparked UMass football to rally to victory

(Jessica Picard/ Daily Collegian)

On a day in which the Massachusetts football team had arguably its biggest win since moving into the Football Bowl Subdivision, a 30-27 double overtime victory over Appalachian State, the Minutemen were forced to celebrate without one of its key leaders.

With 5:20 remaining in the first half, McGuirk Alumni Stadium went dead silent.

UMass quarterback Andrew Ford tried forcing a pass to the sideline that was intercepted by Appalachian State’s Tae Hayes, who would return it to the house for what appeared to give the Mountaineers a 14-10 lead.

But the silence wasn’t due to the shock of the interception.

After throwing the pick, Ford bolted towards Hayes in an attempt to make the tackle to save the touchdown. While in pursuit he was blindsided by Myquon Stout, Appalachian State’s 275-pound nose tackle, knocking Ford viciously to the ground. He never saw Stout coming. The hit drew a personal foul penalty that negated the pick-six.

The quarterback laid flat on his stomach, not showing any signs of movement. He remained motionless on the turf for 10 minutes before a stretcher was brought out.

“I don’t know anything yet,” UMass coach Mark Whipple said of Ford’s condition. “He did have feeling when he was out there. That’s all I know when he left.”

Ford was able to give a thumbs up as he was stretchered off the field.

Whipple understands how hard it is for a team to bounce back after seeing a player go down in the way Ford did.

“It’s hard when you’re as old as I am, but when you’re young, they’ve never gone through that probably,” Whipple said. “To see one of your teammates down and you don’t know, it’s a fear factor. It’s really, really hard thing in sports, to me losing is bad but when guys get hurt it’s the worst thing.”

For the players, the game turned into one in which they needed to rally together to stay focused on the game.

“It was tough,” tight end Adam Breneman said. “Andrew’s one of the leaders of the team and has been my best friend for a long time so it was difficult to see. We’re behind him.”

The Minutemen were able to use the injury as motivation to get the win for their teammate.

“We rallied up the guys after that happened,” Breneman said. “I said to them nobody is going to come into our stadium and knock out our quarterback with an illegal, cheap hit and still win the game. So I knew at that point we were going to find a way to get the win for Andrew.”

Breneman’s message was received well by his teammates, as on their very next offensive play running back Marquis Young took it 95 yards to the house, using his speed to blow past the defense.

“They got pretty fired up,” Breneman said. “Our defense played lights out from that point. There really wasn’t a doubt that I knew we were going to pull it off.”

Linebacker Bryton Barr echoed similar sentiments.

“There was no doubt in my mind after Andrew got knocked out that we were going to win that game,” Barr said. “It was very emotional to every single person on the UMass sideline. Player, non-player, everyone was all in. There’s no doubt we were going to win that game. Coming out of halftime, we had a fire deep in us that there was no shot they were going to beat us.”

Ross Comis filled in for Ford, completing 11-of-20 passes for 80 yards. Comis was key in leading UMass down on the final possession of the game, setting up a 44-yard kick for Logan Laurent that sent the game to overtime.

Thomas Johnston can be reached at tjohnston@umass.edu and followed on twitter @TJ__Johnston.

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