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UMass football defeats Appalachian State 30-27 in program’s biggest FBS win

Jessica Picard/ Daily Collegian)

The stage was set for more disappointment.

The Massachusetts football team had led Appalachian State (5-3, 4-0 Sun Belt) for most of the game but surrendered that lead in the third quarter. Another late App State field goal in the fourth quarter gave the Mountaineers a 20-17 lead.

The story seemed to already be written. A hard fought game on the part of the Minutemen, only to have it fall apart in the final moments of the fourth quarter.

Except that didn’t happen.

With time winding down Ross Comis marched his team down the field to set up Logan Laurent for the biggest field goal opportunity of his life. From 45-yards out the redshirt senior playing in his final game at McGuirk Alumni Stadium nailed the field goal and breathed new life into his almost dead team.

Two overtime periods later and Laurent was called upon again – this time to attempt a 36-yard kick.

Despite a long history of kicking woes at UMass, Laurent didn’t stutter Saturday night. With the wind at his back he sent the ball between the north end zone uprights giving UMass the 30-27 win and putting the crowd and his teammates into a frenzy.

“I’d rather win by a landslide. But at that opportunity, I’ve been waiting a long time to have that

opportunity to hit the game winner,” Laurent said. “I was very happy and pleased to have that opportunity.”

UMass (2-6) has had a history kicking struggles, freshman Michael Schreiner being the latest example earlier this season. So having Laurent make all three field goals he attempted, all of which from 35+ yards away, is a diversion from that narrative.

“I think that credit to Logan, he’s grown up a lot,” UMass coach Mark Whipple said. “Obviously we use him on kick offs, but he’s healthy. So he stepped up. I mean where we’re at, last week I would like to think we’re going to do that a lot but we’re not ready for blowouts. I think it’s always going to come down to the fourth quarter. I think this would help us a long ways down the road, it certainly gives the kids a lift, I think last week helped and we practiced well.”

Entering the game 5-2, 4-0 in the Sun Belt, App State, who has yet to be faced with much difficulty during their season, ran into a UMass team that seemed to find the defense it had when it took on Tennessee.

The UMass defense accumulated three turnovers including a fumble recovery in the second overtime that set up the Minutemen’s game winning drive. With Daetrich Harrington rushing the ball to his right, Ali Ali-Musa forced the ball out and onto the ground. The play caught the attention of Bryton Barr.

“I filled my hole and the ball ran past me,” Barr said. “I turned around and I think it was Ali who forced the fumble. I just saw the ball right in front of me. Last game, Steve Casali and Jarell Addo got a fumble recovery and I didn’t get one. So there was no way I wasn’t getting this ball. It felt good.”

Barr fell on the ball to give UMass possession.

The Minutemen had a little more to fight for following a scary moment in the first half when quarterback Andrew Ford was hit unexpectedly by Myquon Stout, injuring him to the point where he had to be stretchered off the field.

While it was treated like an injury to his neck or head, it is currently unclear the severity of Ford’s injury, however Whipple said that Ford was conscious and did have feeling when on the field.

According to Ford’s long-time friend and UMass tight end, Adam Breneman, Ford’s injury added that much more fight to the team.

“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,” Breneman said. “We’re behind him. We rallied up the guys after that happened. 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.”

The win is only UMass’ second of season but was undoubtedly the Minutemen’s biggest win in their Football Bowl Subdivision history. Whipple expressed what it meant to him and his team.

“Just really really happy for the kids, happy for everyone that’s in the program,” Whipple said. “We’ve been close and I thought there was obviously a lot of resiliency. We just kept finding. I kind of showed them in this room that that’s how its going to be, I didn’t know it was going to go into overtime but the way Appalachian State had played, they were right there at the end. They just found ways to win, and our guys finally found a way to win in a tight game.”

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

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