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UMass football comes away with 44-31 win over Maine at Fenway

Jessica Picard/ Daily Collegian)

Fenway Park-turned-football stadium featured the Massachusetts football team, who has won two of its last three games, avoid a colossal meltdown in front of 12,000 plus Saturday defeating Maine 44-31.

The ebbs and flows of the game featured UMass (3-7) leading by 17 to being tied at 24 after the first drive of the third quarter, to finally finishing with a 13-point win.

UMass, who put up a 37-24 lead at the end of the third quarter when Lee Moses cruised to the end zone after picking off quarterback Chris Ferguson, found themselves once again only up six and Maine taking over with 4:55 remaining in the game.

Being only a touchdown and extra point away from losing the lead, the Minutemen defense stepped up and stopped the Black Bears (4-5, 3-4 Colonial Athletic Association), forcing a turnover on downs. Marquis Young rushed for a 33-yard touchdown on the ensuing drive to seal the win.

The interception and the 4-and-out in the late stages of the game gave UMass a chance to walk away victorious. According to coach Mark Whipple, the defense’s ability to dominate is there and has been there all season.

“I just have to be hard on them all the time, they’re just too young,” Whipple said. “I made a comment to the defense trying to give them confidence. I don’t think they realize how good they can be. And I told them that they on defense alone outscored Mississippi State 7-6 last week in the first half. And then we come out [Maine] goes up and down the field, especially in the two minutes, it was disappointing.”

“It just felt good catching the ball and looking to the sideline and looking for blockers, it felt amazing when I got into the end zone,” Moses said. “I was a little bit scared when I saw the flag I thought it was going to get called back.”

The defense that the Minutemen boasted late in the game was nowhere to be found at points in the first half.

A once 24-7 lead had dwindled down to 24-16 and Maine had the ball with halftime quickly approaching. Maine quarterback Chris Ferguson darted a ball over the middle but it was intercepted by Jesse Monteiro, to put UMass in position to head into halftime with a two-score cushion.

Instead the Minutemen went 3-and-out, giving Maine a chance to eliminate the once 17-point deficit to start the third. A five-minute drive ultimately ended with running back Josh Mack breaking the plane and putting the Black Bears within two. A 2-point conversion quickly dissolved that difference.

Along with Moses’ interception and Young’s touchdown run in the final minutes, quarterback Andrew Ford – who missed the Mississippi State game with a concussion – connected with wide receiver Andy Isabella in the end zone for the third time in the game.

“Like coach Whipple said to us when we got into the locker room, we’re learning how to win, and that’s important for a young team,” Ford said. “It’s not always going to be like it was at Georgia Southern, you have to find way to win games that are going into the fourth quarter.”

Ford, coming back off an injury vs. Appalachian State that sent him to the hospital mid-game, finished with 355 passing yards and four touchdowns, three of which were in the hands of Isabella.

The redshirt junior quarterback was also sacked five times in the game, but knew after his first hit that he would be fine.

“I think once I took that first hit and it was back to football, once I stood up I knew I could take another hit,” Ford said. “Last week was tough, but being able to come out as early as we did and execute as early as we did it really got me in the flow of the game and then it was just football again.”

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

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