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UMass football sets its sights on BYU

(Jessica Picard/Daily Collegian)

For the first time since the 2014 season, the Massachusetts football team has a chance to earn win number four.

UMass (3-7), on the heels of a 44-31 victory over Maine as part of the Gridiron Series at Fenway Park this past Saturday, is set to make the cross-country trip to Provo, Utah to battle Brigham Young in the Minutemen’s penultimate contest, Nov. 18.

“[BYU] went down to UNLV and got a big win so I think they solved some of their problems,” coach Mark Whipple said. “They’re a mature group and they’re physical, they certainly got us pretty good last year so we gave them opportunities and they took full advantage of it.”

BYU (3-8) enters the matchup fresh off a win as well, as the Cougars beat Las Vegas 31-21 on the road at Sam Boyd Stadium four days ago.

Winners of three out of its last four games, UMass has put together a nice little run with a variety of names stepping up during this late-season stretch.

Andy Isabella has been lethal for the Minutemen in their previous two games, catching for over 150 yards receiving in each of the last two tilts, along with four total reception touchdowns. The junior wide receiver has tallied 841 receiving yards and eight touchdown catches to this point.

Quarterbacks Ross Comis and Andrew Ford have played admirably despite getting the snot beaten out of them under-center.

Ford, from Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, was impressive against the Black Bears Saturday, hurling 355 passing yards and 4 touchdowns in the 13-point win. The redshirt junior made his first start since suffering a serious injury against Appalachian State that saw Ford get stretchered off the field at McGuirk Stadium.

Comis has also stayed locked-in even while getting swapped in and out of the UMass lineup. The other redshirt junior gunslinger threw for just under 200 yards in the Minutemen’s 55-20 blowout over Georgia Southern—their first win of the year—and almost led UMass to the upset victory over No. 21 Mississippi State Nov. 4, tossing three touchdown passes and 223 yards in the 34-23 defeat. Comis got his bell rung in this one, but finished the game.

Running back Marquis Young has turned it on, rushing for over 100 yards and at least one touchdown in all of the prior four games, save for the loss against the Bulldogs, where he only compiled 91 yards rushing and no touchdowns.

While he hasn’t had any eye-popping numbers during this stretch, redshirt senior tight end Adam Breneman is still pleased with his game.

“I think part of my maturing process since I’ve been at UMass [has] been, I try not to worry about stats too much,” Breneman said. “A lot of it just being at the right place at the right time. Catching touchdowns is just being at the right place at the right time.

“It’s been good, I’m happy with how I’ve played so far this year. Can always get better but at this point it’s really just doing anything I can to help the team win the two years at the end of the year.”

On the defensive side of the ball for the Minutemen Isaiah Rodgers and Lee Moses have been strong, with Rodgers recording 10 tackles over the past quartet of games including two interceptions at Mississippi State, returning one for a touchdown—the first of the sophomore’s career. Moses has three picks to his name, all in the last four outings, with 13 tackles in just the past two games.

“On the defensive side, everybody’s just…we’ve kind of just gelled together,” Moses said. “Our coach talks about, ‘do your job, just do your job. Don’t try and do the next man’s job because that’s when you start to run into trouble.’ Everybody’s just been doing that and we’ve just been going ever since.”

BYU smoked UMass 51-9 in last season’s battle with the Cougars scoring 34 of their 51 total points in the second half.

With Maine coming out of the halftime break strong on Saturday too, the Minutemen’s play in quarters three and four will be critical.

“BYU is probably one of the better teams we played last year, probably one of the best teams we played last year, and with those types of teams when we play these big schools, these big programs, these Power 5 schools, you got to keep it tight the whole game,” said Breneman.

Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. E.T. at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

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

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