Diving to victory

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

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HAMILTON, N.Y. — For the second straight Saturday, 30 minutes of good football was all that the Massachusetts football team needed.

The Minutemen struggled in the first half offensively, but came out firing after halftime to beat the Colgate Raiders, 35-17, on Saturday in Hamilton, NY. UMass quarterback Liam Coen (4 TD’s) and wideout J.J. Moore (2 TD’s) led the way for the Minutemen.

“We were much more consistent on offense in the second half,” UMass coach Don Brown said. “Liam has a big day and Lawrence has a big day – and it’s just a good solid win for us against a great program with a great tradition.”

Colgate (1-1) dominated UMass (2-0) on all facets of offense in the first half, out-gaining the Minutemen on the ground 106-to-11 and in the air 124-to-79. But the Raiders had trouble pounding the ball into the end zone and committed key turnovers, leading to two UMass touchdowns and a 14-10 deficit at the half.

The opening drive for the Minutemen was indicative of their first-half struggles as Coen tripped and fell on the first play from scrimmage. A miscommunication on the third-down snap led to a fumble and a 13-yard loss.

The Raiders were much more cohesive on offense in the opening half – junior tailback Jordan Scott rushed for 92 yards and quarterback Alex Relph threw for 124 yards. But both Scott and Relph slowed down considerably in the second half, as the UMass defense tightened up and the Minuteman offense took control of the game.

UMass’s second drive of the game didn’t fair much better, but the Raiders handed the Minutemen a gift when Colgate punt returner Cody Williams fumbled the ball into the hands of Eric Dickson. Coen capitalized on the good field position, hitting red-shirt sophomore wide receiver Jeremy Horne on a 25-yard touchdown strike.

The lead didn’t last long, however, as Relph marched the Raiders 72 yards down the field on four plays for the equalizer. Scott and Relph combined for 42 rushing yards on the first three plays before the junior quarterback put the exclamation point on the drive with a 30-yard touchdown pass to receiver Erik Burke.

The two teams alternated stalled drives until UMass cornerback Courtney Robinson took advantage of Relph throwing across his body in a crowded area, picking off the pass and returning it 20 yards to the Colgate 26-yard-line.

Wide receiver Rasheed Rancher dropped a bullet from Coen in the end zone on the next play – furthering the frustration of the Minuteman offense. But Coen converted on a third down play and ended the drive with a play-action touchdown pass to fullback Breyone Evans for the go-ahead score. The Raiders added a 47-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter.

Whatever ailed its offense went away in the locker room at halftime, as UMass simply dominated the Raider defense in the second half. Lawrence set the tone for the offense in the third quarter, running for 55 yards during the first two UMass drives. The second drive ended with Coen’s third touchdown pass – this time to Ian Jorgensen on a well-designed play that left the tight end wide open on the left side.

The newly-acquired 11-point cushion would swell to 18 just a minute later, when J.J. Moore scampered 52-yards down the field (virtually untouched) for his first-career punt return touchdown.

“After last week when he had two bad episodes, to respond with a touchdown is very special,” Brown said of Moore’s return. “Any time you get a special teams touchdown that’s big.”

Colgate trimmed the lead back to 11 on Burke’s second touchdown reception of the afternoon, but Moore and the Minutemen capped an impressive second-half performance with the game’s final score – Coen connected with Moore for his fourth touchdown pass of the day.

Charles Walker, Jason Hatchell and the rest of the Minuteman defense made the necessary adjustments and shut down Colgate’s running game in the second half. Scott gained just 11 yards on the ground after accumulating 92 in the first half and the Colgate offense had 82 yards of total offense after having 230 in the first half. On the flip side, the UMass running back duo of Lawrence and Tony Nelson combined for 155 yards after halftime.

Coen finished the game with terrific numbers – throwing for 204 yards and four scores and an interception on 17-of-26 passing. Lawrence had his second-straight 100-yard effort, rushing for 122 yards. Burke had 142 yards and two scores on nine receptions, while Scott failed to cross the goal line on five touches inside the red zone. He finished with 103 yards.

Game Notes

Horne’s and Evans’s touchdowns were their first at UMass