Attendance rising for UMass

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

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Nearly all 16,174 fans who attended Saturday’s game at McGuirk Stadium stayed until the final whistle. And considering what occurred in the four overtime thriller between the Massachusetts football team and Villanova, they were treated to a hard-fought and exciting battle.

It was the 16th largest crowd in UMass history, and the largest non-playoff game attendance since Sept. 11, 2004, against Colgate.

“We’re certainly getting the fan support that you like to see,” UMass coach Don Brown said during this week’s Colonial Athletic Association teleconference. “Your players have a chance to play in front of a good crowd and it certainly gives the guys some juice. We all talk about it as coaches; winning on the road in the CAA is a difficult process and it’s doubly tough when you have a great crowd.”

Dynamic duo

If there was a concern about how UMass would replace the production of former wide receiver Brandon London, one just needs to look at J.J. Moore and Rasheed Rancher for the answer.

Both redshirt senior wideouts exploded against the Wildcats, coming up with big play after big play. Rancher had a career high in both receptions (eight) and receiving yards, with 155. Moore wasn’t far behind, racking up 138 yards on seven catches; both receivers had catches of over 50 yards. Of quarterback Liam Coen’s 355 yards passing, the duo of veteran pass catchers had 293 of those yards.

“Our big-time players made big-time plays,” Brown said.

Moore made some key plays in the close victory, and had an 18-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter called back due to a holding penalty.

Moore’s first big play came on a fourth-and-one play in UMass territory. His 4-yard reception kept the drive going and eventually led to the first score of the game for the Minutemen. Later in the third quarter, he hauled in a 54-yard pass from Coen. It was the longest reception of his career and the longest completion for Coen this season.

Trailing late in the fourth quarter, Moore made two huge plays – one to help the Minutemen tie the game, and the other that set up place-kicker Chris Koepplin with an attempt to end the game as time expired.

His 15-yard punt return with under four minutes remaining helped set up Coen’s 17-yard touchdown pass to Joe Sanford, which tied the game at 14 with 2:09 remaining.

And after a quick three-and-out for the Wildcats, Moore made a nice 30-yard catch along the sideline, giving the Minutemen a chance with 20 seconds left to kick a winning field goal. Chris Koepplin’s 48-yard field goal hit the upright, giving Moore the opportunity to make a big play in overtime.

That play came in the fourth overtime, when Moore hauled in Coen’s pass for the two point conversion – giving the Minutemen the 32-24 lead.

Rancher was all over the field in Saturday’s victory. On the drive that gave UMass its first lead of the game (7-6, on the first drive of the third quarter), the 6-foot-5 receiver caught three passes for 33 yards. A few drives later, Rancher gathered in a 53-yard pass from Coen, but the drive ended abruptly when he was tackled one yard short of a first down on fourth and four.

After Moore’s 15-yard punt return, Rancher had a 39-yard reception which was immediately followed with the Sanford touchdown.

Moore (525) and Rancher (452) rank second and third, respectively, in the CAA in receiving yards.

Miles up in the air

Lost in the shuffle of Saturday’s thriller was the play of safety Jeromy Miles. The transfer from Navy made the key defensive play of the afternoon, batting down Villanova’s pass on fourth down in the fourth overtime to end the game.

He broke up four passes in the matchup, including three in the end zone. He also contributed five tackles. His batted down pass in the end zone in the first overtime went into the hands of linebacker Jason Hatchell for the interception.

“I thought our defense played extremely well all day long,” Brown said after the game. “Some of those guys rose up. Jeromy Miles had a couple of key stops.”

For his efforts, Miles was awarded the UMass/Dinn Brothers co-Athlete of the Week alongside cross country runner Christina DeRosa.

Miles leads the CAA with three forced fumbles. He has 27 tackles, six passes defended and one fumble recovery this season

Stat central

David Burris leads the CAA in sacks, with six