Maroon and White win a wild one

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

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WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – If you showed up 16 seconds late, you missed a record-setting touchdown pass.

If you blinked, you missed a fumble returned for a touchdown.

If you made a few quick trips to the restroom, you missed more fumbles and more touchdowns.

And if you skipped the game altogether, you missed one hell of a football game.

The 10,178 fans that showed up in the 80-degree weather were treated to a riveting back-and-forth football game between Massachusetts (7-1, 5-0 Colonial Athletic Association) and William ‘ Mary on Saturday at Zaples Stadium. A game with seven lead changes, four missed field goals by one team, 38 points in the fourth quarter and three touchdown drives lasting under a minute.

In the end, almost all of the fans went home unhappy as the Minutemen prevailed, 48-34, in front of a raucous homecoming crowd.

“I’ll be honest, I thought William ‘ Mary came out and played as well as they possibly could play,” UMass coach Don Brown said. “Everybody had a chip in [the victory]. I was really happy with our guys and the way they battled back from adversity.”

UMass running back Matt Lawrence scored two touchdowns in the final 3:46 of the game, putting the Minutemen ahead for good. The senior ran for a career-high 186 yards – 126 in the second half – and three touchdowns.

William ‘ Mary (4-4, 2-3 CAA) led at halftime, 13-10, and extended the lead to 10 with a 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback Jake Phillips midway through the third quarter. That was just the beginning of a furious pace of touchdowns, fumbles, lead-changes and everything in between.

Lawrence scored his first touchdown five minutes later from 11 yards out, cutting the deficit to three. The Tribe gave the ball right back to the Minutemen, fumbling the ball on a 7-yard completion to tight end Drew Atchison. Linebacker Josh Jennings hit Atchison just as he caught the ball, forcing it out and into the arms of Brian Ellis.

After a 25-yard run by Lawrence, backup tailback Tony Nelson scored his first touchdown of the season on a 13-yard run, giving the Minutemen a 27-24 lead. It was the fifth lead change of the game and third UMass touchdown drive spanning under a minute long.

In a 3 minute, 7 second span, the Tribe lost an 11-point lead and trailed by three. It was about to get worse in a matter of seconds.

William ‘ Mary kick returner Thomas Schonder fumbled the ensuing kickoff, giving the Minutemen possession on the Tribe 22-yard line. UMass quarterback Liam Coen and the offense scored a third straight touchdown four plays later – this time on an 8-yard pass to tight end Ian Jorgensen. The three scores came in just over five minutes.

As it turned out a few minutes later, William ‘ Mary wasn’t the only team having trouble holding onto the football.

After a three-and-out for the Tribe, UMass got the ball back with a chance to take some time off the clock and put the game away.

But on the second play of the drive, Coen fumbled the exchange on a pitch to Nelson. The ball bounced around before linebacker Michael Pigram scooped it up and ran 42 yards for a touchdown. Suddenly William ‘ Mary was down just 34-31, shifting the momentum back to the Tribe.

Incredibly, the next play from scrimmage was almost identical to the last. This time it was Lawrence who fumbled, and linebacker Josh Rutter picking up the football and running it back to the UMass 2-yard line.

The outcome changed this time, as the Tribe failed to pound the ball into the end zone for the go-ahead score.

After missing his previous four field goal attempts, place-kicker Brian Pate connected from 20 yards out to tie the game at 34 with 7:31 remaining in the fourth quarter.

“Probably the biggest series for our defense for the year,” Brown said of the goal-line stand. “When the ball is on the 2-yard line and you make them settle for the field goal. So we don’t lose the lead, we keep it in a tie scenario and our offense responded the way they’re capable of.”

Lawrence led the offense after the big stop, gaining 30 yards on five touches and finding the end zone on a 1-yard run to give the Minutemen a 41-34 lead.

Phillips threw four straight incompletions on the following drive, turning the ball over on downs. Lawrence gained another 22 yards and scored his third touchdown of the afternoon – putting the game away at 48-34 with 35 seconds remaining.

Coen completed 17-of-27 passes and threw for 218 yards and three scores. He connected on two of those scores to Rasheed Rancher, including a 60-yard bomb on the game’s first play from scrimmage – breaking Todd Bankhead’s school-record for touchdown passes in a career with 52. He finished the game with 54.

Despite scoring a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage, UMass had its share of miscues in the opening quarter. Longsnapper Cesar Rosario – playing with a broken finger – sent the snap over the head of holder Scott Woodward on the extra-point attempt, leaving the score at 6-0. A second bad snap occurred later in the first quarter, as the ball sailed well over the head of punter Brett Arnold – giving the Tribe possession at the UMass 8-yard line. The Tribe scored a touchdown three plays later.

William ‘ Mary had good success running the football in the first half (92 yards rushing, compared to 38 for the Minutemen) with a combination of tailback Courtland Marriner and Phillips scrambling for first downs.

But the Minutemen turned it around at halftime, both limiting the success of the Tribe and expanding their offense with Lawrence. Marriner finished with 86 yards rushing after gaining 54 in the first half, and Phillips was contained in the pocket by Michael Hanson (five tackles, two sacks and 3.5 tackles for a loss) and the UMass defense.

UMass finished the game with 248 yards gained on the ground, but with a net total of only 179 – mostly due to a 43-yard loss on the snap over Arnold’s head.

Game notes

Pate missed four straight field goal attempts, from 44, 48, 38 and 42 yards out