UMass drops in poll

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

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The 12-6 loss against Rhode Island cost the Massachusetts football team five spots in this week’s Sports Network Football Championship Subdivision Poll, but didn’t cost the team the lead in the conference standings.

UMass (7-2, 5-1 Colonial Athletic Association) dropped from No. 3 to No. 8 in the poll, ranking one spot behind defending FCS National Champion Appalachian State. Next week’s opponent, New Hampshire, fell six spots to No. 14 following a loss to Northeastern Saturday.

The Maroon and White lead the CAA North Division with a 5-1 conference record, leading Hofstra by one game and UNH by two. The Minutemen will take the Wildcats at home this weekend, followed by a game at Hofstra on Nov. 17.

UMass has more wins (45) against URI than any other opponent in school history. Second on that list is UNH as the Minutemen defeated the Wildcats 41 times – including twice last season.

The Minutemen had won 17 of their last 21 against the Rams entering Saturday’s contest and have won four of the last five against UNH.

Conspicuously absent

A familiar 6-foot-5 frame was noticeably absent on the final play in overtime in the loss to Rhode Island.

UMass wide receiver Rasheed Rancher leads the team with five touchdown receptions and ranks second in both catches (26) and yards (534) – but he was seated on the bench when URI’s Adrian Owen intercepted Liam Coen’s fourth-down pass to end the game.

Rancher had a rough afternoon, particularly in the first half. On UMass’s first play from scirimmage, Rancher fumbled on an end-around, giving the ball to the Rams at the UMass 13-yard line. Place-kicker D.J. Giannecchini drilled a 26-yard field goal into the wind four plays later to take a 3-0 lead.

Coen tried for Rancher five times, with all five resulting in an incomplete pass. Rancher flat dropped the ball several times, while it appeared that there was some miscommunication between the two on others.

UMass coach Don Brown was asked after the game why Rancher wasn’t on the field during the game’s final play.

“We’re rotating guys through there, and it’s just a coach’s decision,” he said.

Lawrence cracks 1,000

Coen fell short of the 99 yards he needed to become the school’s all-time leader in passing yards, but redshirt senior Matt Lawrence got the 17 rushing yards he needed to reach the 1,000-yard plateau for the season.

After gaining 11 yards on six carries in the first half, Lawrence got his 999th yard on a 5-yard carry early in the third quarter. He got exactly the 1-yard he needed on his next carry on the following possession. He finished the game with 1,066 yards on the year.

Lawrence’s production improved in the second half, and the play calling reflected that as he was handed the ball on nine straight plays at the end of the third quarter and into the fourth quarter. But his ninth run fell short of the two yards he needed, on what was a crucial fourth-and-goal at the URI 2-yard line.

“I just went with my players on that one,” Brown said of the decision to go for it on fourth down. “They felt they could get [the touchdown]. It would have been a nail in the coffin. We’ve gone for it on fourth down a lot and had success. That’s one of many calls you reconsider in this football game when you lose a tight one like that.”

Three and out

Both teams had significant problems moving the ball with the weather conditions, but the struggles for the Minutemen were more pronounced.

UMass recorded seven first downs in the game, including one through the air. Although the Rams had 10 first downs, they had better success on third downs – converting 5-of-19, while the Minutemen went 2-of-16. UMass also failed to convert on both fourth-down attempts.

After the Rancher fumble on the first play from scrimmage, the Minutemen went three-and-out in seven of the next eight drives. UMass ended that stretch with six consecutive three-and-outs, and then followed that up with a four-and-out, missing a 32-yard field goal that would have given the team a 7-6 lead in the third quarter.

The Minutemen had nine drives of less than 10 yards, and punter Brett Arnold was forced to punt nine times. The Minutemen also failed to score on their three trips to the red zone.

Eli Rosenswaike can be reached at [email protected]