Football: Minutemen drop homecoming game to Richmond

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

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P.J. Stanley/Collegian

On the day that the 1998 championship team was remembered, the 2008 Massachusetts football team may soon be forgotten as its playoff hopes took what could be a devastating hit.

The No. 10 Minutemen lost for the first time in 17 games at McGuirk Stadium Saturday, losing to No. 9 Richmond, 30-15, in front of a homecoming crowd of 15,953.

The Spiders dominated UMass with field position and in the ground game, as Richmond’s average starting position was its own 48-yard line and running back Josh Vaughan rushed for a career-high 156 yards and two touchdowns in the wire-to-wire victory.

“Ultimately we just didn’t get enough done,” UMass coach Don Brown said after the game. “[It’s] back to the drawing board. We just got to restart and respond with a great effort next week and start a new win streak at home.”

The Minutemen (4-3, 2-2 Colonial Athletic Association) trailed 9-0 and 16-3 in the first half, but cut the lead to 16-12 midway through the third quarter. But a blocked punt by Richmond’s Eric McBride gave the Spiders the ball at the UMass 13-yard line, which Vaughan ran in for a touchdown two plays later for an 11-point lead.

“Blocked punts kill you,” Brown said. “We made a mistake in the protection and that really kills you. The worst momentum breaker in college football is a blocked punt.”

The Minutemen hit another field goal to pull within eight, but Richmond (5-3, 3-2 CAA) stopped UMass from scoring again, adding a late touchdown for the game’s final score.

Adding to UMass’ problems was an injury to quarterback Liam Coen’s left (non-throwing) elbow. He left the game late in the third quarter (replaced by Scott Woodward) but returned in the fourth after missing the next offensive series.

Both starting quarterbacks were efficient, but not spectacular. Coen was 18-of-30 for 165 yards and a touchdown, while Richmond’s Eric Ward was 11-of-20 for 95 yards and a score. But the game was decided on the ground, as Vaughan’s 156 yards on 21 carries surpassed UMass tailback Tony Nelson’s 61 yards on 23 rushes.

Richmond used Vaughan’s 74 rushing yards in the first quarter to jump out to a 9-0 lead. After its first drive resulted in a 23-yard field goal, tight end Joe Monteverde made a tough catch in the end zone on a fourth-down play for a touchdown on the next drive (kicker Andrew Howard missed the extra point).

After a UMass field goal by Armando Cuko, Richmond responded with its third consecutive scoring drive to start the game with a 12-play drive capped off by a 2-yard touchdown run by Ward. The Minutemen answered right back with a 22-yard touchdown pass from Coen to Victor Cruz.

In the second half, UMass hit an early field goal cutting the deficit to 16-12. But the blocked punt by McBride led to a 23-12 Richmond lead. Shortly thereafter, Coen went down briefly with the injury.

“I didn’t think we had much rhythm today,” Brown said. “Usually we tend to get better [as the game progresses] but Liam went down in the second half and we had to go in a different direction there.”

After Ward fumbled on the first play of the fourth quarter and UMass’ drive stalled under Woodward, Cuko connected on a 38-yard field goal – giving UMass a chance down one score at 23-15. Cuko missed a 43-yarder on the next drive and Richmond marched down the field 74 yards on eight plays for Vaughan’s second touchdown of the game and a 30-15 lead.

Game notes

Brown said Coen would be re-evaluated on Sunday and Monday