Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Football: UMass gets big win over Delaware

By Ryan Fleming, Collegian Staff

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P.J. Stanley/Collegian

With its back against the wall, having lost its last two games, the No. 18 Massachusetts football team was in a must-win situation Saturday against Colonial Athletic Association rival No. 16 Delaware.

“This game meant a lot more than the rest of them,” UMass free safety Jeremy Miles said. “We took the field with a purpose today. That’s how you win big games.”

With fewer than 11 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter Miles read a hook route, snatching the ball before it got to its intended receiver. Miles outran the Delaware offensive linemen to seal the game for the Minutemen, 17-7.

“I just knew if he let the ball go and I jumped [the route] it was going to be good – so I just jumped it and took a chance,” Miles said.

The Minutemen (3-2, 2-0 CAA) finally got the performance they needed from the defense, which has struggled all season long.

Despite the defensive troubles, UMass coach Don Brown never lost confidence in his defense that, for the past few years, has been the trademark of the Minutemen.

“In the second half, when we turned it over on our side of the 50, I didn’t feel like [Delaware] could get it in on us,” Brown said.

At the start of the game it looked like another run-and-gun type of game, which so far this season the Minutemen are very accustomed to.

The opening drives for both teams resulted in touchdowns.

UMass started the game scoring with ease. Coen lobbed a pass over a Delaware defender, which a leaping Jeremy Horne caught, broke a tackle and high-stepped his way to the end zone for the game’s first score.

The ensuing Blue Hen drive lasted for more than half a quarter. Delaware (2-3, 0-1 CAA) capped off a 9 minute, 9 second, 79-yard drive on a touchdown pass to tight end David Agnone to tie the game at seven. It was Delaware’s longest drive of the season.

The Minutemen defense would not allow another Blue Hen. They forced eight punts, seven three-and-outs and the Miles interception.

“Coach always tells us to make them earn it – and they earned it, 79 yards, 15 plays. They earned that one and that was just the last one,” Miles said.

UMass running back Tony Nelson rushed 23 times for 164 yards. Nelson was looked upon more as the game progressed, wearing down the Delaware defense.

About a minute into the second quarter, wide receiver Joe Sanford threw an option pass 37 yards downfield to an outstretched Nelson.

Nelson came down with the ball and seemed to be flat on his back as the ball popped out.

“I wasn’t real happy with [the fumble call] because I thought his back was flat on the ground and the ball popped out,” Brown said.

Delaware defensive back Charles Graves picked up the ball and returned it 33 yards to the Delaware 41-yard line.

But like during much of the game, the UMass defense stood tall and forced a punt.

The Blue Hens’ quarterback, Robby Schoenhoft, threw for only 40 yards and one touchdown. Delaware running back Johnathan Smith, rushed 16 times for 53 yards.

Coen’s main target of the day was Horne, who caught eight passes for 144 yards. Victor Cruz caught five for 76 yards.

Coen, despite throwing three interceptions, had 228 yards and one touchdown on 18-for-32 passing.

“The way the guys played today, the emotion we played with, that trumps everything that I did, because there were some people out there who had some great games,” Coen said. “I kind of got to be the goat and watch them do it, and really watch these guys play well and the defense come back to form.”

Ryan Fleming can be reached at [email protected]

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