Minutemen roll with offensive outburst

By Michael Wood

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Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

The Massachusetts football team led after every quarter and defeated Central Connecticut State 42-26 on Saturday at McGuirk Alumni Stadium.

With a new quarterback under center and a standout performance from tight end Emil Igwenagu, the Minutemen (3-2) trounced the Blue Devils (2-4) in nearly every aspect of the game and achieved the win.

Redshirt freshman Brandon Hill got the start on Saturday and performed better than any other game he has played in. Hill went 10-of-18 for 169 yards and one touchdown. His longest pass of the day was for a career-high 58 yards.

In addition to Hill’s play, it’s important to note that he didn’t throw one interception in the game and more importantly, the Minutemen didn’t turn the ball over at all. That’s something the team has been working on all season and UMass coach Kevin Morris said he was encouraged by the change.

“The number one thing is that we didn’t turn the ball over,” said Morris. “When you don’t turn the ball over against our schedule, you have a shot to win anyway. [It was good to see] Brandon at the helm, getting the ball to guys in the right spots and keeping the ball in our favor.

“He got on a roll in the first half with some good tempo up and down the field,” added Morris. “I’m very happy with Brandon’s play and running the offense.”

By contrast, Kellen Pagel, UMass’ other quarterback, has struggled recently turning the ball over. In four games, Pagel has thrown six interceptions, which equal his six touchdowns. Hill has played in three games and has yet to throw an interception.

Hill quickly found his groove and picked out a target he would continue to throw to all game long in Emil Igwenagu. The tight end hauled in four passes for 99 yards in the game, including one 58-yard grab for a touchdown, which was the longest of his career.

“It was a great night for Emil,” said Morris. “It was punctuated by that big catch and run. I think it was about a 5-yard throw and it ended up as a 58-yard touchdown.”

Senior running back Jonathan Hernandez also got in on the scoring as well. Hernandez carried the ball 20 times for 75 yards and found the end zone twice. It was the second time this season that Hernandez has scored multiple touchdowns in a single game.

The Minutemen scored first in the contest, marching down the field and setting up for a 20-yard field goal by kicker Brendon Levengood. The game’s opening drive lasted 11 plays and covered 69 yards.

In the fourth quarter, the Minutemen scored 14 unanswered points to seal the victory. Safety Darren Thellen returned his second interception of the day 85 yards for a touchdown and wide receiver Jesse Julmiste took a kickoff back 90 yards for a score. The return was Julmiste’s second of the season.

Gunnar Jespersen finished the game 14-of-31 for 152 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He also led the Blue Devils offense on the ground, rushing 18 times for 93 yards and two touchdowns. His longest rush on the day went for 33 yards.

Rounding out the CCSU offense, Deven Baker caught four balls for 96 yards, while Denzell Jones was also thrown four balls for 29 yards.

The Minutemen will hit the road again next weekend when they travel to Delaware to take on the Blue Hens. Delaware is 4-2 on the season and the kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Michael Wood can be reached at [email protected]