Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass football can’t hold on, falls to Ohio at Gillette Stadium

Maria Uminski/Collegian

FOXBORO – Massachusetts football coach Charley Molnar was imagining the moment ever since he took over the job earlier this year.

The moment when his team was trailing with seconds left at the end of the game with the chance to win. Even in his early days this year as the head coach, he believed he’d be able to prepare his team to do just that.

“As I’ve told our guys since spring ball. I said, ‘Give us the ball on offense with the chance to win the game in the fourth quarter and seconds left and we’ll win the football game,” Molnar said.

On Saturday afternoon at Gillette Stadium, UMass got that chance. With 50 seconds remaining and trailing Ohio, 37-34, in a back-and-forth offensive duel, the Minutemen took over at their own 17-yard line with a chance to drive down and win their first game of the season and as a Football Bowl Subdivision member.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Mike Wegzyn, having the best game of his collegiate career, looked confident, and dialed up wide receiver Alan Williams for a 23-yard completion, before a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty on the Bobcats advanced the ball to the Ohio 45.

With time winding down, UMass continued the air attack. But Wegzyn, following a career game, couldn’t advance the ball further. A series of four straight incompletions, culminating in an overthrow of Deion Walker sealed another loss for the Minutemen (0-5) in front of 8,321 fans in Foxboro.

“I’m greatly, greatly disappointed,” Molnar said. “As tough as we played, and as hard as we played, we didn’t always play smart.

“At the end of the day, nobody feels good about losing. We came here to win, we come to play and to win every single time we step on the field, and the only thing is I wish that the hard work and the toughness that our guys displayed and the resiliency that they show each and every day and even throughout the game, they need validation. They need a win for all their efforts and hard work. It didn’t come this afternoon.”

The loss came in spite of perhaps the best all-around game UMass has put together all year, which also included career games from a number of offensive players. Wegzyn finished with a career-high 373 yards and the first four passing touchdowns of his career, while Walker hauled in 11 catches for 162 yards and a score and Williams finished with seven grabs for 127 yards and three touchdowns.

Early on, UMass looked like it was in control. Wegzyn connected with Williams for a 27-yard touchdown early in the first, giving the Minutemen their first lead of the season, which they held until late into the second quarter.

But the Bobcats (5-0) offense looked similarly in control. Led by a career game by running back Beau Blankenship, who carried the ball 43 times for 280 yards and two touchdowns, taking most of the workload off injured quarterback Tyler Tettleton, Ohio never fell too far behind. UMass took back the lead at 17-13 when Wegzyn threw a crossing route to Williams, who took it the house for a 50-yard score, but the Bobcats ultimately gained a 20-17 halftime lead after a Tettleton touchdown pass.

Ohio vs. UMass video recap from Daily Collegian on Vimeo.

The Minutemen, like Molnar said, played resiliently. Wegzyn drove 12 plays in four minutes and six seconds to begin the second half, which ended in a 26-yard passing score to Walker, who was Wegzyn’s favorite target for the majority of the drive.

After a key defensive stop, UMass took over deep in its own territory, but running back Michael Cox coughed the ball up, allowing the Bobcats to regain prime field position inside the red zone. Ohio failed to advance the ball, however, and Matt Weller’s field goal was blocked by Antoine Tharpe.

With a chance to extend their lead to two possessions, the Minutemen began their march back down the field. Wegzyn, looking more comfortable on each play, led the offense deep into Ohio territory, where a key moment perhaps changed the complexion of the game.

On third and goal at the Ohio 1-yard line, Williams was flagged for a false start, which penalized UMass five yards. Wegzyn’s ensuing pass fell incomplete, and Blake Lucas then made a 23-yard field goal, but Molnar felt that valuable points were left on the board.

“Absolutely, (it was haunting),” Molnar said. “My goodness, yeah. I mean it was less than one (yard), it was a half-yard. There were 11 ways we could get in from there.

“Man, oh man, you worked so hard to get down there and to end the drive with a field goal was very, very disappointing, believe me.”

Ohio responded with 17 unanswered points, which included two Blankenship touchdowns, and the Minutemen could never climb out of their late-game, 10-point hole. Wegzyn connected again with Williams for a late touchdown to bring the game within three, but couldn’t retake the lead after a defensive stop.

The Minutemen weren’t satisfied with the loss, but came away gaining more confidence, a theme that has shadowed the team all season.

“It’s definitely another step,” Wegzyn said. “I hate to lose obviously, nothing good comes out of losing, but I think looking back, we took another big step as an offense, as a team, as a whole, and we put up a good amount of points.

“I think it shows our potential that we have as an offense. We have the players in place. Right now, we just keep taking bigger steps each and every week, so next week hopefully we get that W.”

UMass is back in action next Saturday when it travels to take on Western Michigan.

Stephen Hewitt can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @steve_hewitt.

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  • S

    SteveOct 1, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    Had a great time at the game. It was exciting, a lot of cheering and the place is very nice. Best game in two years and looking forward to more excitement on Oct 20th game.

  • T

    Tricia UMass alumOct 1, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    I’m a UMass alumna in Columbus, Ohio, and I went to the game at Miami of Ohio. I see an improvement in the team, and that’s exactly what we should expect. I dare anyone else to show the guts and determination the Minutemen show every time they take on the Big 10. I’m impresses and I can’t wait for the game in Akron!

  • D

    David OU AlumOct 1, 2012 at 10:34 am

    I am an OU alum living in Massachusetts, and I was at the game on Saturday. Many people knew that Tettleton, as well as top three receivers for OU were injured, so most of the OU fans were probably glad to accept a not-so-pretty victory. Nonetheless, I was very impressed with the play of Massachusetts on both sides of the ball and particularly the sharp throwing of Wegzyn. I had read in the Ohio University newspaper that U Mass was “much improved.” That they are. I hope for their sake, that they can keep a positive attitude and get the much-need first win which should be very soon.
    On another note, Ohio University has a very well-known and outstanding marching band which is in a kind of rivalry with the Ohio State Marching Band–though their styles are quite different. There are, additionally, many good bands throughout the MAC, though travel restrictions prevent most of them from seeing each other. I was very impressed with the U Mass Band, especially the band itself–good musicality and good marching though there was not a lot of continuity in music selection.
    The ambience at Gilette Stadium was more like a pro game, and a few fans were pretty rowdy–not as genteel (for lack of a better word) an one might find in a regular college stadium. That would be OK except that I noticed quite a few young children in the audience, and some of the commentary was over the top. By the way, I got my tickets from the U Mass site and was on the U Mass side.

  • J

    JoeOct 1, 2012 at 10:26 am

    It’s a shame they made this move, McGuirk is empty and only 8300 fans in Gillette.There’s no substitute for fan support.

  • A

    AlumOct 1, 2012 at 9:38 am

    ^^ Why do you say that? Have you seen their progress?

  • J

    JustinSep 30, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    UMass will not win a game this year. They’re like a D-III team playing in the NFL