Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Frustration continues for UMass football in second half letdown against Miami (Ohio)

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Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian

Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian

On a day that began with celebration in pregame Senior Day festivities, Saturday ended with continued frustration for the Massachusetts football team, who lost 20-13 to Miami (Ohio), and coach Mark Whipple, who abruptly walked out of Saturday’s postgame conference.

“We’re limited. We’re limited in what we can call,” Whipple said as he walked out. “That’s just the way it is. It’s just part of the whole deal. We can call some things but the guys have got to play them. That’s part of the issue.”

In a slow-moving game that saw 10 punts and just 11 first downs combined in the first half – UMass led 6-3 heading into the break – the Minutemen (2-9, 1-6 Mid-American Conference) once again fell flat in the third quarter and couldn’t rebound in the final frame to build their first winning streak of its disappointing season.

This time, it was a steady rushing attack out of the halftime break that doomed UMass in its final home game of the season.

After allowing 41 total yards of offense in the first half – 23 coming on the ground – the Minutemen were barraged with halfback draw after halfback draw up the middle as the RedHawks (3-9, 2-6 MAC) went on an eight-play, 83-yard touchdown drive to take their first lead of the day at 10-6.

“They just looked like they came out and ran it down our throat,” Whipple said. “They hadn’t ran it very well, and then they just had a better attitude. I thought we’d carry over what we did last week (against Eastern Michigan). But credit them, they ran it down our throat.”

“It was frustrating, definitely. You don’t want to come out of the half giving up a touchdown, but I think we rallied back and made some big stops at the end,” UMass linebacker Jovan Santos-Knox said.

Finding success on the ground allowed Miami to wear down UMass’ front seven and allow quarterback Billy Bahl to become more comfortable in the pocket. After recording two sacks in the first half, the Minutemen did not get to Bahl again as the freshman went 9-of-12 for 143 passing yards and his only touchdown in the second half.

According to Santos-Knox, the RedHawks’ greater success over the final two quarters was not due to a lack of physicality but because of players finding themselves in the wrong position down the stretch.

“It was more just being in your gap, being in the right gap and fighting it up right, not them being more physical than us,” Santos-Knox said. “I don’t think they were as physical as us through the whole game. I think it was more of just fitting your gap and being in the right spot.”

While Miami’s offense found greater success against the UMass defense in the second half, it was the play of the RedHawks’ defensive line that made the biggest impact Saturday, according to Whipple. Miami finished with six sacks on Blake Frohnapfel, led by J.T. Jones (2.5 sacks) and Bryson Albright (two).

“I thought their two (defensive) ends, we just didn’t have any time to throw,” Whipple said. “I thought those two ends outplayed us and I thought that was as bad a performance on our offensive line that we had all year.”

Fullback/tight end Rodney Mills was one of 19 players honored on senior day Saturday and finished with four catches for 38 yards. Following the game, he said it was disappointing to see the offense continue to struggle coming out of the half, continuing a season-long issue.

“It’s almost to a point where it’s embarrassing,” Mills said. “To come out and look like we’re not able to function as an offense, I don’t know, I just can’t wrap my mind around it.”

Anthony Chiusano can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @a_chiusano24.

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