UMass football struggles to protect Ross Comis in loss to Boston College

By Adam Aucoin

(Christina Yacono/Daily Collegian)

FOXBORO — Typically in football, if you want to have any chance of winning you have to protect your quarterback. It provides the signal caller with space and time to make decisions in the pocket and scan the field for his best option.

The Massachusetts football team did not provide quarterback Ross Comis that luxury Saturday at Gillette Stadium and it showed in a big way, as Boston College went on to beat UMass, 26-7.

The Eagles’s (1-1, 0-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) defense was strong throughout, sacking Minutemen (0-2) quarterback Ross Comis eight times and forcing three turnovers (two fumbles, one interception).

Five different BC players had at least one sack in the game, with linebacker Connor Strachan leading the Eagles with 2.5 sacks.

Fullback John Robinson-Woodgett believed the sacks had a major impact on UMass’ chances to keep up with BC in the second half.

“You definitely can’t be giving up sacks if you’re trying to come back. When you’re down, you need to be throwing the ball,” Robinson-Woodgett said. “Ross is a good quarterback, but if anyone’s getting hit back there, they’re not going to complete balls. If we have a little bit more time, we’ll be able to get guys open and we’ll be able to get the ball down the field and help out the defense.”

The pressure from the Eagles defenders clearly was getting to Comis in the second half. The sophomore finished the day going 11-for-28 on pass attempts for 145 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. His completion percentage took a major hit from last week’s matchup with Florida, where he completed 52.9 percent of his passes, compared to a 39.3 mark Saturday.

Minutemen coach Mark Whipple admitted there were many instances in the game where UMass had chances to convert, but failed to do so. He believes the play at end of the first half where Comis was sacked by BC linebacker Matt Milano was a major missed opportunity for UMass.

“We were third down and four. You try to go for the deep ball, that’s not the time to do it,” Whipple said of the play. “We talked about the third down play. We had to have them run across open. If we get a field goal there, we’re going into the half with a little bit of momentum.”

Whipple knows his quarterback is frustrated with his play through the first two games of the season.

“He lost the game. As a quarterback, you don’t want to lose,” Whipple said. “He only has two touchdowns in two games. A lot has to do with the people we’re playing. Their numbers speak for themselves.”

The contrast in protection by the offensive lines of both teams was staggering on Saturday. While the Eagles were consistently beating the Minutemen’s offensive line with eight sacks, the BC’s unit was stout against a UMass defense that has impressed early in the season and didn’t allow a sack.

Eagles quarterback Patrick Towles used that protection to his advantage as he threw for 191 yards and two touchdowns in the game. Both touchdowns came on one-play drives, where he found sophomore Jeff Smith for 46 and 36-yard receptions, respectively. Towles also ran for a team-high 70 yards on the ground.

Linebacker Shane Huber gave credit to Towles for having strong game.

“He was a very talented player, especially on his feet. I think, really, it just comes down to that defenses nowadays are a lot of bend-don’t-break,” Huber said. “As long as you’re containing players and not allowing big plays, typically you’re going to be successful. Unfortunately for us today, we let up two big plays that were our demise.”

Sitting at 0-2, the Minutemen are now forced to go back to the drawing board as they prepare for Florida International next week at McGuirk Stadium.

“We can’t leave the ball on the ground as an offense,” Robinson-Woodgett said. “I give credit to the BC defense, they have a good defense and they had a good scheme out there. As an offense, we just need to stay on our blocks, catch balls when we have the opportunity to make plays. That’s the bottom line.”

Huber believes execution will be key for UMass if they want to pick up its first win.

“I’d say we need to become more consistent,” Huber said. “We’re doing a lot of the right things, but we’re not completely executing on all cylinders. What we really need to work on is just becoming a more consistent unit as a defense and as a team.”

Adam Aucoin can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @aaucoin34.