Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Cyr: Lack of execution continues to hinder UMass football’s growth

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(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

FOXBORO –– We’ve seen this before.

There were instances, even if brief, at Gillette Stadium that the Massachusetts football team proved it could compete and belonged playing with teams from the Power Five conferences.

But like so many previous times, the Minutemen (0-2) simply didn’t have anything left in the tank to finish the full 60 minutes, with the most recent chapter coming at the hands of Boston College Saturday afternoon in UMass’ 26-7 loss to the Eagles.

It wasn’t about play calling, it wasn’t about who was playing quarterback and it certainly wasn’t about the Minutemen’s defense. It wasn’t even about their preparation.

It was all about execution.

“This week finally felt like I was back at UMass practicing football the way we used to be able to practice,” Minutemen coach Mark Whipple said following the game. “We were much more competitive Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday than we’ve ever been.”

“There’s no question we want to win the game, but there’s a process. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday was the best week we’ve had – physically, mentally – since I’ve been here. I think that carried over to the game now we just need to eliminate the mistakes and be smarter in our play. That comes from experience. That’s part of the deal,” Whipple added.

UMass kicked off the second “Battle for the Bay State” when Ross Comis found tight end Adam Breneman wide-open downfield on a busted coverage for a 58-yard touchdown. But that was all the offense the Minutemen could generate. They finished with 122 total yards of offense, including -23 rushing yards on 33 attempts. Comis, who was sacked eight times, finished 11-of-28 (39.9 percent) with 145 yards and an interception.

After Breneman’s touchdown, UMass’ remaining 10 drives (with the exception of a knee to end the first half) ended in seven punts and three turnovers (two fumbles, one interception).

“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. We need to give Ross time in the pocket,” fullback John Robinson-Woodgett said.

Boston College (1-1, 0-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) struggled to find its offensive rhythm before quarterback Patrick Towles connected with Jeff Smith for a perfectly-placed pass over 5-foot-8 cornerback James Allen with four minutes, 32 seconds remaining in the first half.

On the Eagles’ next play from scrimmage following a Comis fumble Towles again connected with Smith for a 36-yard touchdown, again over the out-stretched arms of Allen to give Boston College a lead it would not surrender.

“It’s just leverage,” safety Khary Baily-Smith said of the deep touchdowns. “We need to keep working on technique every week. I know I’ve seen (Allen and Lee Mosses) make those plays hundreds of times at practice. They just need to go out there and do it on Saturday’s.”

The Minutemen punted on six of their seven drives in the second half, totaling just 16 yards of offense during the 12:06 they had possession.

Aside from the Breneman touchdown, UMass’ best chance to score came at the end of the first half after linebacker Shane Huber returned an interception to the Eagles 20-yard line with 1:31 remaining. Comis was sacked and fumbled on third-and-nine, leaving the Minutemen empty-handed.

“He lost the game. As a quarterback, you don’t want to lose. He only got one or two touchdowns in two games. A lot has to do with the people we’re playing. Their numbers speak for themselves,” Whipple said. “(Boston College) got better as the game went on. That’s what was disappointing. Before the half gave them a lot more confidence. We lost some one-on-one matchups up front.”

Whipple added: “I’m disappointed in today, but I’m not disappointed in what we have for the rest of the year.”

Agreeing with Whipple, Huber also felt it was a good week of practice. So what does UMass have to do to turn its season around?

“I wouldn’t say change so much. 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. If we can do that, we’ll be a lot more complimentary.”

Andrew Cyr can be reached at [email protected]ass.edu, and followed on Twitter @Andrew_Cyr.

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