Running backs Marquis Young, John Robinson-Woodgett come through late for UMass football

By Kyle DaLuz

(Christina Yacono/Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts football team took significant strides in enhancing its offensive productivity in Saturday afternoon’s 21-13 victory over Florida International at McGuirk Alumni Stadium.

The Minutemen (1-2) totaled 394 yards on the afternoon, with 278 of them coming through the air, courtesy of redshirt sophomore quarterback Andrew Ford. Ford’s first collegiate start in place of injured starter Ross Comis made up for the lack of ability to run the ball effectively through the first three quarters for UMass.

Time and again starting running back Marquis Young was met at the line of scrimmage by the FIU (0-3) defensive line for little-to-no gain. Through three quarters, the Minutemen rushed for just 57 yards on 23 carries (2.5 average), with Young carrying the bulk of the load – totaling 47 yards on 19 carries (2.5 average).

Young failed to convert on third down-and-short twice in the third quarter. The sophomore tail back was met at the line of scrimmage by Treyvon Williams on third-and-one, then lost a yard on fourth down to give the Panthers the ball back at the Minutemen 44 trailing 14-10.

After an Austin Taylor field goal the previous possession, Young gained just two yards on third-and-four to force the Minutemen into another gamble. Ford found tight end Adam Breneman for the conversion to keep the drive alive.

“We’re still young up front,” UMass coach Mark Whipple said, eluding to freshmen right tackle Jack Driscoll and left tackle Raquan Thomas, who started Saturday’s game in the absence of Elijah Wilkinson. “We’ve got two freshmen. Communication was lacking a little bit. You have to give FIU credit. FIU was ahead 13-12 against Indiana, so you’re talking about a Big 10 team.”

On a critical drive in the fourth quarter, the running game that the team had hoped would emerge prior to the start of the season did just that.

In what was essentially a kill-the-clock final drive for the Minutemen, Young and fullback John Robinson-Woodgett accounted for all 64 of UMass’ yards, as Whipple and offensive coaches elected to run the ball nine consecutive times before attempting to throw for a touchdown.

Young rushed for a season-long 15 yards on third-and-one at the Minutemen 33-yard line, busting through for the first time in the contest. He followed it up with a 12-yard rush three plays later, finishing the day with 85 yards on 24 carries (3.5 average).

Robinson-Woodgett complemented Young’s efforts with back-to-back nine yard carries, adding 10 more yards before the drive’s end – eating up just over six and a half minutes of game time and leaving the Panthers with 3:20 and 80 yards to get eight points. Robinson-Woodgett rushed for 28 yards in the victory.

“You try to keep (with) it and we want to get balance and everything else,” Whipple said. “We want them to make first downs and thought that if we tired them out we could get to that to point. I don’t think we’ve ever really done that since I’ve been here and our line’s a little bigger and I think it’s a shot of confidence for those guys next week.”

Young’s 85 yards on the ground nearly eclipsed his total of 86 yards through the team’s first two contests. The Fairport, New York native increased his yards per carry from 2.4 to 2.9 by game’s end.

The ability to provide whichever quarterback is under center Saturday afternoon with an added complement to the passing game will be critical in the team’s offensive success going forward.

Kyle DaLuz can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Kyle_DaLuz.