UMass football falls flat in “Battle of the Bay State”

By Kyle DaLuz

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

FOXBORO –– Things were looking good halfway through the second quarter over on the Massachusetts football team sideline. Then everything changed.

It looked, if only for a moment, like the Minutemen would compete and maybe even best the Eagles of Boston College, and give their in-state opponents a game.

That was not to be the case. UMass was outscored 26-0 over the final 35 minutes after taking a 7-0 lead, falling to Boston College, 26-7.

The Minutemen (0-2) offense struggled mightily for the second consecutive contest. Quarterback Ross Comis was sacked eight times on the afternoon as the offense netted just eight first downs, and converted a woeful 2-of-16 third downs. Running back Marquis Young tallied just 27 yards on 17 carries (1.6 average).

Boston College (1-1, 0-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) outgained UMass 344 to 168, as Comis threw for just 145 yards.

“Their (offensive) line and their (defensive) line were better than ours,” Minutemen coach Mark Whipple said. “(Patrick) Towles had all day to throw, but we couldn’t run the ball, so that was disappointing. We just have to get back to work for next week.”

After UMass took a 7-0 lead at the end of the first quarter, the momentum started to shift. Both teams struggled to do much offensively in the first half trading punts (21 combined total), until Eagles’ quarterback Patrick Towles connected with Jeff Smith on a 46-yard touchdown. Mike Knoll’s extra point was wide right, as Boston College cut the Minutemen lead to 7-6.

The Eagles did not look back from that point on. After hitting Comis hard on a scramble that forced a fumble on the following series, Boston College wasted no time in taking advantage, as Towles and Smith hooked up again – this time for 36 yards. The Eagles scored 13 points in a 17-second span on offense – giving them a 13-7 lead they would not relinquish.

“It got into a little of a field position game and we got beat in one-on-ones on the deep throws,” Whipple said. “Coverage was there, but credit BC. They got the good throws and made the catch right over the top of us.”

Comis hit Penn State transfer Adam Breneman for a 58-yard touchdown in the first quarter to open the scoring and instill some faith in the Minutemen portion of the 25,112 in attendance at Gillette that the home team could upset the 17-point favorites.

Breneman was the benefit of busted coverage and cruised to the end zone. Comis found the tight end as he scrambled to his right to avoid pressure and delightedly looked up to see no one within 10 yards of the transfer.

That was all UMass could muster on offense in the first half. Aside from the touchdown pass, Comis was just 4-14 with 38 yards through two quarters, no thanks to his offensive line – which allowed relentless Eagle pressure, as the quarterback was on his back more often than not.

Boston College closed out the contest on a 26-0 run. A pair of Knoll field goals in the third quarter was followed by a 15-yard touchdown run from Eagles’ running back Jon Hilliman.

“When they got the lead, we just didn’t do anything with it,” Whipple said.

Shane Huber picked off a Towles pass with 1:31 to play in the first half – giving UMass a golden opportunity to get on the scoreboard. After Whipple called a timeout, Comis fumbled on third-and-9 from the Boston College 19, as the Minutemen came away with nothing to end the half trailing 13-7.

“That’s why I took the timeout. He must have had the headphones on because he didn’t listen,” Whipple joked. “I just said, hey, we’re going to take a shot here. I think they’re going to come blitz which they’re going to do, they’re going to be aggressive. If you don’t have the guy – (Isabella) went inside and he’s trying to make a play and those are the times where you have to say I’ve got to get rid of it, and you can’t lose the ball. We’ve got three points here. We’re going into the half down 13-10, we’re alright.

“That’s a lesson to be learned. He’s been able to do those things in high school, but certain times you have to know the situation. That’s why I called the timeout. We’ll learn from it.”

For the second consecutive week, the Minutemen were shutout in the second half – being outscored 27-0 over the course of the four quarters.

“I’d say we need to become more consistent,” linebacker Shane 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.”

The Minutemen host Florida International in their first contest at McGurick Alumni Stadium this season on next Saturday. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m.

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