Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Early mistakes cost UMass football in loss to South Carolina Saturday

By Adam Aucoin

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(Caroline O’Connor/Daily Collegian)

 

Normally when one fumbles the ball twice in the first quarter and give up touchdowns on the first two drives of the game, the chances of winning a football game are severely diminished.

That’s exactly what happened to the Massachusetts football Saturday afternoon in its matchup with South Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium, but UMass (1-7) was able to put its first quarter struggles behind them to make the game interesting before falling 34-28 to the Gamecocks.

Coming into Saturday’s matchup, the buzz around the game was who South Carolina (3-4, 1-4 Southeastern Conference) would start at quarterback. That question was answered when freshman Jake Bentley trotted out following the opening kickoff.

Bentley was impressive in his collegiate debut, throwing for 201 yards and two touchdowns on 17-for-26 passing. Bentley had a strong connection with wide receiver Deebo Samuel all game as Samuel hauled in eight catches for 106 yards.

Minutemen coach Mark Whipple thought the early scores gave Bentley confidence and that cost UMass.

“We just got off to a poor start,” Whipple told reporters after the game. “We kind of gave them confidence especially with a freshman quarterback. We just couldn’t do that.”

Minutemen quarterback Andrew Ford matched his counterpart in the game throwing for 247 yards and three touchdowns. Ford did throw two interceptions in the game, but one was due to wide receiver Andy Isabella not catching a ball that hit him in the hands and deflected up.

Whipple still was impressed with Ford’s play on Saturday.

“He threw some good balls,” Whipple said. “He’s getting better. We’re not playing against the sisters of the poor. They have some guys. There’s confidence on the sidelines in both parts in him.”

Running back Marquis Young was also strong on offense for the Minutemen rushing for 123 yards. Young has now gone over 100 yards on the ground three times this season for UMass.

Turnovers and other smaller mistakes played a large role in the Minutemen’s loss. UMass turned the ball over four times in the game and Logan Laurent missed a field goal in the third quarter.

“I’ve said this before, but you when you play good football teams, SEC football teams, you can’t many mistakes like that and have as many turnovers as we had and expect to win,” tight end Adam Breneman said.

The Minutemen’s defense played a large role in keeping UMass in the game in the second half. South Carolina had 290 total yards in the first half and had just 105 in the second half, with only 29 in the third quarter. That will be one of the major positives the Minutemen take away from Saturday.

“Our defense did a good job in the second half of putting us in a position to make that comeback,” Ford said. “I’m really proud of the way everyone fought. We were down 14 early on in the game and some teams would have folded and we just reset and bounced back and fought to the end.”

Safety Khary Bailey Smith added: “Every loss is tough, but in the end the defense was making some nice stops and the offense was putting together some nice drives. We tried not lose hope and just keep playing our game.”

The game with the Gamecocks was the last of UMass’ three games against SEC opponents this season. The Minutemen lost to Florida 24-7 Sept. 3 and lost to Mississippi State 47-35 Sept. 24. In all three games, the Minutemen have been competitive and that in itself has been a win for UMass.

“You can look at it both ways. Is it impressive that we’ve played with three SEC teams and I think we look back and think could have won all three of those games if we had made one less mistake.” Breneman said. “At the same time, at some point being close is not good enough. I think that’s the feeling in the locker room. We expect to win these games.”

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

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