UMass football drops to 1-4, losing close game to Tulane Saturday at McGuirk Stadium

By Adam Aucoin

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

Four minutes into Saturday’s game between the Massachusetts football team and Tulane, it appeared that UMass (1-4) was well on its way to picking up its second win of the season.

A pair of 12-yard touchdown passes from quarterback Andrew Ford to wide receiver Andy Isabella and some opportunistic defense by the Minutemen put UMass in a commanding driver’s seat.

Then the Minutemen’s offense went stagnant and everything changed.

UMass would not score again until the fourth quarter and by that point it was too late as Green Wave (3-2, 0-1 American Athletic Conference) went on to win 31-24.

Tight end Adam Breneman and Minutemen coach Mark Whipple thought the early 14-0 lead might have caused the team to relax and that cost them.

“You go out there and you score 14 points in the blink of an eye. Things look like they are going to be pretty easy and then reality sets in,” Breneman said. “Football’s not an easy game. We just have to find that consistency on offense.”

“I didn’t like the look in our guys’ eyes when we were up 14-0. The young guys were like ‘this game is over,’” Whipple added.

For UMass, the fact they struggled to score can be tied to the fact that they rarely had the ball. Tulane dominated the time of possession, controlling the ball for 40:30 compared to the Minutemen’s 19:30.

The inability of UMass’ defense to stop Tulane on third and fourth down played a major factor in this disparity. The Green Wave converted 5-of-17 third downs and 3-of-5 fourth downs.

“We just couldn’t get off the field and if you don’t get off the field they have it into four down territory,” Whipple said. “We stopped them on third down and they made a bunch of fourth downs.”

“It doesn’t help when you just have long drives. We have to get off three-and-out. That’s the main thing,” linebacker Steve Casali added.

Defensively, UMass was able to contain Tulane quarterback Glen Cuiellette in the passing game, as the redshirt sophomore threw for only 168 yards and one touchdown. It was the running game where the Minutemen were hurt the most. Four Green Wave players ran for more than 50 yards in the game. Running back Dontrell Hilliard led Tulane with 99 yards, followed by Josh Rounds (77), Cuiellette (60) and Lazedrick Thompson (54).

Whipple is cognizant of the effect the Green Wave’s offense had on the game.

“Their quarterback played good – they didn’t make any mistakes on offense,” Whipple said. “They ran the ball, took the air out of it and that’s the way they play. We knew that was the way they play. They did a good job.”

Ford and the offense had trouble matching Tulane’s attack throughout Saturday’s game. Ford struggled to move the ball and Whipple decided the team needed a spark to break out of the lull. That spark came in the form of quarterback Ross Comis, who had missed the last two games due to injury. On the first play when Comis came in, the redshirt sophomore hit Isabella on a 52-yard reception.

Whipple believed he made the right move switching signal callers in that spot.

“We just didn’t have anything going in the second and third quarter and I didn’t like the look in Andrew’s eyes,” Whipple said. “It was one move I made right. He gave us a little spark and like I said, it probably sparked the team.”

Ford ended his day going 11-of-19, throwing for two touchdowns and one interception. Comis went 5-of-11, throwing for 72 yards, while running for 41 yards on six carries.

With the move to Comis during Saturday’s game, questions of who will be UMass’ permanent starting quarterback return. Whipple is not in a position to make any decisions on that at the moment.

“I have two guys I feel good about and the one thing that was good was when I told Andrew I was going with Ross they were together and they’re pulling for each other. They both want to play,” Whipple said.

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