UMass football hits mid-game offensive drought in 31-24 loss to Tulane

By Kyle DaLuz

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts football team appeared to be in full control of Tulane during the beginning few moments of the first quarter of Saturday’s homecoming game at McGuirk Stadium.

It looked like the Minutemen (1-4) were going to run away with the contest after quarterback Andrew Ford hooked up with Andy Isabella on consecutive offensive plays to give UMass a 14-0 advantage before five minutes elapsed in the contest.

Back-to-back 12-yard touchdown passes took just 14 seconds off the clock and the Minutemen were in business with the score and momentum on their side.

Over the course of the next 46:29, UMass was completely shut down by Tulane (3-2, 0-1 American Athletic Conference), which outscored the Minutemen 24-0 during that stretch. The Green Wave outgained UMass by 136 yards (448-312), converted on all four red zone opportunities and were three-of-five on fourth down attempts.

Tulane dominated the time of possession stat, setting up shop for a full 20 minutes more than the Minutemen (40:30-19:30).

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

“They were big and physical. Their running backs were good. They were who we thought. Their quarterback played good – they didn’t make any mistakes on offense. 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.”

“We just made too many mistakes,” linebacker Steve Casali said. “I thought we had a good week of practice, but we didn’t carry it over to the game. With an option team like that, you can’t make mistakes because the long drives will take a toll on your defense.”

The running game of the Green Wave got the better of the Minutemen, with three tailbacks entering the end zone in the 31-24 triumph – Dontrell Hilliard (99 yards), Josh Rounds (77 yards) and Lazedrick Thompson (54 yards). Quarterback Glen Cuiellette also carried the ball for 60 yards while throwing for 168 yards in the air and added a passing touchdown.

“I didn’t like the look in our guy’s eyes when we were up 14-0,” Whipple said. “The young guys were like ‘this game is over.’ Credit Tulane, they had a good plan and they were physical. They took the air out of the ball and we had some mistakes that we made on offense.”

“I thought we lost focus and I’m proud of the way the guys came back at the end. We got the guy tackled for a three-yard loss, give the guy credit and Hilliard breaks out of it. We got the ball with the chance to win the game and we just didn’t get it done.”

“You go out there and you score 14 points in the blink of an eye. Things look they are going to be pretty easy and then reality sets in,” tight end Adam Breneman said. “Football’s not an easy game. We came out hot and we were ready to play. We had a great week of practice. (Isabella) made some big plays for us. We just have to find that consistency on offense.”

Aside from his first four completions for 48 yards and two touchdowns, Ford failed to get anything going offensively. Ford proceeded to go 7-of-15 with an interception and 61 passing yards before being relieved for Ross Comis.

Failing to convert third downs of their own (4-of-12) and not being able to get off the field defensively is not a combination that tends to lead to many victories.

“We just have to get off the field on third down,” Casali added, “That’s the biggest thing. That goes back to making mistakes. We can’t make those mistakes on third down. We have to get off the field.”

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