Heartbreak again as UMass football falls to Hawaii

By Philip Sanzo

(Jed Zuraw-Friedland/ Daily Collegian)

The effort from the Massachusetts football team was admirable, but the ending was much of the same. The Minutemen fell victim to another last-minute Hawaii touchdown drive to lose their home opener 38-35.

With 5:23 left in the game, UMass (0-1) just needed to run down the clock. Hawaii (1-0) had just inched closer with a field goal, cutting the Minutemen’s one touchdown lead down to four points. Instead of putting the Warriors away UMass went 3-and-out, leaving 2:31 left on the clock.

Starting at their own 34, Hawaii quarterback Dru Brown threw for a first down and had another called back setting up a third-and-10. To that point the Warriors had only converted 4 of 12 third down attempts and another failed conversion would have set up fourth down, something they had already failed at twice.

Facing a third-and-10 on their own 41, Brown hit wide receiver John Ursua over the middle for a 52-yard play. A few plays later Brown found his tight end Metuisela ‘Unga in the back of the end zone for a touchdown.

For coach Mark Whipple the loss was reminiscent to last years 45-40 defeat at the hand of the Warriors in the season’s final week.

“Well I think that we went up and we had the momentum and they came back and the game was similar to last year,” Whipple said. “And they go up and we comeback and we got the ball we get a first down and we had a couple of linemen go down and we didn’t get it and credit them. We got a little break on the call that goes to 3rd and 10 and then we give up a 52-yarder. We tried to go after them and credit those guys. They made a play.”

The game was similar to a few UMass heartbreaks in recent years and having to start the season off this way stung.

“Yeah, it’s tough,” tight end Adam Breneman said. “We put a lot of time, a lot of effort, into preparing for Hawaii. It’s definitely not easy, this one hurts, I’ll be honest. It hurts really bad. There’s nothing we can do about it. We got to find ways to finish games like that. We’ve been in a lot of close games like that, and we just got to find a way to put the nail on the head at the end of the game. We’ll be back here tomorrow getting ready for Coastal Carolina.”

For Breneman, his 2017 debut was what has been expected of the veteran tight end. While the redshirt senior didn’t find the end zone, he certainly made his presence known receiving 179 yards on nine catches.

Though Breneman boasted a productive evening, the same could not be said for the majority of his teammates. A trend that Whipple believes continued from the past week.

“Credit Hawaii, I thought it would be this way, especially the way we started and the things that we did but a lot of them are freshman mistakes,” Whipple said. “We got backed up and shot ourselves in the foot with some offensive mistakes which was very disappointing but like I said it happened on Thursday and they were the same ones that kind of reoccurred.”

UMass could not come up big when it ultimately mattered but it did have its positive moments.

After tying the game in the final seconds of the first half, the Minutemen began the third with touchdowns from Marquis Young and Malik Lee in its first two drives. Being up 28-14 suggested UMass was in control.

However, the final touchdown of the game went to the opposition, handing the Minutemen their first loss in heartbreaking fashion.

“Yeah it felt like we were in control of the game for most of it,” quarterback Andrew Ford said. “But even with the two score lead, everyone on the sideline knew, every time we got the ball the goal was to score. Obviously we didn’t get that done. We know Hawaii’s a quick strike offense and they have the ability to put up points. We just needed to score one more time tonight.”

Philip Sanzo can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Philip_Sanzo.