Fans of the Massachusetts football team were finally given something to cheer about Saturday, as the Minutemen picked up their first win since Oct. 29 of last season with a 55-20 victory over Georgia Southern.
It was a first half to be remembered for UMass. It scored 48 points in the first 30 minutes of action, which is two points short of its season high for a whole game and the most points the Minutemen have scored in a half in their FBS history.
The 55 points scored was also the most UMass has scored in an FBS game.
The Minutemen took advantage of the many turnovers the Eagles committed. On the first play from scrimmage, Georgia Southern quarterback Kado Brown found wide receiver Mark Michaud all alone over the middle.
With nobody in front of him, it looked as though Michaud would go untouched into the end zone. That’s when UMass cornerback Isaiah Rodgers caught him from behind, knocking the ball out at the three-yard-line where it was recovered by the Minutemen.
The game turned on its head just like that. Quarterback Ross Comis led the offense 97 yards down the field before finding tight end Adam Breneman for a touchdown.
UMass was then able to score touchdowns on its next two plays on offense. Following a punt, Comis found Andy Isabella streaking over the middle who went untouched into the end zone from 68 yards out.
On the ensuing kickoff, Myles Campbell fumbled the ball and the Minutemen recovered at the Eagles 26-yard-line.
On the next play, Comis lofted one over the shoulders of wide receiver Jessie Britt who hauled in the catch in the end zone to put UMass up 21-0 with 7:10 remaining in the first quarter.
“It gives us momentum,” Comis said about the strong defensive play. “When I see them come up with big plays and the balls finally bouncing our way, it’s a good feeling. We realize as an offense we have to capitalize after that and we did that today.”
The Minutemen would score four more touchdowns before the first half came to a close. Sophomore Bilal Ally ran in a pair of scores and junior Marquis Young had a seven-yard score.
“I think that’s what everyone wants to do,” Comis said of capitalizing on turnovers. “When you force a turnover, you want to take a shot. We did that and we succeeded. It was big plays by the wide receivers, I just put it up.”
The Minutemen defense played well throughout, holding a Georgia Southern offense that relies heavily on the run game to just 136 yards on 41 carries.
“That was the game plan,” defensive end Da’Sean Downey said. “Obviously they like running with the triple option and different things like that so just getting them behind the chains and forcing them to pass changed the game and got the momentum going our way.”
The second half saw just 10 points put on the board on an Eagle field goal and Ally running for his third touchdown of the game, this one from 57 yards out.
“Great win for the guys,” coach Mark Whipple said. “I told the players I was more nervous than I was for the National Championship game. I just knew how close we were and how hard they had practiced throughout. They took advantage of the mistakes and played well today.”
UMass will look to get back in the win column next Saturday as they take on Appalachian State. Kickoff is set for 3:30.
Thomas Johnston can be reached at [email protected] and followed on twitter @TJ__Johnston.