Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass opens season with blowout win over Duquesne

Minutemen score three first quarter touchdowns

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Collegian File Photo

Collegian File Photo

Collegian File Photo

By Thomas Johnston, Assistant Sports Editor

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After opening the season losers of six straight a year ago, the Massachusetts football team was determined to start its 2018 campaign on the right foot. It did just that, dominating Duquesne from the opening snap to come away with a 63-15 victory.

Quarterback Andrew Ford finished an efficient 13-for-19 on 186 yards and two touchdowns. Bilal Ally had 112 yards on nine carries and senior Andy Isabella finished with five catches, 131 yards and three all-purpose touchdowns.

Taking on an FCS opponent, it didn’t take UMass long to assert themselves as the more talented and athletic team. Cornerback Bakhari Goodson broke on an out route on Duquesne’s first pass attempt of the game to come up with an interception. The Minutemen needed just one play to capitalize on it, as wide receiver Brennon Dingle beat a double team and Ford found him in the end zone for a 32-yard touchdown.

“For about two weeks now that was going to be the first play,” Ford said. “The day we started working on Duquesne we put that in. We were lucky the defense gave us the short field and we were able to convert.”

That would set the tone for the remainder of the game. UMass kept its foot on the peddle, scoring touchdowns on its next two possessions to fully take control. Ross Comis came in under center on the Minutemen’s second drive, finding a wide open Isabella over the middle who waltzed into the end zone untouched for a 60-yard touchdown.

Keeping up with the trend of big plays, running back Ally broke off a 66-yard run down before being tripped up on the Dukes one-yard line. The junior was rewarded on the next play, powering it in to put UMass up 21-0 just nine minutes into action.

“We took advantage of a couple of their mistakes,” UMass coach Mark Whipple said. “We saw some things on tape we could take advantage of with our speed.”

The scoring run didn’t end there. After a Duquesne field goal, Isabella took an end-around left to right, using his quickness to get around the edge for his second score of the game.

Later in the second quarter, after an interception by Brice McAllister, Marquis Young ran one in from two yards out. The Dukes scored a touchdown with five seconds left in the half to make it 35-9 heading into the intermission.

The Minutemen’s offensive explosion carried over into the second half. On their first drive, Ford scrambled away from the rush and connected with Isabella, who raced up the right sideline before putting a juke on the lone Duke defender in front of him on his way to a 44-yard touchdown.

On Duquesne’s next possession, McAllister read quarterback Daniel Parr’s eyes, picking off his second pass and taking it back 60 yards for another UMass touchdown.

“It was almost like he threw it right to me,” McAllister said. “Xavier Steele did a good job acting like he was going to cover number two and then he blitzed and the quarterback thought that number two was wide open so I stepped in front of it and scored from there.”

After the pick, which put the Minutemen up by 40, Whipple put his backups into the game, giving them needed experience early in the season.

“We got a chance to play a lot of young guys, which can make me a lot older than I am,” Whipple said. “Getting those guys on tape is really helpful to build a program where those guys know how much harder they have to practice on scouts.”

Late in the third quarter, Comis eluded defenders in the pocket and rolled to his left. With nobody open, he tucked it and ran it in from 18 yards out. Later he would find redshirt freshman Zak Simon in the end zone for the games final touchdown.

UMass will face one of its toughest tests of the season next weekend, traveling to Chestnut Hill to take on Boston College.

Thomas Johnston can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @TJ__Johnston.

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