Big plays hinder UMass football against South Florida

Minutemen give up three touchdowns of 70 or more yards

Photo+by+Caroline+O%27Connor
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Big plays hinder UMass football against South Florida

Photo by Caroline O'Connor

Photo by Caroline O'Connor

Photo by Caroline O'Connor

Photo by Caroline O'Connor

By Thomas Johnston, Assistant Sports Editor

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It wasn’t the game the Massachusetts football team envisioned getting out of its defense.

After giving up 58 points against Ohio, UMass (2-5) was determined to turn things around and be more disciplined this week against South Florida. But Jordan Cronkrite had different ideas. The 210 pound running back had his way with the Minutemen all game, rushing for 305 yards and 3 touchdowns on 23 carries in the Bulls 58-42 win.

The 305 yards were the first time UMass has allowed a running back to go for over 300 yards against them since Georgia Southern’s Adrian Peterson did it in 1999.

“It wasn’t them, it was us,” linebacker Bryton Barr said. “We didn’t execute. Defense played with a lot of energy tonight, a lot more than we have in the past. Just a couple missed assignments, that’s what really hurt us.”

After a slow start to the game, Cronkrite found his groove in the second quarter, taking a rush 66 yards down to the UMass 12-yard line, setting up a South Florida (5-0) field goal.

From there, Cronkrite dominated the game. His second carry of the second half went 77 yards to the house, then on the next drive he took a fourth and one carry 30 yards untouched for a score. On his very next carry on the following drive, the senior took a carry up the left side 76 yards for yet another touchdown. In the third quarter alone, he had 117 yards on the ground.

“I’m sure when we watch the video there’s probably going to be a group of errors that contributed to it,” UMass interim coach Ed Pinkham said. “To play defensive football you have to be gap sound. If you wind up with two people in the same gap that means there is an open gap. That’s exactly what happened on both of those plays, we ended up in the wrong gap, he found it and off he went.”

It wasn’t just Cronkrite who was able to generate big plays for USF. On their first play from scrimmage, quarterback Blake Barnett lofted one into the arms of a streaking Tyre McCants who broke a tackle and waltzed into the end zone for a 72-yard touchdown.

Later in the game, it was the Bulls special teams that was able to come away with a game-changing play. After a Cronkrite touchdown, USF kicked off to Marquis Young, who went to make a move up the right side of the field before he was leveled by Vincent Davis, knocking Young out of the game and the ball out of his hands, which the Bulls returned for a score.

“Sometimes you play your tail off and something just doesn’t go right,” Pinkham said. “Maybe you lean back on past experience and say this is the start of a couple negative things occurring. We have to get over that. We’ve got to be able to play consistently through four quarters of football and not dwell on the negative things and let if affect our play throughout the entire game.”

In their five losses this season, the Minutemen have surrendered 50 or more points in four of them. With their upcoming bye week, the focus will be to key in on their jobs and assure that mental mistakes don’t continue to occur.

“We have a good defense,” Barr said. “We really do. What hurts us is a couple missed assignments and we have to be better. We have to practice better, practice harder. That’s really it.”

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