UMass football gives up 58 points in loss to South Florida

Bulls running back Jordan Cronkrite rushed for 302 yards

Photo+by+Caroline+O%27Connor
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UMass football gives up 58 points in loss to South Florida

Photo by Caroline O'Connor

Photo by Caroline O'Connor

Photo by Caroline O'Connor

Photo by Caroline O'Connor

By Mollie Walker, Assistant Sports Editor

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The Massachusetts football team gave up more than 50 points for the fourth time this season in its 58-42 loss to South Florida at McGuirk Alumni Stadium on Saturday. The loss snapped the Minutemen’s (2-5) four-game winning streak at home and counts as its second consecutive defeat.

Bulls running back Jordan Cronkrite ran for 302 rushing yards and a game-high three touchdowns on the UMass defense, including 117 rushing yards in the third quarter alone. The third quarter also saw USF (5-0) score double on Minutemen (28-14), pulling ahead with four touchdowns.

“One of the things we stressed all week was the intensity in which we had to play to achieve the results that we’re looking for,” said interim coach Ed Pinkham, who is filling in for Mark Whipple during his one-week suspension. “I was really happy, we would have liked to come out with a lead at the end of the first half, but things sometimes have a way – mistakes bite you in the tail.”

The Bulls struck first just 40 seconds into regulation when quarterback Blake Barnett launched a 72-yard touchdown pass to Tyre McCants. After earning the extra point, USF saw Andrew Ford produce a near perfect drive, throwing 4-for-5 and 74 yards, cleaning up with a 31-yard connection with Brennon Dingle into the end zone. Mike Caggiano’s extra point tied everything up at 7.

With 7:10 remaining before the second quarter, USF drove for seven plays and 41 yards for a field goal from the 29-mark to go ahead 10-7.

Shortly after the second quarter began, Bryton Barr registered a clutch interception and a 53-yard return to pick up on the USF 13-yard line. Ford’s first pass was an easy 13-yard lob to Samuel Emilus, who was all alone in the end zone. Cooper Garcia earned the extra point to regain the lead 14-10.

“Defense played with a lot of energy tonight,” middle linebacker Barr said, “a lot more energy than we have in the past. Just a couple missed assignments and that’s what really hurt us.”

Michael Nesmith suffered a hard injury during the kickoff after Emilus’s touchdown that saw him get knocked down, face first onto the turf and lack movement for several minutes. Trevon Sands was ejected for targeting as a result of the play and Nesmith was transferred off the field via stretcher and went to Cooley Dickinson Hospital as a precaution.

A few possessions later, Cronkrite ran for 56 yards to the UMass 12. Bulls running back Johnny Ford added 11 more yards before interim coach Pinkham challenged the touchdown rush from Barnett. After the touchdown was reversed, Jake Byzco registered a sack on Barnett for the loss of seven yards. Colby Weiss completed the field goal the 25 to come within one (14-13).

After being held at the goal line, the Bulls regained possession after Marquis Young fumbled on the kickoff return. Ford then rushed 19 yards for the touchdown and the extra point was good, making it 20-14 just before halftime.

“I’m sure when we watch the video there’s probably going to be a group of errors that contributed to [the loss],” 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 wound up in the wrong gap and he found it and off he went,” he added.

On the extra point, Isiah Rodgers was flagged and ejected for targeting after he ran into the USF kicker.

The Bulls registered two back-to-back touchdowns in the beginning of the third quarter to go ahead 41-14 with just over seven minutes remaining until the fourth, including a forced fumble on Young during a return that defensive back Vincent Davis managed to recover the ball from for a 12-yard touchdown. Young took the hit hard and had to be helped off the field, failing to return for the rest of the game.

There are no updates on the health status of Young and Nesmith.

Ross Comis managed to battle back for the Minutemen after his 14-yard touchdown rush rounded out the seven plays and 69 yards it took to get there.

Cronkrite struck again with a 76-yard touchdown to make it 48-21, before Comis connected with Andy Isabella for a 53-yard touchdown that saw the wide receiver shed two USF defenders and fall over both bodies to palm the ball over the goal line to cut the deficit to 20 (48-28).

USF registered a 38-yard field goal from Coby Weiss to go ahead 51-28 before capping off its scoring with another rushing touchdown from Ford. Comis and Michael Curtis each threw for a touchdown each at the end of the fourth, but it wasn’t enough to even the score.

“These guys are scrappers, it’s just sometimes you play your tail off and something just doesn’t go right,” Pinkham said. “[Play] consistently through four quarters of football and not dwell on the negative things and let it affect our play throughout the entire game.”

Mollie Walker can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @MWalker2019.