Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass football looks to get back in win column against Connecticut

UConn is last in the FBS in points allowed per game
Caroline O’Connor

The Massachusetts football team is set to renew its rivalry with Connecticut Saturday, taking on the Huskies for the first time since 2012.

UMass (2-6) is looking for better results than its’ last outing against UConn (1-6), which saw the Huskies run away with a 37-0 victory in the Minutemen’s first game back in FBS football.

As has been the case with many UMass games this season, this one has the potential to be yet another shootout. Both teams are currently in the bottom five in scoring defense, with UConn dead last giving up 51.4 points per game and the Minutemen surrendering 42.3.

With a high scoring affair a possibility, UMass may be forced to do so without starting quarterback Andrew Ford, who suffered a leg injury during Saturday’s loss to Coastal Carolina. That would thrust senior Ross Comis into the starting job, who has thrown for 601 yards and six touchdowns this season, while also rushing in for three scores.

“It’s unfortunate and it stinks that Andrew got hurt,” linebacker Bryton Barr said. “Ross is a great player. We’re all 100 percent all in on Ross. He’s a smart kid, he’s athletic and he’s a great ball player. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s going to step in there and lead that offense.”

Last week against Coastal, the Minutemen struggled to get the ground game going, rushing for just 63 yards on 22 carries. With starter Marquis Young expected to return from injury, UMass should have the weapons available to exploit a vulnerable Husky run defense that has allowed opponents to average eight yards per carry.

“I probably should have run the ball a little bit more,” UMass coach Mark Whipple said of the game against Coastal. “Our carries were pretty good. I like our plan. Marquis should be back. We have to have better balance.”

In the loss to the Chanticleers, UMass saw a breakout game from wide receiver Sadiq Palmer. The 6-foot-2 junior hauled in seven catches for 139 yards and a touchdown, taking some of the pressure off of Andy Isabella, who is currently leading the country in receiving yards with 1,013.

With Palmer’s size and Isabella’s quickness, the two are able to complement each other well. Going against a weak UConn defense should give the pair plenty of opportunities to get the ball and make plays with it afterwards.

“We just stay calm and do what we need to do,” Palmer said. “As long as the receivers do what we need to do, we open up for the running game and the passing game. We respect every opponent the same and make sure we work and do what we need to do.”

The loss to Coastal saw UMass put together one of its stronger performances on the defensive side of the ball, but it still wasn’t good enough as it surrendered a big passing play in the third quarter off a broken coverage.

Big plays have plagued the Minutemen all season long, and they will be looking to put together a full 60 minutes of defense against a Husky offense that has scored just 21 points a game so far this year.

“It’s frustrating because all year long it’s been one little thing and that one little thing has ended up hurting us,” Barr said. “If we play the whole four quarters and everyone does their job and not try to do something extra, I think our record would be much different.”

Kickoff is set for 12 o’clock in East Hartford on Saturday.

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

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