Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Andy Isabella 15 yards away from breaking UMass’ single-season receiving record

Senior has 1,479 yards this season

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Andy Isabella 15 yards away from breaking UMass’ single-season receiving record

By Thomas Johnston, Assistant Sports Editor

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The Massachusetts football team will take the field for the final time this season Saturday against No. 5 Georgia already eliminated from bowl contention, but for one player, a UMass record is on the line.

Andy Isabella currently sits at 1,479 receiving yards on the year, 15 short of Jimmy Moore’s single-season record which was set in 1998. The senior, who currently leads the country in receiving yards, would also need 179 more to break Tajae Sharpe’s UMass record of 3,486 career yards.

“It would be exciting,” Isabella said. “It’d be something I could come back to UMass for as long as it’s still up there. I could come back and here and say ‘I hold that record.’ It’d be pretty cool.”

Getting the 15 yards shouldn’t be a problem, but racking up 179 would be a challenge against any defense, never mind one of the Bulldogs caliber. Georgia is 11th in the country in pass defense, holding the opposition to 172 passing yards a game.

Much of the Bulldogs success in limiting opposing offenses is due to Deandre Baker, one of the best cornerbacks in college football. The senior has been named a semifinalist for both the Chuck Bednarik Award (nation’s top defender) and Jim Thorpe Award (nation’s top defensive back) due to his ability to lock down the oppositions receivers.

While Georgia tends to switch up its defenses, look for Isabella to see a lot of Baker, a matchup he would look forward to seeing.

“Hopefully I get a shot at him,” Isabella said. “He’s a really good player. We’ll see what happens during the game.”

Isabella, who has NFL aspirations after his UMass career comes to a close Saturday, knows the game will serve as a great opportunity for him to showcase his skills in front of one of the best teams in the country and a cornerback as skilled as Baker.

The senior has five games this season of 100 yards or more, but they came against the likes of Duquesne, Ohio, South Florida, Coastal Carolina and Liberty. Saturday’s contest will be a great chance for Isabella to have a statement game to boost his NFL stock.

“That’s how people will look at it,” Isabella said. “For me, they’re going to want to see ‘he can do it against all these little teams, let’s see if he can do it against a big team.’”

The game against Georgia will be the biggest challenge of the season for UMass, as the Bulldogs were one play away from being national champions a year ago, and have a good shot at returning to the playoffs this year to make another run at the title, sitting at 9-1 and in first place of the SEC East.

The Minutemen will enter Saturday’s game as 44 point underdogs, but if the past tells us anything, UMass steps up their play when they take on SEC opponents. Last season, the Minutemen fell to Tennessee by just four and stayed close with Mississippi State the entirety of the game.

For UMass coach Mark Whipple, he knows those games are in the past and that his squad will be facing its toughest test to date.

“This is the best team we’ve ever faced,” Whipple said. “Most talented and well coached. We have to play the best game we’ve ever played to hang in there.”

Whipple expects Isabella and the rest of the team to step up their play knowing how talented the Bulldogs are.

“I think everybody does,” Whipple said. “Everybody has to. Once you put the tape on, you don’t have to tell them this and this. We have guys that have played a bunch, they know what this opponent is like. The tape says it all. They’ve dominated all their games except LSU.”

Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. in Athens.

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

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