Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Isabella goes off in UMass’ 62-59 win over Liberty

Explosive plays from Isabella carry UMass offense

Photo+by+Caroline+O%27Connor
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Isabella goes off in UMass’ 62-59 win over Liberty

Photo by Caroline O'Connor

Photo by Caroline O'Connor

Photo by Caroline O'Connor

Photo by Caroline O'Connor

By Thomas Haines, Assistant Sports Editor

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Andy Isabella showed up on homecoming weekend with his best performance of the season, as his 303 receiving yards broke the UMass single-game record and propelled the Minutemen to a 62-59 victory.

Isabella’s performance broke UMass’ (4-6) record for receiving yards in a game, set back in 2008 and the record for most receiving yards against Liberty (4-4). More importantly, for the first three quarters, the UMass offense more or less rested on Isabella’s shoulders, and time and time again he came through.

“It’s kind of cool,” Isabella said of the record. “It’s better to get the win. I don’t think it would’ve meant nothing if we didn’t get the win. Ross did a great job playing quarterback, he’s a winner for sure. So it was fun.”

Isabella opened the scoring midway through the first quarter, blazing past the Liberty defense and catching the ball on his fingertips before outrunning everyone to the end zone. In the second quarter, Isabella took a screen pass and sprinted down the sideline for a 61-yard score, aided by a nice block from fellow wide receiver Sadiq Palmer.

“I didn’t think I was going to get to it at first,” Isabella said of the first touchdown catch. “The wind was going crazy, but I got to it.”

Although he didn’t reach the end zone afterwards, Isabella went on to record catches of 58 and 48 yards, with nearly all of his total coming in the first three quarters. A 21-yard catch early in the fourth quarter marked his final yards of the game, as Liberty finally doubled down on its coverage with a 14-point lead.

The focus on Isabella late in the game ultimately cost the Flames, as Marquis Young, Palmer and Sam Emilus took over to come back and win in overtime.

“They did a good job [late in the game],” redshirt senior quarterback Ross Comis said. “Obviously, Andy was killing them and they had to do something. They did a good job putting two guys on him or rolling coverage to him, and it left some holes on the back side, in the middle of the field. Sadiq, with a couple of fourth down catches, those wide receivers made some plays.”

Early in the game, Liberty answered Isabella’s dominance with a playmaking receiver of its own, Antonio Gandy-Golden. Gandy-Golden dominated Isaiah Rodgers in man coverage early on, recording catches of 32 yards, 27 yards and 15 yards on Liberty’s first touchdown drive.

Gandy-Golden finished with two touchdowns and 205 yards of his own, most of which came in the first half. Isabella outpaced him throughout the game, as UMass relied on the senior wideout to carry the offense.

“I knew that Andy was going to make some plays,” Comis said. “He got open, that’s all it is. He got open, I threw it out there.”

The win was the second straight for UMass and the second straight as a starter for Comis, who took over for the injured Andrew Ford. Comis and Isabella were on point on Saturday, connecting on nine passes.

“He started his sophomore year, and we’ve been getting a lot of reps together,” Isabella said of Comis. “I know Andrew’s been there, Andrew has done a great job here, but we still take a lot of reps at practice. He does a great job. He trusts me, that’s the big thing, I trust him.”

The previous single-game record for receiving yards was held by Victor Cruz, who went on to play for the New York Giants.

“I always loved watching Victor Cruz when I was little. I never knew he went to UMass though,” Isabella said with a laugh. “I didn’t know UMass was a school until Coach Whipple called me five days before signing day. But it’s pretty cool. Victor Cruz was a great player, a guy I loved watching.”

Thomas Haines can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @thainessports.

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