UMass football endures a disappointing loss at Liberty to end its 2020 season

The Minutemen fall to 0-4 to finish out the year


Parker Peters/Daily Collegian

Parker Peters/Daily Collegian

By Kevin Schuster, Assistant Sports Editor

In an unusual season plagued by the coronavirus, the Massachusetts football team lost its fourth consecutive game to finish out the season winless. The Minutemen (0-4) suffered their biggest loss of the year to Liberty, who left them scoreless in a 45-0, one sided affair.

UMass, who struggled on both sides of the ball for the majority of the game, had its most total yards on offense all season with 227. The Flames (9-1) were able to shut down any success the Minutemen began to brew up, stopping UMass in its tracks before it had any attempt to get points on the board.

The story of the game was laid out perfectly with just over two minutes left in the third quarter. UMass’ starting quarterback Garrett Dzuro completed a 20-yard completion to OC Johnson for a third and long conversion. On the very next play however, Dzuro would throw an interception, which led to a Liberty touchdown three plays later.

With only 12 seconds left in the first half the Minutemen had seemed to hold off Liberty’s offense until quarterback Malik Willis completed a 37-yard pass to DJ Stubbs to the 2-yard line. The Flames would be held to a field goal but nonetheless, was able to get big plays whenever UMass seemed to get the ball rolling. The half would end 31-0, an insurmountable lead for any team in college football.

“Going into the week we knew we were a really tired football team, physically, mentally, and all the things our kids have had to deal with that a lot of counterparts around college football haven’t had to deal with,” Bell said. “The theme all week was ‘why do you do what you do and who do you do it for’.

UMass’ only success on offense was Garrett Dzuro’s connection to Samuel Emilus. Emilus caught four passes for 82 yards, including a 32-yard completion late in the third quarter putting the Minutemen in good field position.

“I think Sam [Emilus] is a really good player and I think [Dzuro] put his eyes in the right spot the majority of the time today which gives us a chance to complete the ball,” Bell said. “We throw the football around a good bit every day in practice so hopefully that was the result.”

Emilus provided a spark for UMass’ offense at the start of the second quarter, catching a 31-yard pass which brought the Minutemen to Liberty’s own 24-yard line. This was the closest UMass got to the endzone all night, failing to make it past Liberty’s 30-yard line throughout the remainder of the game. On this drive the Minutemen would turn the ball over on downs after a missed 41-yard field goal by Jeremy Martin kept a zero on the scoreboard for UMass.

Midway through the first quarter, the Minutemen conceded their first turnover of the game, fumbling the ball on Liberty’s 27-yard line. Two plays later, Joshua Mack charged down the field for a 59-yard touchdown run to extend the Flames’ lead to 14.

“If there was an ill of defense today, we were a part of it,” Bell said. “It was unlike our group who’s been improving every week. We just didn’t have a good day defensively.”

On two separate occasions, the referee’s reversed their calls on the field for defensive pass interference on Liberty. This would have led to two first down opportunities for UMass on both a third-and-long and a fourth down fake punt attempt.

“There was some clerical interpretation on the fake punt,” Bell said. “By rule, if the pass is high and deep, therefore simulating a punt, the interpretation is you can’t blame the defender for pass interference. I had run that play three times over 15 years and not once had that call reversed.”

UMass punter George Georgopoulos had his best performance this season, punting five times for an average of 53 yards. At the start of the fourth quarter, Georgopoulos hit his longest punt of the season for 73 yards, flipping field position from the Minutemen’s own 17-yard line to Liberty’s 10.

“Our punt team did a great job today,” Bell said. “They flipped the field a couple of times and so hopefully that’s something we can build on moving forward.”

UMass was held to only one drive in the fourth quarter. Liberty finished the game with a scoreless 19 play, 82-yard drive that took the final 12 minutes and 23 seconds off of the game clock.

A difficult and heartbreaking season comes to a close for the Minutemen who need to find improvements in all areas of the game. Bell, who has only been at the program for two years, has a crucial off-season forthcoming to turn his team around.

“We’ve got an unbelievable group of kids with everything they’ve gone through just to play four games,” Bell said. “We’re going to get through this offseason, make the changes we need to make, and we will be better in a year from now.”

Kevin Schuster can be reached at [email protected] and @KevinESchuster on Twitter.