UMass football suffers tough loss at No. 16/15 Marshall

The Minutemen fall to 0-2 on the season


Parker Peters/Daily Collegian

By Kevin Schuster, Assistant Sports Editor

The Massachusetts football team lost its second game of the season in dominating fashion. No. 16/15 Marshall continued its pursuit of being one of the top football programs in the country, defeating the Minutemen (0-2) 51-10.

Despite losing by a wide margin, UMass showcased its best performance all year, scoring its first 10 points of the season. The Thundering Herd (6-0, 3-0 Conference USA) however, proved why they are one of the top defensive teams in the country, keeping the Minutemen scoreless in the second half while forcing a crucial turnover late in the third quarter.

Marshall forced UMass’ only turnover in the game with four and a half minutes left in the third quarter. Two plays later, starting Marshall quarterback Garrett Wells was able to complete his best pass of the day to Xavier Gaines, who had a one-handed grab in the corner of the endzone leaving the Minutemen in a 34-point deficit with just over one quarter remaining.

“I’ve been around some really good G5 football and I’m not so sure that this isn’t one of the better G5 teams I’ve seen on tape,” UMass head coach Walt Bell said. “As long as they keep their head on straight, which coach Holliday has done a great job doing, they’re going to have pretty good success in the remainder of their schedule.”

On their second drive of the game, freshman quarterback Will Koch completed a two-yard pass to Samuel Emilus for the Minutemen’s first touchdown of the season. After completing a 37-yard pass to put UMass into scoring range, the Minutemen capitalized on a pass interference penalty to set them up on the two-yard line. Koch and company capitalized to even the score at 7-7 midway through the first quarter.

Marshall struggled with penalties early on, allowing unnecessary yards that UMass was able to use to its advantage to keep the game close. With a week off between this game and their last, the Thundering Herd’s mistakes didn’t allow them to get into a rhythm until the second quarter.

UMass fell behind early, trailing 7-0 only a minute and a half into the game. Marshall capped off a 75-yard drive with a 45-yard touchdown run by Brenden Knox, the game’s leading rusher, who finished with 118 yards and two touchdowns.

The Minutemen suffered bad field position for the entirety of the first half, starting five of their first six drives inside their own 20, including a great punt by Marshall’s Robert LeFevre that pinned UMass on its own six-yard line.

“Two games in a row we’ve been really behind the eight ball,” Bell said. “I bet they probably had a 15, 18, or 20-yard field position advantage and any time you play with that type of deficit you’re going to lose about 90 percent of the time.”

Koch seemed to earn his job as the starting quarterback, throwing for 99 yards and a touchdown. In his first start for the Minutemen, Koch threw well considering the lack of first team reps the quarterbacks have been able to get during this condensed season for UMass.

With 9:52 left in the second quarter, Marshall extended their lead to two touchdowns as Corey Grammage converted a 19-yard touchdown from a screen pass from Wells, who finished the game with 257 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns. Marshall’s size and physicality provided huge lanes for Grammage, who was virtually untouched on the play.

UMass converted a trick play with 4:30 left in the second quarter as Koch pitched the ball to running back Jared Cole who completed a 25-yard completion to Josiah Johnson, the former tight end now quarterback for the Minutemen.

“We typically carry four [trick plays] into every game,” Bell said. “We felt really good about the first one that we called. If we could have gotten the ball up a little sooner or don’t underthrow it, we probably would have had a chance to score on the spot. The second one, we had a different look than we expected. We didn’t fool them, Josiah just made a big play.”

Marshall finished the second quarter on a six-play, 74-yard drive in only two minutes. The drive was capped off by an 11-yard touchdown run by Sheldon Evans, who scored his third touchdown of the season. Right at the end of the half however, Koch did a fantastic job

breaking a tackle and converting a pass on the last play of the first half continuing to show promise for the Minutemen side.

Going into the second half, the Thundering Herd continued to dominate on offense. With just under seven minutes left in the third quarter, Marshall would extend their lead to 27 as Wells completed his second touchdown pass of the day. The Thundering Herd would muff the ensuing extra-point, keeping the Minutemen within four scores.

“To me, a big positive especially for some of these young guys who have never really lost before, the hurt in their face, the despair, and really taking that energy whether that’s good or bad and driving it to your future success,” Bell said. “That’s typically the first message no matter what.

The Minutemen will look to rebound against Florida Atlantic on Nov. 20. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m.

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