Quarterback Tyler Lytle’s return to the field not enough in loss to URI Saturday

Lytle was sacked four times


Sophia-Zoe Schreyer

Sophie-Zoe Schreyer/Daily Collegian

By Dylan Corey, Collegian Staff

Quarterback Tyler Lytle returned to action for Saturday’s Homecoming game against Rhode Island for the first time since the Massachusetts football team’s opening game, when he suffered a broken left wrist after being sacked five times against Pittsburgh.

Lytle faced similar pressure during UMass’ (1-8) 35-22 home loss to the Rams (6-3, 3-3 Colonial Athletic Association). He was regularly forced to operate under pressure from the URI defensive line and was sacked twice in the first half by redshirt senior L.B. Mack III. Mack III imposed his will on Lytle and followed his dominant first half performance 1.5 sacks in the second half. The Ram’s defense was overpowering the Minutemen’s youthful offensive line.

Head coach Walt Bell said earlier this week that Lytle would be a game-time decision. After not being included on the depth chart, it seemed like the graduate transfer from Colorado would be sidelined yet again.

“Tuesday and Wednesday are work days for us, he split reps and we really managed his volume,” Bell said. “Even though Friday’s are helmets only, it is at full speed, pitch and catch, and he looked really good, felt really good. He said it’s the best he’s felt obviously in seven or eight weeks, so Friday evening is when he gave us the okay and he was ready to roll.”

Despite a multitude of knockdowns, hurries and late hits, Lytle had a respectable showing as he worked to shake off the rust and be reintegrated into the offense. He completed 15 of 28 attempts for 227 yards, a touchdown and a lone interception in the end zone on UMass’ final drive after a pair of deep shots to Rico Arnold put them in scoring position.

“He was rusty, there were some throws I think he wishes he had back,” Bell said. “I thought he did a nice job managing the line of scrimmage, managing the game, using cadence. We set out to run the ball early, not knowing exactly how he would respond to a full day of warmups and all of those throws, but I thought he did a decent job.”

Bell started calling a conservative game to allow Lytle to smoothly merge into the flow of the offense, but the second drive started with one of two throws that gained at least 30 yards. That drive was the Minutemen’s best of the game, chewing up 5:52 of clock over 11 plays and 88 yards, ending in a 3-yard rushing touchdown for Lytle.

The Minutemen pitched a similarly successful drive as the first half closed, but it was plagued by costly sacks that would have resulted in a punt if it wasn’t for Lytle’s heroics and a trio of penalties on the Rams. The first snap of that drive was a sack for a 9-yard loss, followed by a 25-yard completion and another sack. Lytle capitalized on a roughing the passer penalty and a pair of pass interference calls to throw his only touchdown pass of the game.

Inconsistency and sloppy play led to UMass committing nine penalties for 74 yards. Promising drives were derailed by dropped passes or other costly mistakes, which Bell paired with his own ineptitude as the key factors to the loss.

“Too many critical errors in critical moments,” Bell said. “We didn’t get enough stops. In the second half, we got a stop and were driving just to get two false start penalties. Just too many critical errors at critical times, but that’s my job as a head coach to make sure that we don’t do those things. I did not get the job done; I want that to be most important. I am accountable for how our team plays.”

The Minutemen will now prepare for the University of Maine for their final home game of the season. Lytle will likely be under center barring another injury and will have another shot against an FCS defense on Saturday, Nov. 13. Kickoff is set for 12 p.m.

Dylan Corey can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @TheDylanCorey.