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Matt Vautour: UMass football’s loss to Coastal Carolina most disheartening yet

  • Coach Mark Whipple and UMass fell 38-28 to Coastal Carolina on Saturday. Coastal is in its first season as an FBS program. AP



@MattVautourDHG
Sunday, September 03, 2017

CONWAY, S.C.

In its five-plus years of Bowl Subdivision football, UMass has lost 52 games. Plenty of heartbreakers, blowouts and defeats in between pockmark its bumpy entry in FBS action.

But Saturday’s 38-28 loss might be the most dispiriting of the bunch.

At least on paper, Coastal Carolina was the worst FBS team on the Minutemen’s schedule. The Chanticleers were playing in their first game as an FBS program. They were on Saturday where UMass was five years ago. It’s not an apples to apples comparison. Coastal had been much better in FCS before moving up than the Minutemen, who’d been middling in the Kevin Morris era preceding the upgrade.

But falling to a team just starting draws attention to just how little progress UMass has been able to make in those five years in terms of wins and losses.

Coastal has more in place going forward. It has a renovated stadium with plans to further increase seating and it has a conference (Sun Belt).

Past and future aside, in the present Coastal had a better game plan and executed it better.

Neither UMass line has found continuity together. On defense, some of that could be personnel. Sha-Ki Holiness has yet to play and Da’Sean Downey was out on Saturday. Against Hawaii, the unit couldn’t get pressure on the quarterback and against CCU, the Minutemen couldn’t slow the option offense.

Quarterback Andrew Ford was only sacked once for UMass, but he was hurried several times and pressure on him led to the first quarter fumble (on a desperate backward pass) that gave Coastal momentum out of the gate.

More concerning is that the running game hasn’t been able to get any traction. Some of it is running back Marquis Young and some of it is the line’s struggles to block for him.

If Adam Breneman’s injury is serious, that’s another considerable blow to a team that can’t afford many of them.

Entering the season, there was hope that the Minutemen might actually open the season 2-0 as two of the three easiest games on the schedule were in Week 1 and 2. No matter what happened after that, there would have been more positivity around the program than there’s been in a decade.

Instead, UMass is 0-2 and any preseason optimism is gone. At least in the Hawaii game, the Minutemen could feel like they should have beaten a team that won a bowl game last year. They made too many mistakes and let a winnable game get away from them. Against Coastal, the Minutemen were simply outplayed.

It’s barely September. Classes haven’t even started yet and it’s already going to take a huge turnaround to convince the fans there’s something to be excited about. The Minutemen will be an underdog in every game they play until hosting Maine at Fenway Park on Nov. 11, their 11th game of the season.

On the same night that Liberty, another FBS first-timer, stunned Baylor, UMass is still looking for its moment, something to give it a lift as the losses keep mounting.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage