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Matt Vautour: Saturday's mistakes will haunt UMass

  • Massachusetts running back Marquis Young (8) runs the ball during the second half of an NCAA college football game against South Carolina Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016, in Columbia, S.C. South Carolina defeated Massachusetts 34-28. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford) Sean Rayford

  • Massachusetts quarterback Andrew Ford (7) scrambles against South Carolina defensive lineman Darius English (5) and Taylor Stallworth (90) during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016, in Columbia, S.C. South Carolina defeated Massachusetts 34-28. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford) Sean Rayford

  • Massachusetts tight end Adam Breneman (81) catches a pass against South Carolina linebacker T.J. Holloman (11) during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016, in Columbia, S.C. South Carolina defeated Massachusetts 34-28. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford) Sean Rayford

  • South Carolina linebacker T.J. Holloman (11) tackles Massachusetts fullback John Robinson-Woodgett (42) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford) Sean Rayford


Sunday, October 23, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C.

There have been some undoubtedly painful moments for the UMass football team when the Minutemen have gathered to watch tape of some of the losses they’ve suffered over the past three seasons.

The Temple game at Gillette last year. The Vanderbilt game in Nashville in 2014.

The ends of each of those recurring nightmares for the Minutemen either involved missed kicks or the fear of even attempting a kick, and all three of those were more dramatic than the Minutemen’s 34-28 loss to South Carolina.

Still, Saturday’s game has to rank at or near the top of the tough watches for several reasons.

It was against South Carolina. Nobody is confusing the 2016 Gamecocks with the peaks of the Steve Spurrier or Lou Holtz eras, but the program certainly has more tradition than Temple or Vanderbilt. People don’t remember that Appalachian State beat a once-proud program that was in the process of finding a coach who could bring it back to prominence. They remember that App State beat Michigan.

It was a winnable game. UMass didn’t have to play a perfect game or get absurdly lucky to upset South Carolina Saturday. Far from it.

Watching tape will be hard because there were so many different plays that might have flipped the result.

If UMass doesn’t fumble on its first drive, maybe SC doesn’t score its second touchdown.

If the Minutemen don’t throw an interception deep in Gamecock territory early in the fourth quarter, maybe there’s another touchdown to be had.

If Whipple calls for a pass on third-and-10 from the SC 12 instead of a bizarre wildcat run that the TV announcers called “a head scratcher,” maybe UMass scores a touchdown late in the third quarter instead of missing a field goal.

If the referee doesn’t flag a borderline pass interference penalty on South Carolina’s final drive, maybe the Minutemen get the ball back.

There are more ifs and more buts. The coaches will find plenty more when they fine-tooth comb through all the footage.

But the toughest reason will be this was the next in a long line of tough losses. A fledgling independent losing to an SEC isn’t a disaster. It’s expected.

But UMass has had so many almosts. So many respectable losses that after a while they run together. The Minutemen’s early play against Notre Dame last year felt like something to build off of. The Florida loss this year seemed like a good foundation for a young team. But foundations are only useful if somebody eventually puts a house on top.

Junior Adam Breneman wasn’t a Minuteman for some of the tough losses in previous years. But the tight end summed up the mood of team effectively after another almost.

“Is it impressive that we have played with three SEC teams right now? I think we look back at all three of those games and think we could’ve won all of those games if we made one less mistake,” he said. “At the same time, being close isn’t good enough, and that’s the feeling in the locker room right now. We expect to win those games. We came in expecting to win the football game. Anything other than that was going to be a disappointment. That’s how we feel.”

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