×

UMass comeback falls short at South Carolina

  • 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)

  • Massachusetts running back Marquis Young (8) carries the ball against the South Carolina defense during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/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)

  • 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)

  • Massachusetts running back Marquis Young (8) carries the ball against South Carolina linebacker Larenz Bryant (23) and D.J. Smith (24) 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)

  • 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)

  • Massachusetts running back Marquis Young (8) runs the ball against South Carolina defensive back Chris Lammons (3) and defensive lineman Kobe Smith (97) 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)

  • Massachusetts quarterback Andrew Ford (7) attempts a pass 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)

  • South Carolina running back Rico Dowdle (23) runs the ball against Massachusetts safety Lee Moses, left, 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)

  • Massachusetts wide receiver Jalen Williams (80) drops a pass near the end zone against South Carolina defensive back Rashad Fenton (16) 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)

  • Massachusetts tight end Adam Breneman (81) makes a catch 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)

  • Massachusetts head coach Mark Whipple, right, talks with quarterback Andrew Ford (7) during the first 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)



@MattVautourDHG
Saturday, October 22, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. – In a game pockmarked with mistakes, for a moment in the fourth quarter, the UMass football team looked like it might find the memorable comeback that’s eluded it all year.

But after mistakes and turnovers put the Minutemen in an early hole, it was the clock that finally finished them off as South Carolina escaped with a 34-28 win at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday.

UMass trailed 34-14 entering the fourth quarter as many of the 73,248 fans began heading across the parking lot to the ongoing state fair.

Nothing about the start of the final quarter gave any indication that the early departers were going to miss much. Even after the Minutemen recovered South Carolina’s fumbled punt return, quarterback Andrew Ford threw an interception two plays later.

But true freshman corner Isaiah Rodgers stripped receiver Deebo Samuel shortly after that and recovered the fumble, giving the Minutemen the ball at the USC 30 with 12 minutes, 3 seconds remaining.

Ford started the comeback with an 8-yard touchdown scramble with 9:59 left.

The UMass defense held again forcing a three and out. Marquis Young, who had 123 yards on 28 carries, started the drive with a 12-yard run and Ford took it from there. He completed five passes on the 74-yard drive, including an 18-yarder to Adam Breneman in the end zone with 4:32 remaining to make it 34-28.

Gamecocks quarterback Jake Bentley (17-for-26, 201 yards, two TDs, no interceptions), who made his first career start, led the final drive like a veteran. Starting at his own 11, Bentley scrambled for 6 yards on first down, then eluded a near sack and completed a 25-yard pass. After that, the Gamecocks benefited from two pass interference calls, one borderline and one blatant on the Minutemen as UMass was forced to burn its timeouts.

Rico Dowdle’s 11-yard run on third-and-4 with 1:36 was the final blow, allowing the home team to run out the clock.

“Everyone needed to make one more play,” said senior Khary Bailey-Smith. “They made that play and we needed it.”

Ford saluted his defense for giving the team a chance.

“Our defense did a great job in the second half of putting us in position to make that comeback,” he said. “I’m really proud of the way everybody fought.”

South Carolina had two touchdowns before UMass had two first downs. The Gamecocks went 76 yards on their opening touchdown drive. On the Minutemen’s first drive, the normally sure-handed Breneman fumbled the ball away on their own 32.

A 47-yard pass by Bentley highlighted an otherwise run-based drive that David Williams finished with a 1-yard TD run with 8:58 left.

When Andy Isabella fumbled at midfield on an end-around two plays later, it looked like the game might get out of hand.

But the UMass defense forced a punt and the Minutemen settled down.

After Ford and Breneman (nine catches, 94 yards) hooked up for a 14-yard touchdown, on the first play of the second quarter, South Carolina scored the next two touchdowns, but botched one extra point, to lead 27-7.

Ford, who was 20 of 42 for 247 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions, took advantage of a coverage breakdown late in the half. Nobody covered Jalen Williams running down the left hash and Ford hit him at SC 38 and Williams ran the rest for a 74-yard touchdown reception that made it 27-14 at halftime.

“We just got off to a rough start. Our best players dropped the ball in the first half,” UMass coach Mark Whipple said. “Adam had one, Izzy (Isabella) had two, and that would’ve been a first down. But I’m proud of the kids. They fought back, there was no pointing fingers, there wasn’t anything at halftime, they felt like they could win the game and we just didn’t make enough plays and made too many mistakes. We just couldn’t get a stop on that last drive.”

UMass (1-7) will host Wagner at McGuirk Stadium, Saturday at noon on senior day. Wagner (4-3) lost 27-17 to Bryant.

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