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UMass holds on to beat Maine, 44-31 at Fenway Park

  • UMass running back Marquis Young had 123 yards and the game-clinching touchdown Saturday against Maine at Fenway Park. Jon Crispin UMass Athletics

  • Maine running back Josh Mack (34) carries the ball against Massachusetts during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017, in Boston. (John Wilcox/The Herald via AP) John Wilcox

  • (Boston, MA, 11/11/17) Massachusetts quarterback Andrew Ford (7) throws a pass in the first quarter against Maine during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017, in Boston. (John Wilcox/The Herald via AP) John Wilcox

  • Maine quarterback Chris Ferguson (14) throws a pass in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against UMASS in Boston, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. (John Wilcox/The Boston Herald via AP) John Wilcox

  • Massachusetts wide receiver Jessie Britt (5) gets congratulations from teammates after his touchdown in the first quarter against Maine during an NCAA college football game at Fenway Park on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017, in Boston. (John Wilcox/The Herald via AP) John Wilcox

  • Massachusetts cornerback Lee Moses, left, breaks up a pass intended for Maine wide receiver Earnest Edwards (81) in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game in Boston, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. (John Wilcox/The Boston Herald via AP) John Wilcox



@MattVautourDHG
Saturday, November 11, 2017

BOSTON — When Marquis Young broke through the line with just under two minutes left, the UMass football team finally relaxed.

There would be no repeat of the program’s loss to Maine in 2013, and no return to the team’s early season inability to finish off victories.

If Young only got a first down, the Minutemen might have been able to grind the clock out, but he got free and raced 33 yards into the end zone to clinch the 44-31 win, Saturday at Fenway Park.

“We’re learning how to win,” junior quarterback Andrew Ford said. “We’re learning how to win. It’s not always going to be like it was against Georgia Southern (a blowout). We have to find a way to win games going into the fourth quarter. For a young football team, that’s really important.”

The Minutemen improved to 3-7 with the victory, matching the most wins in a season since moving up to FBS play. They’re at BYU, Saturday at 3 p.m.

“It was a good win for us,” UMass coach Mark Whipple said. “I thought all phases did some good things. We have a lot of things to clean up. ... I’m happy for our guys. We got a W. We’ll take it and move on.”

Ford, who returned to action two weeks after leaving the team’s win over Appalachian State on a stretcher, completed 21 of 39 throws for 355 yards and four touchdowns. Three of those went to Andy Isabella, who caught eight passes for 152 yards and the three scores.

UMass survived despite watching Maine erase the Minutemen’s early 24-7 lead. The game was tied 24-24 for much of the third quarter making an already cold crowd of 12,794 tense.

But Ford found Isabella in the corner of the end zone from 14 yards out with 2:42 left in the third. Four plays later Maine quarterback Chris Ferguson put a little too much air under the ball and Lee Moses leapt to intercept it at the UMass 30 and took off down the sideline.

There was a flag on the play as officials investigated a Bryton Barr block on the return that helped part the sea of Maine jerseys between Moses and the end zone. They checked if he had: 1. Targeted a Maine player with a hit to the head, which comes with an ejection. 2. Merely had an illegal block in the back. 3. Did nothing illegal.

Video exonerated Barr on all charges and gave Moses a touchdown. Logan Laurent’s extra point was blocked, leaving UMass with a 37-24 lead.

“It felt amazing when I got in the end zone,” Moses said. “I was a little scared when I saw the flag. I thought it was going to get called back.”

The missed point seemed to loom large when Maine scored to cut the lead to 37-31 and then forced UMass to punt with under 5 minutes left.

But helped by Maine penalties, the UMass defense held as the Black Bears turned the ball over on downs at their own 35 with 2:11 left, setting up the clinching score for Young (19 carries, 123 yards).

The game looked like a shootout from the start. UMass, which has deferred each time it won the toss this year, elected to receive this time and marched 79 yards in a hurry. Ford completed passes of 16, 28 and finally a 33-yard touchdown pass to Jessie Britt that made it 7-0, 1:31 into the game.

That lead lasted mere moments as Earnest Edwards took the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown to make it 7-7, 13 seconds later.

The Minuteman offense picked up where it left off. Five plays into their second drive, Ford and Isabella hooked up for a 69-yard touchdown that made it 14-7 with 11:32 left.

The scoring pace slowed down slightly before Ford and Isabella hooked up again. The junior receiver was held heading into the end zone, but shook off the contact and hauled in the pass in the left corner of the end zone with 1:02 left in the first to make it 21-7.

After a Laurent 41-yard field goal made it 24-7, the UMass offense sputtered for the rest of the half.

Maine took advantage. After Ferguson capped a 57-yard drive with a 9-yard TD run, Maine sacked Ford in the end zone for a safety that made it 24-16 at intermission.

The Black Bears got the ball to start the second half and delivered their best drive of the game that Josh Mack (22 carries, 110 yards) capped with a 1-yard run. The 2-point conversion was successful tying the game a 24-24.

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