UMass football still winless with loss at Miami (Ohio) in conference opener
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OXFORD, Ohio - Despite losing a close game after three blowout losses, University of Massachusetts football coach Charley Molnar did not take much solace in his team's improvement in its loss to Miami (Ohio) Saturday at Yager Stadium.
"I lump this with the other three. This is a loss. I didn't walk off the field feeling very positive and I still don't right now," said Molnar, whose team fell to 0-4 after dropping its Mid-American Conference debut 27-16 before 15,159 fans.
A fair amount of his frustration game from the Minutemen's failure to convert in the red zone. Two of their trips inside the Miami 5-yard line ended in a missed field goal and an interception.
"We had opportunities to stay in the game throughout. We didn't finish the deal a number of times," Molnar said. "We moved the ball with confidence, somewhat effectively. We were able to get the ball down close and then we just couldn't finish it for whatever reasons."
UMass lost despite the best game of Mike Cox's career. The senior rushed for 188 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries highlighted by a leaping front flip over a defender into the end zone on his first score.
"Everybody is seeing the improvement out there, but it would have been a lot better if we improved with a win," Cox said. "We're getting better as a team. We were in it the whole game. We just want to get better, improve and win."
The Minutemen missed a great chance to seize control early in the game. After the teams traded punts on their opening drives, the RedHawks drove to the UMass 25. But Stanley Andre and Chaz Thompson sacked Zac Dysert on fourth-and-6 to give the Minutemen the ball and momentum.
With Cox doing most of the work on the ground, UMass marched to the Miami 5-yard-line with a first-and-goal.
An apparent touchdown pass from redshirt freshman quarterback Mike Wegzyn to Jordan Broadnax on second down was wiped out by an offensive pass interference call on Deion Walker. Three plays later Brendon Levengood missed a 36-yard field goal wide right, leaving the Minutemen empty-handed.
"Our two biggest problems are our red zone and our penalties. When you're in the red zone you have to finish and penalties, you can't make them, especially in those situations," Wegzyn said. "Each game we've struggled once we've gotten into the red zone.
"In practice we do great in the red zone," he added. "For some reason in a game it doesn't carry over. That's a huge point that we need to improve on."
The RedHawks (2-2) answered quickly by moving 80 yards in 90 seconds capped by Dysert's 49-yard touchdown pass to Dawan Scott for a 7-0 lead 57 seconds in to the second quarter.
A 61-yard kickoff return by Broadnax and a 15-yard pass from Wegzyn to Walker put UMass back in the red zone, but the drive sputtered and the Minutemen settled for a 30-yard field goal by Levengood with 12:48 left in the half.
Dysert (12-for-22, 192 yards, three TDs, one interception) hit Scott for a 17-yard score with 9:22 left to make it 14-3 at halftime.
Miami tried to deliver a quick knockout in the second half with an onside kick attempt. UMass recovered but Wegzyn immediately threw an interception.
"(He was) trying to jam a ball into a place where it shouldn't have been done," Molnar said. "You could feel the winds leave our sails when that happened. I'm not sure we ever got it back after that."
It was Wegzyn's first of three interceptions in the game.
"With the picks and the mistakes that I made, it was minor things," he said. "I thought the receiver would be in one spot and it was a little bit off or I put it a little too close to the defender. It was little things there and here that should be easy to correct."
Dysert made the first one costly by leading a 44-yard drive that he finished with a 7-yard run to extend the RedHawks' lead to 21-3 with 9:16 left in the third.
Two touchdowns by Cox made the game closer, but the Minutemen could not climb all the way back.
Wegzyn finished 19-for-40 for 213 yards and the three interceptions. He rushed for 52 yards on 14 carries.
"He went through his progressions," Molnar said, "He did things he hasn't done before and when everyone was covered, he tucked it and ran like he's supposed to. He took a big step today.
"He missed some easy throws and he missed some reads," he added. "That's just part of playing a freshman quarterback. He's got to keep getting better. He certainly hasn't arrived."
Jamire Westbrook led Miami wit 105 rushing yards on 17 carries.
UMass hosts Ohio at 3:30 p.m. next Saturday at Gillette Stadium.
"I know we're getting better. I see that we're getting better so I expected a better performance today," Molnar said. "But the only way we can really judge if our football team is improving is by wins and losses."
Matt Vautour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow UMass coverage on Twitter at twitter.com/GazetteUMass. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.