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Kassan Messiah makes impact at linebacker for Minutemen

OXFORD, Ohio - Kassan Messiah did not wait long to make an impact in his first collegiate football game for the University of Massachusetts.

On the second play from scrimmage Saturday, the true freshman linebacker slipped past a blocker and raced into the Miami (Ohio) backfield and sacked quarterback Zac Dysert for a 9-yard loss.

Messiah had been envisioning that exact scenario when he found out Wednesday that he was starting.

"It definitely got me going," he said. "We went over it in practice and I already had made up my mind I was going to make the play," Messiah, who started in place of Greg Hilliard, who missed the 27-16 loss with an undisclosed injury, made an impact throughout with 10 tackles including two behind the line of scrimmage.

"We new he was going to be very good. I didn't know when it would happen, but he did show up today," said Minuteman coach Charley Molnar, who has used 26 redshirt and true freshman this season. "I liked the fire in his eyes and the confidence of such a young football player. He really looked like he belonged on that football field. The way he ran. The way he got around the ball.

"There was a point where we talked about redshirting Kassan, but it got to the point where he just has to play," Molnar added.

Messiah said he was pleased with his first-game performance.

"I thought I did pretty decent. It was definitely an opportunity. I was kind of nervous, jitters before the game," Messiah said. "After that I treated the game like any other football game. I just wanted to show my teammates what I could do."

INJURIES - Molnar said redshirt senior linebacker D.J. Adeoba's season is likely over after he suffered a first-quarter leg injury that required an air cast on the field and a cart ride off it.

"From what I observed I wouldn't imagine he'll be back any time soon," Molnar said. "He's probably done for the year."

Adeoba suffered the injury on his first play after coming in the game for Mike Lee, who suffered a shoulder injury. Lee eventually returned.

Molnar said that Hilliard was almost healthy enough to play in this game, but "he didn't practice on Wednesday and my feeling is if you don't practice on Wednesday you're not going to play."

Molnar said he was pleased with Stephane Milhim's effort just to be on the field after suffering an ankle sprain last week.

"He really attacked his rehab and was really committed to playing in this football game," Molnar said. "But as hard as he played, he had a dumb penalty (unnecessary roughness). If he hadn't played we would have really had to play musical chairs to get a guy at left tackle and the subsequent moves would have been disastrous for us."

UMASS PICKS - Mike Lee's interception at the end of the first half was the second of his career and the fifth for the Minutemen this season. They have had at least one in every game.

MISCELLANEOUS - The 188 yards rushing for Michael Cox were the most for a UMass back since Tony Nelson had 204 against Hofstra in 2008. ... Dysert's 12 completions gave him 855 which passed Ben Roethlisberger for the most in program history. ... This was the first game in which true freshman quarterback A.J. Doyle did not play for the Minutemen. ... The crowd of 15,159 was the smallest for a UMass game this season.

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

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