UMass offense stalls in shutout loss to Central Michigan

Last modified: Friday, December 27, 2013
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. — A difficult football season for the University of Massachusetts continued trending in the same direction Saturday afternoon.

The Minutemen have been competitive more often than not in their home games this season, but on the road it has been a completely different story.

For the fifth time this season, UMass lost by at least three touchdowns on the road as it had no answer for Central Michigan at Kelly/Shorts Stadium in a 37-0 thrashing.

“I don’t think it has anything to do with home or away,” UMass head coach Charley Molnar said. “It’s just that Central Michigan is good and the stars were aligned for them today. We had some of our best players out. Our top three tight ends are out, our running back depth is depleted, and our top offensive lineman is out. Plus, our quarterback is hampered. It all added up to what happened on the field today.”

The Minutemen fall to 1-10 overall and 1-6 in the Mid-American Conference, giving them one final shot Friday at Ohio to improve on last year’s one-win season.

Central Michigan improved to 5-6 overall and 4-3 in conference play, keeping alive its bowl hopes.

Crippling the UMass offense for half its games this season has been the absence of dynamic tight end Rob Blanchflower, who is a serious playmaker when healthy and caught 10 passes for 100 yards and a touchdown in last year’s game against the Chippewas. He did not make the trip to Mount Pleasant, nor did left tackle Anthony Dima as both were out with injuries.

“He’s our best offensive player and Anthony Dima is our best offensive lineman,” Molnar said. “They are two seniors that have started more football games than anyone on our offense if not our entire football team. They are both pro prospects and neither one was out there, so it certainly impacts our ability to run the football and pass protect and do the things we need to do.”

UMass held CMU running back Zurlon Tipton, who scored four touchdowns against the Minutemen last season, largely in check this time around despite a 3-yard touchdown run that gave the hosts a 7-0 lead less than four minutes in.

Tipton was a nonfactor after his initial score, but the problems for UMass went much deeper than the Chippewas’ senior running back.

Defensively, the Minutemen tried to cover CMU wide receiver Titus Davis one-on-one much of the afternoon and it did not have a very high success rate. Davis finished with seven receptions for 154 yards and two touchdowns.

“I thought going into this game (Davis) might be the best receiver in the MAC,” Molnar said. “He has great hands and speed, but his size separates him from everybody else. At least the receivers we saw this year.”

Central Michigan, which took advantage of great field position all game due to the stagnant UMass offense, tacked on a Ron Coluzzi 33-yard field goal in the opening minute of the second quarter to go up 10-0.

Shortly thereafter, CMU redshirt freshman safety Tony Annese returned an interception 34 yards for a touchdown to make it 17-0.

Davis got on the board for the first time via a 34-yard touchdown pass from Cooper Rush, while Coluzzi booted a 33-yard field goal before halftime for a 27-0 lead.

In the third quarter, Davis reeled in a 30-yard TD from Rush. The final score of the game was a Coluzzi 24-yard field goal with 7:44 remaining.

UMass crossed the CMU 40-yard line on only three drives. The first time ended with an A.J. Doyle interception, while the next two scoring opportunities ended due to a turnover on downs.

The Minutemen had just 173 yards of total offense, including only 45 through the air in cold and blustery conditions. Freshman Shadrach Abrokwah debuted and led the way with 93 yards rushing on 20 carries, while Jamal Wilson carried four times for 23. Doyle was 6 of 16 through the air with three interceptions.

Molnar and UMass now turn attention to the season finale at Ohio, which lost 44-13 to Kent State on Tuesday.

“I want to win (at Ohio). There’s no doubt about it, we want to win,” added Molnar.