Offense lets UMass down in 24-2 loss at FAU

  • UMass lineman Avien Peah tackles FAU’s James Charles with an assist from a teammate, Friday in Boca Raton, Florida. COURTESY RALPH NOTARO

  • UMass gang tackles FAU’s Malcolm Davidson, Friday in Boca Raton, Florida. COURTESY RALPH NOTARO

Staff Writer
Published: 11/21/2020 12:57:48 AM
Modified: 11/21/2020 12:57:35 AM

The UMass football team’s defense introduced itself to Florida Atlantic on Friday. The Minutemen’s special teams made a splash. The offense kept to itself in the corner for a third game in a row in a 24-2 loss in Boca Raton, Florida.

It was their best defensive showing of the season and fewest points allowed since Oct. 17, 2018 at UConn (17).

“Our best defensive effort since we’ve been here,” UMass coach Walt Bell said. “That’s damn good team defense.”

UMass (0-3) sacked electric Owls freshman quarterback Javion Posey six times. That’s its most sacks since November 2017 at BYU. Six players collected the takedowns, and Uchenna Ezewike forced a fumble with 3 minutes, 19 seconds left in the first quarter.

The Minutemen had 14 tackles for loss, an FBS program record and the most since Sept. 27, 2003 against James Madison.

“We did a nice job stopping the run and put them in a lot of disadvantage downs,” Bell said. “(Defensive coordinator Tommy Restivo) had a great plan and put them in some long down and distances.”

FAU (5-1) scored on its first possession, the third straight game UMass has allowed an opening drive touchdown. The Owls faced fourth-and-4 from the UMass 32, but Posey broke through on a read option up the middle. Noah Boykin met him at the goal line and forced a fumble to prevent a touchdown, but FAU recovered in the end zone. Since the offense can’t advance the ball on a fumble, the Owls received the ball at the 1. BJ Emmons punched it in a play later for a 7-9 lead with 10 minutes, 58 seconds left in the quarter.

UMass kept the Owls off the board for the rest of the half.

The Minutemen’s offense just couldn’t find any traction. They only mustered 147 yards of total offense. Posey (293) nearly doubled that on his own.

“On offense that was as embarrassing an outing as I’ve seen, and that will be resolved,” said Bell, who was an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach before he took over the Minutemen. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been around one of those.”

Both quarterbacks, starter Will Koch and fourth quarter reliever Garrett Dzuro, threw an interception. UMass turned the ball over on downs twice and punted nine times. Eight of their 13 drives lasted three plays or fewer. None of them covered more than 25 yards.

“We’ve got to do a better job keeping the defense off the field,” Bell said. “We’ve got to do a better job on first down, we’ve got to do a better job as coaches, we’ve got to do a better job as play callers, we’ve got to do a better job all around.”

The only play separating UMass from its second shutout in three games came from the special teams unit. Late in the third quarter, FAU faced a fourth-and-9 from its own 9 after gaining just a yard on three plays. UMass’ Tanner Davis burst through the Owls line and leapt in front of punter Mat Hayball. Hayball tried to kick it anyway, and Davis spiked it over his head through the back of the end zone.

“That’s a game-changing play on special teams right there,” Bell said. “I feel for the other two-thirds of the football team knowing how well they played and the chance they gave us to go win.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.

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