QB Andrew Ford happy to be back leading UMass football after scary injury

  • UMass quarterback Andrew Ford, center, throws a pass in the first quarter against Maine, Saturday at Fenway Park in Boston. AP

  • UMass quarterback Andrew Ford sets himself to pass against Maine, Saturday at Fenway Park. Jon Crispin/UMass Athletics

Monday, November 13, 2017

BOSTON — Andrew Ford knew he was going to get hit at some point in Saturday’s game against Maine at Fenway Park.

The UMass quarterback wanted to get hit, get up and get past it.

He got bumped a couple times, but was mostly clean in the first quarter. On the first play of the Minutemen’s first second-quarter drive, Charles Mitchell got him, dragging him down for a loss of 7. UMass immediately followed that with a delay of game penalty, making it fair to wonder if Ford was shaken up by the sack.

After a short run by Marquis Young, UMass had third-and-20 from its own 15. Rather than run a conservative running play to likely set up a safe punt, Whipple called a pass play, and Ford put the sack and the injury behind him. He connected with Adam Breneman for a 22-yard completion, extending a drive that ended in a UMass field goal.

“Once I took that first hit, it was back to football. Last week was tough, but coming out and executing as early as we did got me back in the flow,” Ford said. “Once we started playing it was just football again. I wasn’t necessarily scared. I was just anxious to get that first hit out of the way and get back to football.”

Just seeing Ford on the field was uplifting for anyone who saw the last time he’d been hit. In the Minutemen’s win over Appalachian State, after throwing an interception, he retreated trying to help prevent it from being returned for a touchdown. He never saw the block from the App State player that sent him sprawling. He landed on his neck awkwardly and stayed face down on the ground.

McGuirk Stadium fell uneasily silent as medical staff rushed to Ford’s side. Ford could feel his toes and when head trainer Jennifer Brodeur asked if he could feel her touch his leg, he could. But still, he was naturally nervous. He knew his mother, who wasn’t at the game, would be especially nervous watching from Pennsylvania.

“When they start bracing you up, you start thinking the worst,” he said. “I do remember Ms. Jenn and her staff telling me to wiggle my toes and touching my calf to make sure I could feel it. Once I could do that I knew whatever the injury was, wasn’t life-changing. It is scary. When you’re face down and hearing them talk about bringing the ambulance on the field, it is scary.”

At Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, X-rays revealed that there was no serious damage beyond the concussion, his second of the season.

“A lot goes through your mind when you’re being carried off the field. Luckily it was not as bad as it could have been,” he said. “It’s still a reality check when it happens.”

Ford wasn’t ready to come back last week at Mississippi State and wasn’t sure he’d be ready this week. He wasn’t officially cleared until Friday.

“I took my rehab pretty seriously. There’s not really much you can do for a concussion, but I forced myself to sit in a dark room,” he said. “It was boring and I was frustrated. Once they cleared me on Friday, the only thing I was worried about was getting a win today.”

He completed 21-of-39 passes for 355 yards and four touchdowns. He was sacked five times.

If he hadn’t been cleared, UMass would have started either Michael Curtis or Randall West as junior Ross Comis, normally the Minutemen’s No. 2 QB, is still coming back from a concussion he suffered against Mississippi State.

“We joked that we helped each other out of the field because we’re seeing the same things. Now we’re helping each other with concussions. We’re both bouncing back a little quicker than originally thought,” said Ford, who dedicated Saturday’s win to Comis. “It was tough not having him here. He’s an emotional leader for this team. I was excited to get the win for him.”

Going forward he and the medical staff will have to be hyper-vigilant any time Ford gets hit up high.

“I honestly didn’t think about it until this year. I hadn’t had a concussion until this year. Now that I’ve had one, I understand where people are coming from and I have to take it a little more seriously,” he said. “Now there is a lot of soul searching, thinking about what’s really important. It is scarier now that I’m on the other side of it. I have faith that the man upstairs is going to keep me safe. If I’m on the field I just have to do whatever to help the team win.”

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