UMass football falters late in 52-31 loss to Troy

  • UMass head coach Mark Whipple, right, talks with quarterback Andrew Ford during a game against South Carolina. UMass lost to Troy on Saturday. AP

For the Gazette
Published: 11/5/2016 10:23:29 PM

TROY, Ala. – If ever a team needed a bye week, it might be the UMass Minutemen.

Despite a quick start and even a small third-quarter rally, the Minutemen faltered late in a 52-31 loss to Troy Saturday night at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

After UMass (2-8) cut Troy’s lead to 28-24 in the third quarter, the Trojans rattled off 24 unanswered points to put the game away.

“Ten games in a row against some pretty good people – we’re just beat up,” UMass head coach Mark Whipple said. “Da’Sean Downey, we thought he could go. He makes a difference in the pass game, and he’s our best defensive player.”

UMass jumped out to a 14-0 lead, but trailed 28-17 at halftime. UMass’ defense, though, forced a three-and-out on Troy’s opening drive of the third quarter, which allowed the Minutemen to eat into the Trojans’ lead.

UMass quarterback Andrew Ford, despite a sack and two holding penalties, carved up Troy’s secondary. Two passes to Jalen Williams covered 53 yards, including the final 31 for a touchdown that sliced the Trojan advantage to 28-24.

“We knew we were in the game. We knew this was a really good football team, so we knew we had to come out like we did to start the second half,” Ford said. “We cut it, and unfortunately it wasn’t enough.”

A couple of drives later, the Trojans (7-1) extended the lead to 31-24 with a 21-yard field goal from Ryan Kay. Momentum changed on the next special teams play, though.

Troy squibbed a high kick, which Malik Lee fumbled at the UMass 31. Troy recovered and used a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct call on the Minutemen to move to the 16-yard line.

On the next play, Troy quarterback Brandon Silvers threw to wideout John Johnson, who threw to a wide open Tevaris McCormick for a touchdown. Kay’s extra point extended Troy’s lead to 38-24 with 1:39 left in the third quarter.

“We held them to a field goal and then a senior dropped (the kickoff),” Whipple said. “We’ve seen it, worked on it. Dropped the ball, got it, we got the 15-yarder, and they throw one there. They got the momentum back there then.”

Troy added touchdowns on its next two possessions to put the game out of reach. Troy head coach Neal Brown, a former UMass player and coach, believed fatigue played a role in UMass’ faltering.

“This was their 10th game in a row, which is crazy to me. I don’t think that’s probably fair – I guess I can say that because it’s my alma mater,” he said. “I thought we got in some drives. Their defensive guys are not as deep, and I thought it wore on them a little bit. I thought they had some nagging injuries that reoccurred in this game.”

The Minutemen raced out of the gate to a 14-0 lead. Ford connected with Williams (four catches, 108 yards) for a 48-yard gain on the first play and consistently found open targets across the middle. Ford, who finished 23 of 44 for 316 yards and three touchdowns passing, hit Dan Jonah for a 5-yard touchdown pass just 1:24 in the game.

On the Trojans’ opening drive, Isaiah Rodgers intercepted an underthrown pass from Silvers and returned it to the Troy 11. Two plays later, Ford found tight end Adam Breneman for an 11-yard TD pass.

Just 2:31 into the game, UMass led 14-0.

“I thought our guys were ready to play,” Whipple said. “We had some things in the plan that we thought would be good, and we made a play on defense. That was the only time we made a play on defense.”

Troy regrouped, though, offensively and defensively.

Silvers connected on eight consecutive passes on the next drive in guiding Troy to a touchdown. He finished the drive with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Emanuel Thompson.

The Trojans’ defense followed with a pair of three-and-outs, allowing Troy’s offense to capitalize on momentum. Troy tied the game on a 13-yard run from Jordan Chunn and surged ahead on a 3-yard run from Silvers.

Troy led 21-14 after the first quarter and 28-17 at halftime.

“Credit to those guys,” Whipple said. “They have a lot of good athletes, and they were fresh. We just kinda wore down again. It’ll be a good time for an off week.”

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