UMass football rolls over Wagner on senior day

  • UMass tight end Adam Breneman, top, bowls over Jesse Flaherty of Wagner, bottom, as he dives into the end zone for a touchdown in the first quarter Saturday at McGuirk Alumni Stadium. UMass won 34-10. J. ANTHONY  ROBERTS

  • UMass receiver Andy Isabella, right, outruns a pack of Wagner defenders into the end zone for a touchdown in the second quarter Saturday at McGuirk Alumni Stadium. J. ANTHONY  ROBERTS

Saturday, October 29, 2016

AMHERST — For the first time in a very long time, the UMass football team got an easy win.

Wagner, a Football Championship Series team and not an especially good one, was overmatched from the opening kickoff and the Minutemen cruised to a 34-10 win Saturday at McGuirk Stadium before 8,468 fans.

“The last couple weeks have been tough,” said junior quarterback Andrew Ford, whose team snapped a five-game losing streak. “We thought we were in some games we could have won. It’s a tribute to this group of guys always believing we have a chance to win a football game. It feels good to come through.”

UMass (2-7) scored on six of its first nine drives and led 34-0 deep into the third quarter before Wagner (4-4) got on the scoreboard.

“Our guys were focused. They were good this morning and they were good all week,” UMass coach Mark Whipple said. “We just went out and did what we had to do. We went out in the first half and set the tone.”

The Minutemen, who have usually deferred when they win the opening coin toss, took the ball  Saturday and set an early tone.

Even a holding penalty did not slow the initial march as Ford led a six-play, 75-yard drive that climaxed with a 28-yard touchdown pass to Adam Breneman that  gave UMass a 7-0 lead 3 minutes, 6 seconds into the game.

After the teams traded punts, the Seahawks moved the ball in big chunks deep into Minuteman territory before Charan Singh and Sha-Ki Holines broke through the Wagner offensive line and stuffed Matthias McKinnon on fourth-and-1 at the UMass 16.

Buoyed by the stop, the Minuteman offense gobbled up 84 yards on six plays with the Cedar Cliff, Pennsylvania, High School teammates hooking up for their second touchdown. Ford found Breneman from 6 yards out to make it 14-0 with 47 seconds left in the first quarter.

UMass rolled from there adding a touchdown on a 55-yard pass from Ford to Andy Isabella and two field goals before halftime for a 27-0 lead at intermission.

Ford scored on a 16-yard scramble in the third quarter to end any suspense. The Seahawks scored the last 10 points.

The Minuteman offensive line limited the pressure on Ford throughout the game. The junior quarterback used the ample time in the pocket to pick Wagner apart. Ford, who had 340 passing yards at halftime, completed 25 of 39 passes for 355 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.

“The offensive line has really been coming along,” Ford said. “They’re doing a really great job. I couldn’t do what I did today without them.”

The UMass individual statistics might have been larger if the Minutemen kept their foot on the gas pedal down the stretch. Even still they put up gaudy numbers.

Breneman, who was already leading the nation in receptions by a tight end, padded his total with eight catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns. Isabella had eight catches for 123 yards and one TD.

“They’re both really good players that make my job easy,” Ford said. “I know where they’re going to be and they have the ability to make big-time plays.”

UMass has not played many games it was expected to win. Breneman said he was pleased with how the players handled it.

“It’s a game we felt we should have won,” Breneman said. “Those games always scare you a little bit. The whole team did a really good job of staying focused. We were up 14-0 against Tulane (Oct. 1) and that got away from us. We made sure when we had the lead we kept pressing on.”

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