UMass holds on to grab first win over FIU

  • Andrew Ford (7) of University of Massachusetts runs with the ball during the Umass football game against Florida International University Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 in Amherst.

  • Austin Maloney of Florida International University runs with the ball during the Umass football game against Florida International University Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 in Amherst.

  • Andrew Ford (7) of University of Massachusetts runs with the ball during the Umass football game against Florida International University Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 in Amherst.

  • Stantley Thomas of Florida International University falls onto James Allen (4) of University of Massachusetts during the Umass football game against Florida International University Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 in Amherst.

  • Tony Gaiter IV of Florida International University is brought down by James Bowe Jr. (13) and Lee Moses (3) of University of Massachusetts during the Umass football game against Florida International University Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 in Amherst.

  • Isaiah Rodgers (39) of University of Massachusetts reaches for a ball for an interception during the Umass football game against Florida International University Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 in Amherst.

  • The University of Massachusetts practices before the start of the Umass football game against Florida International University Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 in Amherst.

  • Andy Isabella (23) of University of Massachusetts dodges a tackle during the Umass football game against Florida International University Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 in Amherst.

  • Students tailgate before the start of the Umass football game against Florida International University Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 in Amherst.

  • University of Massachusetts football team warms up during the Umass football game against Florida International University Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 in Amherst.

  • Andrew Ford (7) of University of Massachusetts throws the ball during the Umass football game against Florida International University Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 in Amherst.

  • University of Massachusetts football team runs onto the field during the Umass football game against Florida International University Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 in Amherst.

  • Isaiah Rodgers (39) of University of Massachusetts looks to tackle Alex Gardner of Florida International University during the Umass football game against Florida International University Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 in Amherst.

  • Andy Isabella (23) of University of Massachusetts is tackled by Emmanuel Lubin (20) of Florida International University during the Umass football game against Florida International University Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 in Amherst.

  • Bernard Davis (88) of University of Massachusetts is brought down by Niko Gonzalez of Florida International University during the Umass football game against Florida International University Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 in Amherst.

  • Marquis Young (8) of University of Massachusetts runs down the field with the ball during the Umass football game against Florida International University Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 in Amherst.

  • Alex Wang a drum major for the University of Massachusetts marching band practices before the start of the Umass football game against Florida International University Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 in Amherst.

@MattVautourDHG
Published: 9/17/2016 10:35:10 PM
Modified: 9/17/2016 10:34:43 PM

AMHERST – It looked over when Dan Jonah caught what appeared to be a game-sealing touchdown for UMass with under 4 minutes left.

But replay showed he didn’t maintain possession when he went to the ground.

It looked almost over when Mike Caggiano lined up for a 30-yard field goal on the next play. A make would have stretched the Minutemen’s lead from eight to 10 points. But the kick missed wide to the left, leaving Florida International with hope and the ball with 3:20 remaining.

It wasn’t actually over until Panthers quarterback Alex McGough converted a first down on fourth and a yard at the UMass 47 with 56 seconds left, but lost the ball when defensive lineman Ali Ali-Musa poked it free going into the pile.

When Joe Previte emerged from the pile holding the ball high in his left hand, the UMass sideline exploded in celebration. UMass knelt down three times to run off the final seconds of its 21-13 victory at McGuirk Stadium Saturday.

“We had just talked on the sideline about turnovers,” said junior Da’Sean Downey. “Joe said he was going to go get one. He did. I was just happy for him. Against Florida we got the ball out three times, but we didn’t get a turnover. Today we finished the job. That was the focus going into today.”

UMass won despite playing without starting quarterback Ross Comis and cornerback Jackson Porter all game. Linebacker Shane Huber was injured in the first half. But their replacements filled in well enough to win.

Sophomore quarterback Andrew Ford, a junior college transfer, was 28-for-42 for 278 yards with three touchdowns and one interception in his first collegiate action.

He looked good on the first drive of the game right up until he threw an interception. The giveaway seemed to temporarily rattle the UMass offense.

FIU got on the board first when Austin Taylor made a 47-yard field goal with 6:32 left in the opening quarter.

After a punt and a strong defensive stand pinned FIU deep in its own end, a short punt gave UMass the ball at the FIU 48. Five plays later, Jalen Williams lost his defender and Ford hit him on the right sideline for a 26-yard TD that gave UMass a 7-3 lead with 9:51 left in the first half.

Ford found Andy Isabella late in the half from 31 yards out for touchdown that gave the Minutemen a 14-3 lead at halftime.

FIU grabbed momentum out of intermission marching 75 yards on 16 plays capped by Alex Gardner’s 2-yard TD run.

UMass coach Mark Whipple tried to snatch in back on the next possession, choosing to go for it on fourth-and-inches from his own 44. But the play called for Marquis Young to run right looking for a hole he never found. He lost a yard and FIU took over.

Helped by a 7-yard sack by Da’Sean Downey, FIU was forced to settle for a field goal that made it 14-13 with 4:48 left.

UMass answered with Ford’s best drive of the day. He was 6-for-9 as UMass covered 66 yards on 12 plays. He showed patience waiting for Adam Breneman in the back of the end zone on the 1-yard touchdown pass that made it 21-13 with 1:28 left in the third.

Young showed signs of breaking out for UMass with 85 yards on 24 carries. Breneman caught 10 passes for 77 yards.

Alex Gardner led FIU with 130 yards on 23 carries, while McGough was 20-for-34 for 178 yards.

“It was a really good win,” Whipple said. “In all three phases we did a lot of good things.”

The Minutemen (1-2) host Mississippi State, Saturday at Gillette Stadium.

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




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