Matt Vautour: Despite familiar hurdles, UMass football rallies for best FBS win in program history

  • Kicker Logan Laurent, left, and tight end Adam Breneman celebrate after UMass’ 30-27 win over Appalachian State at McGuirk Stadium Saturday. Jon Crispin/UMass

@MattVautourDHG
Published: 10/29/2017 9:10:50 PM

AMHERST

As the clock ran down on UMass’ best win as an FBS program, it had all the warning signs of another painful loss for a program that’s almost become numb to them.

As it wound down, it felt like a conglomeration of all the ways the Minutemen have found to lose games.

Blown double-digit lead? See also: Hawaii.

Offense disappears in the second half? Coastal Carolina the Sequel.

Injury to Andrew Ford damages UMass’ chance for an upset? Tennessee Part Deux.

Can’t close the deal against a team with a winning record? Too many to mention.

The last two minutes figured to add to that list. UMass has had plenty of games where its gotten the ball late with a chance for a hero drive to win. But instead of channeling their inner Elway, the Minutemen have always instead gone the L way.

When Logan Laurent was called on first for a 45-yard, hardly-a-gimme, game-tying field goal and then for a winning kick, visions of seasons filled with missed kicks came to the memory of every long-suffering UMass fan.

But the relaxed Californian made both field goals, expunging some old demons in the process.

He was far from the only hero. Quarterback Ross Comis wasn’t as good as he was last week, but when the Minutemen needed to drive to get into field goal range, Comis led the march. The entire team’s ability to bounce back from Ford’s scary injury said something about its character, too.

Bryton Barr made 15 tackles and pounced on the fumble that set the stage for Laurent’s clutch kicks.

On top of that, UMass won despite making plenty of mistakes. The Minutemen turned the ball over and gave App State 14 points off of turnovers. The players and coaching staff each made poor decisions at time that cost them. But despite that, they figured out a way to come out on top

Beating Georgia Southern was a good win because when victories have been this hard to come by, beating anyone feels good. But the Eagles are a discombobulated mess, and they fired their coach shortly after the game.

App State is a different animal. The Mountaineers are the defending Sun Belt champs and need one win to be bowl eligible. UMass hadn’t beaten an FBS team with a winning record since moving up in 2012. The first one was memorable.

If this continues, those other near misses are going to loom large. If the Minutemen had gone even 2-4 in their first six games, they’d be back at .500 and dreaming of bowl eligibility.

Whipple isn’t thinking about what ifs.

“I think this will help us a long ways down the road. It certainly gives the kids belief,” he said. “I think last week helped. I think it’s great for the young guys. I’m just more importantly happy for the seniors. We finished the year with two wins (in a row) at McGuirk.”

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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