UMass starts fast, blows past Charlotte

Staff Writer
Published: 9/22/2018 6:49:22 PM

AMHERST – After three weeks away from home, UMass’ return to McGuirk Alumni Stadium began with a bang.

Senior Marquis Young returned the opening kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown, sparking the Minutemen to three touchdowns in the first 3:14 of the game. The fast start was more than enough to energize UMass in a 49-31 win over Charlotte at home Saturday.

Young received the kickoff and almost immediately a wide seam began to form in the middle of the field for the running back. He cleared through the first wave by  the time he hit the UMass 30 and then it became a race against Charlotte kicker Jonathan Cruz, which Young easily won.

The Minutemen (2-3) defense forced a three-and-out on Charlotte’s first possession and then received some luck when 49ers punter Kule Corbett’s knee was on the ground at his own 20 when he collected the bouncing snap. Charlotte proceeded to jump offsides and Michael Curtis – who started his first career Division I game – found Andy Isabella on a screen pass for a 15-yard touchdown.

On Charlotte’s next drive, UMass registered its first sack of the season as Jake Byczko and Leon Flanagan Jr. hit 49ers quarterback Chris Reynolds simultaneously, jarring the ball free. Byczko recovered the fumble and Young converted the takeaway into points two plays later with a touchdown run.

Curtis, who was playing in place of injured senior signal callers Ross Comis and Andrew Ford, did more than enough to help move the Minutemen down the field. The redshirt junior finished 12-of-19 passing for 189 yards and two touchdowns, but also displayed his athleticism to help extend plays.

Twice he turned designed passing plays into touchdown runs. He barreled his way through two defenders into the end zone in the middle of the first quarter to give UMass a 28-0 lead. Then in the middle of the third quarter, Curtis evaded the pressure and leaped almost six feet in the air to hurdle the Charlotte defense and extend the Minutemen’s advantage to 32 points.

Curtis finished with nine runs for 35 yards and the two touchdowns.

Isabella caught at least two passes for a 29th straight game, hauling in six passes for 85 yards and two touchdowns. Young also scored two offensive touchdowns, running for 74 yards and the two scores on 12 carries.

After a strong start, the UMass defense began to show some wear at the end of the first half. Charlotte (2-2) drove 116 yards combined on the final two drives of the half, punching the ball into the end zone on a Benny LeMay run with 4:32 left in the second quarter before tacking on a 33-yard field goal as time expired.

Excluding the 13 yards lost on the punter mishap, Charlotte gained just 22 yards on its first six drives – five of which came via a penalty – and collected just one first down in the process. The 49ers, who finished with 364 yards, scored on five of their final eight drives, losing the ball on downs on the other three possessions.

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