Falcons slam the door on UMass, 24-0

FOXBOROUGH — When the most newsworthy item to come out of a UMass football game is the fact that a Minuteman player posted on his Twitter feed from the locker room at halftime, it’s clear that the game itself didn’t generate much in the way of highlights.

Although the UMass defense played credibly Saturday, the offensive unit was exactly that — offensive — never advancing deeper than the Bowling Green 31-yard line in a 24-0 shutout loss to the Falcons before a Homecoming crowd of 10,846 at Gillette Stadium.

Bowling Green (5-3, 3-1 Mid-American Conference), which won its fourth straight game, turned the tide with a pair of touchdowns less than a minute apart late in the third quarter, expanding a 7-0 lead to 21-0, and that was far out of the Minutemen’s reach.

“There’s really no excuse for us to go out there and not perform at a higher level than we did,” said UMass coach Charley Molnar. “Defensively, I think they played the best they’ve played this year. They tackled well, we stopped the run, and made some great individual efforts. Offensively, we couldn’t give them any life, we just didn’t have it today. So much of it was just not executing, just pull-your-hair-out things that some of the guys did.”

UMass (0-7, 0-4 MAC) had the ball for 15 possessions on the afternoon, but 10 of them ended in punts, four in interceptions and one in a turnover on downs. The Minuteman offense averaged just a shade under two yards per play, with 118 total yards on 60 plays, and converted only 1-of-16 third downs.

Freshman quarterbacks Mike Wegzyn and A.J. Doyle combined to complete 13-of-34 passes for only 34 yards. Each was picked off twice. Michael Cox led the Minutemen with 37 rushing yards on 10 carries.

While UMass’ first six series of the day all ended in punts, Bowling Green broke on top after a 16-yard punt return by Ryan Burbrink put the Falcons in fine starting position at the Minuteman 35. Matt Schilz threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Shaun Joplin, with Stephen Stein adding the extra point to put the visitors up 7-0 with 5:12 left in the first quarter.

The Falcons missed a chance to extend their lead before halftime when Jude Adjei-Barimah (two interceptions) picked off Wegzyn and returned it to the UMass 19, but a personal foul during the runback moved them back to the 34 and Bowling Green eventually lost the ball on downs.

At the half, the Minutemen had only three first downs and 53 total yards, but trailed by only a touchdown.

“They were jacked up. Guys absolutely could taste it,” said Molnar of the mood in the halftime locker room. “They saw an opportunity in front of them. They really trusted that the offense would get untracked and the defense was going to keep doing what they were doing.”

Bowling Green nursed its 7-0 lead until late in the third quarter, mounting a 74-yard drive helped along by two pass-interference calls against the Minutemen inside their own 20. From the UMass 2, Schilz (21-of-36, 188 yards) flipped a scoring pass to tight end Alex Bayer. Stein’s extra point made it 14-0 with 3:42 left.

Two plays later, BG linebacker Dwayne Woods stepped in front of a Wegzyn pass for the interception and returned it 48 yards for a touchdown, the Falcons’ second score in the span of 51 seconds.

From that point, Doyle came on to replace Wegzyn at quarterback and drove the Minutemen to the BG 31, helped by a 32-yard run by Cox. But Doyle’s deep ball on fourth down was picked off by the Falcons’ Jerry “Booboo” Gates at the 5-yard line, and Gates returned it to his own 42 on the final play of the third quarter.

That began a drive that ended on Tyler Tate’s 42-yard field goal with 10:11 to play, creating the 24-0 final.

Minuteman punter Colter Johnson, called upon repeatedly, nailed five of his 10 punts for 50 yards or better, including boots of 66 and 64 yards.

Defensively, freshmen Kassan Messiah (16 tackles) and D’Metrius Williams (seven tackles, three pass breakups) stood out for the Minutemen, but Williams’ exuberance got the best of him when he tweeted during the halftime break: “I’m out here ballin’ .. 2nd half bouta get started time too get mo’ money.” A reporter replied and suggested he stop tweeting at halftime, but Williams tweeted back, “lol don’t tell coach! but im done now.” Williams’ tweets, predictably, quickly made the viral rounds of the Internet.

Molnar, who was made aware of the situation at game’s end, praised Williams’ play and said of the tweets, “It was immature on his part, obviously. I’ll take the blame on that and say I just didn’t drive it home enough. I guess I’ve got to say it every week: ‘Don’t tweet during halftime.’ But he did. I’ll deal with it. He made a mistake and he’ll suffer the consequences, but it’s not a death sentence for him by any stretch.”

UMass travels to Nashville, Tenn., Saturday for a 7 p.m. game against Southeastern Conference foe Vanderbilt (3-4).

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