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UMass posts first win of season, 17-10

FOXBOROUGH — The deflected pass had Rob Blanchflower spinning like a top and disoriented, but once he could locate the football, the UMass tight end had no problem finding the end zone for the Minutemen’s game-winning touchdown Saturday.

Blanchflower’s 47-yard catch-and-run with 3:17 left in the third quarter put UMass ahead to stay en route to its first win of the season, 17-10 over Miami (Ohio) in Mid-American Conference football before 21,707 at Gillette Stadium.

Blake Lucas added a field goal early in the fourth to put the Minutemen (1-5, 1-1 MAC) up by a touchdown, and the UMass defense held Miami to two turnovers on downs and an interception by Devin Brown in its final three possessions. Khary Bailey-Smith had the other two of UMass’ three interceptions of Miami quarterback Austin Boucher.

“It’s a great feeling. You play the game to win. For coaches, that feeling of victory is very fleeting. But for these young men to experience that feeling of 66 men working together as one, there’s nothing like it,” said UMass head coach Charley Molnar.

Miami (0-6, 0-2 MAC) took a 10-7 lead midway through the third quarter on a 45-yard field goal by Kaleb Patterson, before the Minutemen drove just past midfield. On second-and-11 from the RedHawks’ 47, A.J. Doyle (19-of-35 passing, 249 yards, two TD, two interceptions) play-faked and threw deep down the middle toward Blanchflower on a post pattern. Miami defender Dayonne Nunley skied to tip the ball high in the air, forcing Blanchflower into a 360-degree spin, and the UMass senior then tore the ball away from defensive back Randy Anderson at the 20-yard line and kept his balance on his way to the end zone.

“I think I’ve gotta just thank the man upstairs for that one,” said Blanchflower, who made five catches for a game-high 98 yards. “It hit me right in the bread basket. I think it was more luck than skill. Luckily I was able to track it and not fall over, I was a little dizzy running to the end zone.”

The Minutemen seemed to have taken the lead the first time they touched the ball, with an apparent 77-yard punt return for a score by Trey Dudley-Giles. A holding penalty during the return wiped out the touchdown and Doyle was later intercepted by the Miami 1-yard line by the RedHawks’ Heath Harding.

Their next possession paid off, starting from the UMass 45. The Minutemen drove to the Miami 22 before Doyle stepped up in the pocket and hit Elgin Long for a diving touchdown catch between two defenders. Lucas’ extra point put UMass up 7-0 with 5:51 to go in the first.

Lucas later missed a 54-yard field-goal try wide to the left and Miami got started on its only touchdown drive of the day. Boucher completed three passes to put the RedHawks at the UMass 13, then rolled out and hit tight end Steve Marck on a swing pass. Marck dove over UMass defensive back Quayshun Smith into the end zone to knot the score with 13:20 remaining in the half.

Late in the second quarter, the Minutemen’s Antoine Tharpe was ejected from the game for targeting a defenseless receiver, and Bailey-Smith stepped in to replace him at safety. Tharpe’s misfortune became Bailey-Smith’s windfall when he made a leaping interception of Boucher in the UMass end zone for a touchback, the first of his two picks.

UMass then missed a chance to extend its lead after driving to the Miami 27, when Chrishawn Dupuy intercepted Doyle at the 2-yard line with eight seconds left in the half to preserve the 7-7 tie.

Jamal Wilson led the Minutemen with 82 rushing yards on 23 carries and also caught four balls for 64 yards. Long and Tajae Sharpe also had four catches each for UMass. The Minutemen outgained Miami 376-290.

The RedHawks, who fired head coach Don Treadwell last weekend and promoted quarterback and receivers coach Mike Bath to interim head coach, got 166 passing yards from Boucher (14-of-34) and 55 rushing yards by Dawan Scott.

“We’re partying the whole way back (to Amherst),” said Blanchflower of UMass’ second win and first-ever home win in 1 1/2 seasons of Division I FBS football. “It’s pure silence every other week. When we can, we’re gonna be as loud as we can be.”

“Hopefully the bus doesn’t tip,” chimed in Bailey-Smith.

UMass travels to Amherst, N.Y., Saturday to face Buffalo (4-2, 2-0 MAC) in a 3:30 p.m. game.

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