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Vandy pulls away from UMass, 24-7

FOXBOROUGH — The passing of time and the accumulation of injuries finally caught up to UMass football Saturday afternoon, after battling Southeastern Conference foe Vanderbilt to a near-standstill through the first three quarters at Gillette Stadium.

The Commodores scored a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter to extend to a 24-7 non-conference victory before 16,419, an improvement over last year’s 49-7 victory for Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tenn.

Austyn Carta-Samuels threw an 11-yard TD pass to Jordan Matthews early in the fourth to push Vandy’s 10-7 lead to 17-7. Later, at the end of a 14-play, 89-yard drive that consumed just over seven minutes, Jerron Seymour ran it in from a yard out with 4:41 remaining to give the visitors their 24-7 lead.

“We just ran into a string of injuries today that were almost mind-boggling,” said UMass coach Charley Molnar.

The Minutemen (0-4) welcomed back tight end Rob Blanchflower, who had sat out the first three games with injuries and contributed seven catches for 42 yards. But quarterback A.J. Doyle hurt his left ankle and hobbled through much of the second half, while running backs Stacey Bedell and Lorenzo Woodley also sat out after hurting their ankles. Defensive back Joe Colton also went out with a more serious-appearing right knee injury.

Doyle completed 20-of-28 passes for 133 yards and UMass’ only score, a 4-yard TD flip to Tajae Sharpe early in the second quarter.

“We knew they were going to be physical,” said Doyle.

UMass’ Randall Jette came up with an interception of Carta-Samuels on the game’s first possession, then Doyle had an interception wiped out by an offside penalty against Vanderbilt. Later in the series, though, Doyle lost a fumble to the Commodores’ Adam Butler.

Vanderbilt (2-2) cashed in with 4:34 left in the first when Carta-Samuels hit Jonathan Krause (six catches, 105 yards) on a post pattern for 42 yards and the lead score.

On the ensuing drive, UMass moved 75 yards in 14 plays, with Doyle completing 5-of-6 passes. On third-and-goal from the 4-yard line, Doyle threw over the middle to Sharpe (seven receptions, 45 yards), who made the catch at the goal line and then backed Vanderbilt defender Steven Clarke into the end zone for the score. Blake Lucas added the extra point for a 7-7 tie with 13:11 left in the half.

The Commodores moved downfield quickly before UMass’ Kevin Byrne forced a fumble by Carta-Samuels and Jovan Santos-Knox recovered for the Minutemen at the UMass 10. A short punt put Vanderbilt back in business at the UMass 47, and after a nine-play drive, Carey Spear booted a 32-yard field goal to put the Commodores up 10-7 with 1:55 to play.

UMass missed a chance to tie as time expired in the half, when Lucas pushed his 45-yard field goal try wide to the right.

Starting from its own 3-yard line, UMass mounted a 16-play drive that took over seven minutes, during which Doyle hurt his ankle and Mike Wegzyn came on to replace him. The Minutemen advanced to the Vanderbilt 39 before punting. That got Vanderbilt started on an 80-yard march, helped along by a 21-yard flea-flicker pass from Wesley Tate to Carta-Samuels that put the ball at the UMass 11. On the next play, with UMass linebacker Stanley Andre throwing him to the turf, Carta-Samuels got off a wounded-duck pass to Matthews cutting across the middle, and Matthews cut upfield and hurdled UMass defender Jette into the end zone.

With Wegzyn and the ailing Doyle exchanging snaps, UMass was forced to punt on its next set of downs, putting Vanderbilt at its own 11. Carta-Samuels got the Commodores out of the hole with a 26-yard completion to Krause and later connected with Matthews for 19 more yards. Seymour finished off the Minutemen with his 1-yard TD run with 4:41 to go.

Vanderbilt piled up 167 of its 406 total yards in the fourth quarter alone, outgaining UMass 406-248. Carta-Samuels ended 18-of-27 passing for 219 yards, with Matthews catching eight balls for 76 yards. Tate (64 yards) and Seymour (56) led the Commodores’ ground game.

Doyle and Woodley had 29 and 28 rushing yards respectively for UMass.

The Minutemen take next weekend off before opening Mid-American Conference play Oct. 5 at Bowling Green, then host Miami (Ohio) Oct. 12 in Foxborough.

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