UMass falls to 0-3 with 17-7 loss to Monarchs

  • UMass QB Ross Comis, third from left, passes against Old Dominion Saturday at McGuirk Stadium. For the Recorder/JERREY ROBERTS

  • UMass QB Andrew Ford, right, passes against Old Dominion, Saturday at McGuirk Stadium. For the Recorder/JERREY ROBERTS

  • UMass teammates Andy Isabella, right, and Jessie Britt celebrate Isabella’s touchdown against Old Dominion Saturday at McGuirk Stadium. For the Recorder/JERREY ROBERTS

  • UMass QB Ross Comis looks for running room against Old Dominion Saturday at McGuirk Stadium. For the Recorder/JERREY ROBERTS

  • UMass’ Andy Isabella runs 60 yards for a touchdown against Old Dominion Saturday at McGuirk Stadium.

  • UMass’ Cycoby Burch runs for a gain against Old Dominion Saturday at McGuirk Stadium. For the Recorder/JERREY ROBERTS

  • UMass’ Marquis Young runs for a gain as Jordan Young, of Old Dominion approaches Saturday at McGuirk Stadium. UMass QB Andrew Ford, top, and Brennon Dingle watch the play. For the Recorder/JERREY ROBERTS

For The Recorder
Sunday, September 10, 2017

AMHERST — UMass’ second-half offensive woes of last week’s loss carried into this week.

The Minutemen wasted a mostly strong defensive effort and fell to Old Dominion, 17-7, Saturday at McGuirk Stadium.

For the first three halves of the season, the UMass offense played well enough to stay close. But after a scoring drive to open the second half last week, the Minutemen have had a hard time moving the ball and an even harder time scoring.

“The defense played great today. This is on the offense. This is on me,” UMass quarterback Andrew Ford said, motioning to defensive tackle Ali Ali-Musa sitting next to him. “Ali and his guys did an unbelievable job today. We have to get better.”

UMass coach Mark Whipple offered a similar assessment.

“The defense played well enough to win,” he said. “The offense shot itself in the foot tonight.”

UMass struggled to block effectively on both rushing and passing plays. Ford (21-for-32, 236 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions) was sacked eight times and hurried throughout. The Minutemen averaged just 2.2 yards per carry. Adam Breneman returned from his injury, but had just three catches for 18 yards.

“We went up against a really talented, experienced defense that just made more plays than us today,” Ford said. “It was tough to get into a rhythm. I took some sacks today that I shouldn’t have and kind of put us behind the chains. When you’re behind the chains, it’s tough to get anything going.”

Jeremy Cox, who rushed for 162 yards against the Minutemen last year, was contained for most of the game, but had 41 yards in the fourth quarter to finish with 97 on 25 carries.

When UMass stopped Old Dominion on fourth and goal at the 1 with 12 minutes, 12 seconds remaining, it looked like the Minutemen had an opportunity for some momentum, trailing 10-7. But pinned against its own goal line, UMass narrowly avoided a safety and was forced to punt from the end zone. Logan Laurent launched the ball 47 yards, but Old Dominion returned it to the Minuteman 34, forcing the defense back on the field less than a minute after it returned to the sideline.

“That was a big stop for us,” Ford said. “Unfortunately we weren’t able to do anything with that.”

Eight plays later, Old Dominion had third and goal from the 7. ODU quarterback Jordan Hoy faked a handoff and took off. One UMass defender overran him and the Monarch line took care of the rest, clearing the path. Hoy dove over the goal line with 6:59 left to make it 17-7.

“Our guys had a great goal-line stand, but with the field position we couldn’t get out of there,” Whipple said. “They had a big call on the (touchdown). That made it a two possession game. ... If we hold them to a field goal there it’s different. They made the plays and we didn’t.”

The Minutemen (0-3) visit Temple Friday at 7 p.m.

ODU (2-0) got on the board first on an opening drive that was likely disappointing to both sides. UMass had chances to stunt the drive sooner but missed tackles. The Monarchs had first and 10 from the Minuteman 16, but were slowed there and settled for a 28-yard Nick Price field goal with 10:32 left in the first.

Both offenses sputtered after that, as the first half featured seven punts and a failed fourth-down try by each team. ODU found rhythm right before intermission, moving 86 yards on nine plays. A 26-yard pass from Blake LaRussa to Travis Fulgham set up a 2-yard TD pass from LaRussa to Jonathan Duhart with exactly a minute left in the half.

UMass ended the shutout two plays into the second half. On first down from its own 40, Ford dumped the ball to Andy Isabella (five catches for 105 yards) at the 45.

Three players got within two feet of him, but the former Ohio high school sprint champion accelerated away from them for a 60-yard touchdown that made it 10-7, 34 seconds into the second half. But they didn’t score again.

“We have a short week this week. We’re already on to Temple,” Ford said. “We just have to stick together. We have to believe in each other, trust in each other. We’ll turn this thing around.”