Depleted Minutemen fall to Bobcats

  • UMass Amherst QB Andrew Ford navigates around Ohio University’s Javon Hagan Saturday during a 58-50 football loss at McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Amherst. Ohio University’s Trent Smart (90) looks on. gazette photo/sarah crosby

  • UMass’ Marquis Young, right, steps out of bounds after breaking free of Ohio University’s Javon Hagan Saturday during a 58-50 football loss at McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Amherst. gazette Photo/sarah crosby

  • UMass Amherst’s Marquis Young runs past Ohio University’s Grant Cunningham to score a touchdown Saturday during a 58-50 football loss at McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Amherst. gazette Photo/sarah crosby

For The Recorder
Sunday, October 01, 2017

AMHERST — Ultimately, it came down to a war of attrition and another UMass football loss.

The Minutemen’s string of first-half defensive injuries were just too much to overcome in the second half. Ohio took advantage of several inexperienced reserves, especially in the defensive backfield, and pulled away for a 58-50 win over the Minutemen, Saturday at McGuirk Stadium.

The UMass defense opened the game without starting cornerback Lee Moses, and lost fellow starter Isaiah Rodgers and reserve Bakhari Goodson in the first half. That left redshirt senior Jackson Porter and true freshman Xavier Steele, who had never played corner in a collegiate game, playing every down. Senior defensive tackle Sha-Ki Holines also left the game with an injury, while Da’Sean Downey missed time but returned.

“I didn’t think the game would play out that way. I don’t know if (Ohio coach) Frank (Solich) did, either. We got handcuffed a lot because we lost three corners and Sha-Ki Holines went out,” UMass coach Mark Whipple said. “Our guys that went in there just weren’t good enough. They were just a little bit deeper. Our guys battled. Certainly, with a bunch of the injuries, we’ll need this time off. Then we’ll get ready for the second half of the season.”

Ohio picked apart UMass’ defense on its first two drives of the second half, going 75 and 79 yards with A.J. Ouellette scoring touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving) at the end of the both to put the visitors up 41-27.

After the Minutemen failed to convert on fourth down deep in Ohio territory, a bad Bobcat snap bounced into the end zone for a safety that cut the deficit to 41-29 with 3:14 left in the third. After the ensuing free kick, the Minutemen drove to the Ohio 25, but couldn’t convert on fourth down. Ohio (4-1) padded its lead right away in the fourth quarter, when Ouellette broke tackles for a 60-yard run that set up Dorian Brown’s 15-yard touchdown that made it 48-29 with 13:41 left.

The Minutemen scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns as Andrew Ford hit Marquis Young, Adam Breneman and Brennon Dingle in the end zone. But the Bobcats scored enough points (10) and burned enough clock to keep UMass from coming back.

Because of the cancellation of its Oct. 14 game at South Florida, UMass (0-6) will have 20 days off until it plays Georgia Southern at home on Oct. 21.

Ohio quarterback Nathan Rourke had been an opportunistic runner coming into the game, but he dominated against UMass. He had 113 yards and two touchdowns on 16 rushes to go with his 181 yards passing (13-for-24), two TD throws and no interceptions. Ouellette joined him in triple figures, rushing with 125 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries.

“Today on all the big plays we just didn’t do our job. We didn’t do a good job tackling,” UMass senior linebacker Steve Casali said. “Their QB had a good game. Their running back had a good game. But it came down to not doing our job and bad tackling today.”

Ford returned after leaving last week’s game with an injury. He completed 32 of 54 passes for 390 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. He was frustrated by the two fourth-down stops deep in Ohio territory.

“We left a lot of points out there. As an offense, every single time we touch the ball our goal is seven points,” he said. “We drove the ball down the field and we weren’t able to finish it.”

Neither team had an advantage after an eventful, back-and-forth first half ended 27-27. UMass got the ball to open the game for the first time this season and marched 69 yards to set up its first field goal of the season as Logan Laurent split the uprights from 24 yards away to give the Minutemen a 3-0 advantage.

Ohio answered with its only long drive of the half, capped by Rourke’s 5-yard TD run. UMass QB Ross Comis saw action earlier than normal and rewarded Whipple for playing him. Using his arm and his legs, he led a 75-yard march and ran in from 2 yards out to make it 10-7.

After Laurent’s second field goal (35 yards) put UMass up 13-7 25 seconds into the second quarter, two UMass turnovers and one long punt return aided Ohio’s 17 straight points that gave the Bobcats a 24-13 edge with 7:24 left.

But Young, who was returning kicks for the first time this season, nearly brought one all the way back, but was tripped up at the 6. Ford hit Breneman in the back of the end zone on first down to make it 24-20.

After the Minutemen forced a punt, Ford lofted a 30-yard TD pass to Dingle to complete a 71-yard scoring drive and put the Minutemen up 27-24.

Ohio’s 23-yard field goal with 38 seconds left tied the game at halftime.