Minutemen close out Maine, 44-31

  • UMass running back Marquis Young had 123 yards and the game-clinching touchdown Saturday against Maine at Fenway Park. Jon Crispin/UMass Athletics

  • Maine running back Josh Mack (34) carries the ball against UMass Saturday in football action at Fenway Park in Boston. ap photo

  • UMass QB Andrew Ford (7) throws a pass in the first quarter against Maine Saturday at Fenway Park in Boston. ap photo

  • Maine QB Chris Ferguson (14) throws a pass in the first quarter Saturday against UMass at Fenway Park in Boston. ap photo

  • UMass wideout Jessie Britt (5) gets congratulations from teammates after his first-quarter touchdown against Maine Saturday at Fenway Park in Boston. AP PHOTO

  • UMass cornerback Lee Moses (3) breaks up a pass intended for Maine receiver Earnest Edwards (81) Saturday at Fenway Park in Boston. ap photo

For The Recorder
Sunday, November 12, 2017

BOSTON — When Marquis Young broke through the line with just under two minutes left, the UMass football team finally relaxed.

There would be no repeat of the program’s loss to Maine in 2013, and no return to the team’s early-season inability to finish off victories.

If Young only got a first down, the Minutemen might have been able to grind the clock out, but he got free and raced 33 yards into the end zone to clinch the 44-31 win, Saturday at Fenway Park.

“We’re learning how to win,” junior quarterback Andrew Ford said. “We’re learning how to win. It’s not always going to be like it was against Georgia Southern (a blowout). We have to find a way to win games going into the fourth quarter. For a young football team, that’s really important.”

The Minutemen improved to 3-7 with the victory, matching the most wins in a season since moving up to FBS play. They’re at BYU, Saturday at 3 p.m.

“It was a good win for us,” said UMass coach Mark Whipple. “I thought all phases did some good things. We have a lot of things to clean up. ... I’m happy for our guys. We got a W. We’ll take it and move on.”

Ford, who returned to action two weeks after leaving the team’s win over Appalachian State on a stretcher, completed 21 of 39 throws for 355 yards and four touchdowns. Three of those went to Andy Isabella, who caught eight passes for 152 yards and the three scores.

UMass survived despite watching an early 24-7 lead evaporate. The game was tied 24-24 for much of the third quarter, making an already cold crowd of 12,794 tense.

But Ford found Isabella in the corner of the end zone from 14 yards out with 2:42 left in the third. Four plays later Maine QB Chris Ferguson put a little too much air under the ball and Lee Moses intercepted it at the UMass 30 and took off down the sideline.

There was a flag on the play as officials investigated a Bryton Barr block on the return that helped part the sea of Maine jerseys between Moses and the end zone. They checked if he had: 1. Targeted a Maine player with a hit to the head, which comes with an ejection. 2. Merely had an illegal block in the back. 3. Did nothing illegal.

Video exonerated Barr on all charges and gave Moses a touchdown. Logan Laurent’s extra point was blocked, leaving UMass with a 37-24 lead.

“It felt amazing when I got in the end zone,” Moses said. “I was a little scared when I saw the flag. I thought it was going to get called back.”

The missed point seemed to loom large when Maine scored to cut the lead to 37-31 and then forced UMass to punt with under 5 minutes left.

But assisted by Maine penalties, the UMass defense held as the Black Bears turned the ball over on downs at their own 35 with 2:11 left, setting up the clinching score for Young (19 carries, 123 yards).

The game looked like a shootout from the start. UMass, which has deferred each time it won the toss this year, elected to receive this time and marched 79 yards in a hurry. Ford completed passes of 16, 28 and finally a 33-yard touchdown pass to Jessie Britt that made it 7-0, 1:31 into the game.

That lead lasted 13 seconds as Earnest Edwards took the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown to make it 7-7.

The Minuteman offense picked up where it left off. Five plays into their second drive, Ford and Isabella hooked up for a 69-yard touchdown that made it 14-7 with 11:32 left.

The scoring pace slowed down slightly before Ford and Isabella hooked up again. The junior receiver was held heading into the end zone, but shook off the contact and hauled in the pass in the left corner of the end zone with 1:02 left in the first to make it 21-7.

After a Laurent 41-yard field goal made it 24-7, the UMass offense sputtered for the rest of the half.

Maine took advantage. After Ferguson capped a 57-yard drive with a 9-yard TD run, Maine sacked Ford in the end zone for a safety that made it 24-16 at intermission.

The Black Bears got the ball to start the second half and delivered their best drive of the game, capped by Josh Mack’s (22 carries, 110 yards) 1-yard run. The 2-point conversion was successful, tying the game a 24-24.