Same old story for UMass in season-ending loss

November 27, 2016

HONOLULU — Saturday night’s season-ending game at Hawaii started out much like the rest of UMass’ first season of football independence — the Minutemen were competitive, within shouting distance for a while, but eventually unable to keep up with the opposition’s pace and talent.

Twice in the second half, though, the Minutemen flipped that script, first rallying from an 11-point deficit to take a brief 26-24 lead and then scoring twice in less than 90 seconds to answer a Hawaii flurry and tie the game at 40.

That’s when Hawaii struck last, getting a 56-yard touchdown pass from Dru Brown to Keelan Ewaliko with 3:52 to play. Rigoberto Sanchez’s first missed extra point of the season left the door open, and UMass worked its way back as far as the Hawaii 17, but failed on fourth down with 1:05 left and dropped an exciting but frustrating 46-40 decision.

“We’ve fought all year, but we haven’t made enough plays,” said UMass coach Mark Whipple. “I felt bad for the seniors, but they’re the ones who dropped an interception, dropped a touchdown pass. … They’re fun to coach, they’ve worked hard and played hard, but just came up short.”

The Minutemen (2-10) completed the longest road trip in program history, which began last weekend with a 51-9 loss to BYU in Provo, Utah, and continued with an additional 3,000-mile leg to the 50th State.

“(Saturday night) kind of summed up our whole season in one game. We’re never out of anything,” said UMass quarterback Andrew Ford, who threw for 342 yards and three touchdowns against the Rainbow Warriors. “We always thought when we had the ball we were going to score. As long as there was time on the clock, we were going to keep fighting and make sure Hawaii earned everything they got.”

UMass took over after Ewaliko’s touchdown and immediately got a 44-yard completion from Ford to Andy Isabella to put the ball at the UH 31. On third-and-7 from the 17, Marquis Young (117 rushing yards) slipped for a 4-yard loss, and Ford’s fourth-down pass toward Bernard Davis in the back left corner of the end zone was incomplete, despite contact between Davis and Warriors defender Rojesterman Farris.

Hawaii (6-7) took over with 1:05 left and killed the clock from there.

The hosts got the early jump with a 1-yard TD flip from Brown to Dakota Torres less than four minutes into the game, and later led 10-3 before Ford connected with Adam Breneman on a 15-yard scoring pass to tie the game just over a minute into the second quarter.

Brown would add scoring passes to Dylan Collie (43 yards) and Marcus Kemp (11 yards) before the half, while UMass got Logan Laurent’s second field goal of the night to trail 24-13 at the break.

Ford and Isabella got together for a 39-yard TD pass early in the third, although the extra-point try was blocked. After Tedrick Lowery recovered a Hawaii fumble, UMass grabbed the lead for the first time when Ford hit Jalen Williams for 27 yards and a score, making it 26-24 midway through the third.

Hawaii tied the game with a safety when Ford covered an errant snap from center in the UMass end zone. Then the Rainbow Warriors stepped on the gas pedal for two more quick scores. Brown hit Collie for 31 yards and Diocemy Saint-Juste (game-high 122 yards) turned a stretch play into a 40-yard TD slalom to put Hawaii up, 40-26.

John Robinson-Woodgett pulled UMass close with a 1-yard touchdown dive with 6:57 left, at the end of a 16-play, 75-yard march. Hawaii went three-and-out and the Minutemen needed 31 seconds to tie the game, with Young doing the honors on an 18-yard run and Mike Caggiano’s extra-point kick lifting the visitors into a 40-40 tie with 3:52 left.

That set the stage for Hawaii’s quick answering game-winner and UMass’ last near-miss drive.

“We know we can score in the blink of an eye. There wasn’t any concern, we knew it would be a ball game until the end,” said Breneman. “It was a strange 2-10 season, because we don’t really feel like we’re 2-10. We’ve played some really good teams, five Power 5 schools. There was never a time in the season when you didn’t want to be there. We always knew we had a good team. We’ve just got to learn how to finish some of these games.”