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UMass Minutemen Roll Over Bryant Bulldogs
The Massachusetts football team put last weekend’s loss to No. 9 Richmond behind them really quickly.
It only took 1 minute, 39 seconds for senior quarterback Liam Coen and UMass’ offense to respond in its 42-7 win over Bryant on Saturday.
“I was concerned after last week’s tough home loss how we would respond. I think the guys took care of that, showing great maturity,” UMass coach Don Brown said. “We did not try to candy coat it, come up with fake motivation; there was none of that stuff. It was all about us this week. Just coming back and playing the game that we were capable of [playing].”
After a 30-yard kickoff return by Courtney Robinson that started the No. 17 Minutemen off at their own 37-yard line, Coen found Victor Cruz deep down the middle of the field for a 35-yard completion.
On the next play, Coen found Cruz again on a crossing pattern across the middle of the field that ended as a 21-yard gain and put the ball at Bryant’s 6-yard line. After a holding penalty on UMass, Coen completed his third pass of the drive to Jeremy Horne.
Horne, who turned 22 Saturday, took the short pass from Coen and ran up the right side of the field, making tacklers miss and hurdling another to get into the end zone. Horne was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct after celebrating the touchdown.
“He told me before the game [that it was his birthday],” Brown said after the game. “But I still yelled at him after he got the celebration penalty.”
Horne had a lot more to celebrate later in the game, but held his emotions in check. The wideout finished the day with five catches, three for touchdowns, and 182 yards, the fourth most receiving yards in a game in UMass (5-3, 2-2 Colonial Athletic Association) history.
The defense that Bryant (4-4) played enabled Horne to have the success that he had, according to Brown.
“If we can get [Horne] vertically on people in man-to-man situations, he is the guy we want to get it to,” Brown said.
UMass continued the success it had offensively against the Bulldogs, a football program making the transition from Division II to Division I Football Championship Series, for the rest of the first half. Coen found Horne again at the start of UMass’ next drive for 35 yards and then found Cruz deep three plays later on a 37-yard touchdown reception.
On the completion to Horne, Coen passed the 10,000 passing yard mark for his career and finished the game at 10,300 yards.
After the Minutemen’s defense forced a three-and-out by Bryant, Coen needed just one play to give UMass a 21-0 lead. Starting at their own 20-yard line, Coen found a wide open Matt Silver. Silver took the ball 80-yards for a touchdown, after catching a block from wideout Joe Sanford.
The reception was Silvers’ first career touchdown and the longest for the Minutemen since Coen completed an 89-yard pass to Rasheed Rancher on Sept. 23, 2006.
Bryant would score on its next possession on a 15 play, 75-yard drive to make the score 21-7, before UMass would score another 21-unanswered points.
The UMass offense was efficient the entire day, needing an average of just over 1:15 on each of its six scoring drives.
Coen finished the day 11-of-18 for 389 yards and five touchdowns. He and his wide receivers averaged over 35 yards per completion.
“We’ve kind of lived on big plays,” Coen said.
“They ran their man packages, and we were praying for it. That’s what you pray for as a quarterback-wideout tandem.”
On the day, seven of Coen’s 11 completions were for over 20 yards.
The success of the offense had a lot to do with the play of its offensive line; the unit held the Bryant defensive line without a sack,
“I knew we would have some big plays but I wanted to make sure [Coen] made it through the game healthy,” Brown said. “These kinds of teams concern you when they are blitzing all the time because all you need is one protection error and your quarterback is down for the rest of the game.”
The victory did come with a price as UMass lost cornerback Sean Smalls in the first quarter. Smalls injured his ankle as he was tripped up heading into the end zone on a punt return. The return was nullified because of a block in the back.
Smalls returned on the next Bryant drive but left the game for good after reaggravating the injury. The status of the injury was unknown.
Brown was pleased with the way his team responded after their loss last weekend, but was ready to put this game behind him as soon as it was done as well.
“I thought it was a good response and it showed a lot of maturity and now we have to get ready to go to Rhode Island,” Brown said. “We didn’t play well there a year ago and we have to go down there and play the best game of the year.”
Football: Minutemen roll over Bulldogs
Jeffrey R. Larnard, The UMass Collegian Staff
Media Credit: John Chou/The UMass Collegian