Saturday September 3, 2011

WORCESTER -- University of Massachusetts football coach Kevin Morris may not have all the answers after his team's 2011 opener.

One thing is certain: It's a lot easier finding answers to any questions after a win.

Jonathan Hernandez rushed for 151 net yards and sophomore quarterback Kellen Pagel threw two touchdown passes in his UMass debut as the Minutemen handled Holy Cross 24-16 Thursday night at Fitton Field.

Emil Igwenagu's first-quarter touchdown run, his first varsity rushing TD, put the Minutemen up for keeps. They held a double-digit lead until Holy Cross scored a touchdown in the final minute of the game.

"Now we've got a game under our belts," Morris said. "It's a win, so it'll make the meetings and the end result a whole lot happier when you're reviewing the tape because you got the win."

UMass has until Sept. 17 to iron out the kinks and fix what needs fixing.

"We've got to take the time to get this thing right," the coach added.

Pagel wasn't the starting quarterback Thursday night. That honor went to sophomore Brandon Hill, and it was Hill who led the Minutemen to their first touchdown of 2011.

UMass went 3-and-out on its first series. But after a 38-yard punt, the Minutemen were in business at their 48.

On the second play of the drive, Hernandez busted outside for a 17-yard gain. He carried the ball five times for 39 yards on the drive.


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Igwenagu finished the drive with a one-yard touchdown dive out of the fullback position.

"I knew [the play] was in the game plan," he said. "I didn't expect it at that moment."

Holy Cross' Paul Tierson kicked a 43-yard field goal three plays into the second quarter, making it 7-3.

Pagel, a transfer from Bowling Green, took to the field to start the second quarter, and after the Crusaders botched an onside kick, he marched UMass to another TD.

He completed his first pass, a sideline route to Jesse Julmiste, and completed the drive five plays later when he hit Julmiste on a 10-yard slant for his first varsity touchdown pass.

Pagel finished 10 of 16 for 104 yards.

"[Pagel] was a little more consistent with the play calls and in the flow of the game," said Morris. "We decided to stick with him."

Morris said Hill got the start because of his familiarity with the offense. It was something that didn't seem to bother Pagel all that much.

"[It helped] a little bit, to see how things were going, to see what they're doing compared to what we prepared for," Pagel said.

The sophomore quarterback is the son of former NFL signal-caller Mike Pagel. The newest Minuteman said he was relaxed from the start and got more comfortable as the evening wore on.

As to his performance and that of his mates, Pagel was circumspect.

"It's the first game and that pretty much sums it up," he said. "There were a lot of good plays on offense. At the same time, we need to get in the film room to clean up things."