Turnovers, sacks haunt UMass football in loss to Boston College


FOXBOROUGH >> It was billed as "The Battle of the Bay State." Saturday's game between the University of Massachusetts and Boston College turned out to be little more than a skirmish.

The Minutemen scored a first-quarter touchdown, but were then held scoreless. The Eagles, on the other hand, scored 26 unanswered points in to a 26-7 win before 25,112 partisans at Gillette Stadium.

It was BC's ninth consecutive win in the series against UMass, now 0-2 on the season.

"I think it just comes down to playing hard and executing. It's the second game in a row that we've gotten them into the fourth quarter, but we just haven't finished," UMass linebacker Shane Huber said. "That's going to be our emphasis going forward."

The Minutemen had the better of play in the first quarter, outgaining the Eagles 93-55 in total offense. When the game was over, UMass had compiled 122 yards in total offense to 344 for Boston College, now 1-1. BC also won the turnover battle, forcing UMass to cough up the ball three times — twice on fumbles and once on an interception. The Eagles had only one interception.

BC quarterback Patrick Towles, a graduate transfer from the University of Kentucky had 257 of the Eagles' 344 yards in total offense. He completed 12 of 22 passes for 191 yards and those two touchdowns. He also ran the ball 12 times for a net 66 yards. Jeff Smith caught five passes for 98 yards.

BC may also have found a kicker. Junior Mike Knoll missed his first PAT, but then made two and kicked a pair of field goals. It was quite a change from last week when Colton Lichtenberg missed two field goals in the loss to Georgia Tech in Ireland.

It is often said that statistics don't often tell the story. On Saturday, they did.

"Give BC the credit, especially their defensive line," UMass coach Mark Whipple said. "We had a couple of chances in the first half and didn't capitalize on them."

The sequence that might have swung the game for Boston College came late in the second quarter.

Boston College had taken a 13-7 lead on a pair of long touchdown passes from Towles to Smith — one for 46 yards and one for 36. A punt by UMass' Lucien Laurent pinned BC at its own 18-yard line with 1:54 left. On the first play from scrimmage, Huber picked off a pass from Towles and returned it to the Eagles' 20-yard line. Three plays later, quarterback Ross Comis was sacked by BC linebacker Connor Strachan, fumbled and the Eagles recovered the ball. It was one of eight sacks on the redshirt sophomore quarterback from Weirton, West Virginia.

"I thought the big play was that Shane made a good play on the interception and we had a little momentum," Whipple said in his postgame news conference. "Ross turned the ball over on third down, so we didn't get points.

"Sometimes, we get good field position this year and we turn the ball over."

It was the first career interception for Huber, a redshirt junior from Basking Ridge, N.J.

"On defense, we just kind of talk about being the fire for the team," he said. "We try to make as many plays as possible to put our offense in good position. Unfortunately, it didn't always work out."

That might have been an understatement.

After the first quarter, nothing went right for the UMass offense. When the clock read all zeroes, Comis had completed only 11 of 28 passes for 145 yards, one interception and those eight sacks. Marquis Young led the UMass ground game, but managed only 27 net yards on 17 carries for a 1.6-yards-per-carry average. Penn State transfer Adam Breneman had three catches for 69 yards. One was on a first-quarter, 58-yard touchdown pass.

On that play, Comis scrambled to buy himself some time, and Breneman got open and was untouched on his way to the end zone.

But that was the lone highlight for the UMass offense. Several times, Comis had open receivers on deep balls, but just overthrew them. Other times, the BC pass rush — led by linebackers Strachan and Matt Milano — overwhelmed the UMass offensive line.

"One of our new staff this year — a BC alum — Coach [Ricky] Brown who played in the NFL, talked to us last night a lot about finishing and what it means to finish here at BC," said Strachan. "I think that really inspired a lot of guys, and it's been something we've had to work on."

As for the work-in-progress that is UMass?

"You lose the turnover game by two and you don't have a shot against these people," said Whipple, "against teams in the Power 5. That's not going to happen."

Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.


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