UMass football falls to Hawaii on late touchdown
"This one hurts, I'll be honest with you," UMass tight end Adam Breneman said after Hawaii snatched a win away from the Minutemen. "It hurts really bad."
An eight-yard touchdown pass from Hawaii quarterback Dru Brown to Metuisela 'Unga in the final minute capped off a frenetic comeback and the Rainbow Warriors beat the Minutemen 38-35 in the first game for both teams.
At one point, UMass led Hawaii by two touchdowns, but the Rainbow Warriors scored the final 10 points of the game, escaping the Pioneer Valley with a hard-fought win. They outscored UMass 17-7 in the fourth quarter.
"Both teams made mistakes. They came up and made one more play," said UMass coach Mark Whipple. "We made too many mistakes defensively in the back end. I think that'll get rectified. We have some new guys back there.
"We didn't practice well on Tuesday. Those same issues came up today. We made some mental mistakes, offensively up front, and that cost us. Credit Hawaii. They did a good job."
It was the second time in as many games that Hawaii scored a late touchdown to beat UMass. In season fin last November, Brown threw a 56-yard TD pass to Keelan Ewaliko with 3:52 remaining in the game.
UMass quarterback Andrew Ford, who was on the sidelines for last year's comeback and watched helplessly as UMass' defense could not stop Hawaii, was adamant that last year did not enter into the conversation or his thoughts.
"I have 100 percent faith on every guy in that locker room," he said. "It doesn't matter what the score is. It doesn't matter how much time is left. I fully believe that every single guy in that locker room is going to do what it takes to get the job done.
"Unfortunately, we didn't get it done tonight."
Breneman showed why he is one of the nation's better tight ends. The graduate student caught nine passes for 179 yards. Ford, his high school teammate from central Pennsylvania, was 21 of 30 for 275 yards, one interception and two touchdowns. He was sacked four times.
UMass fought back early, tying the game at 14 at halftime. The Minutemen took a 28-14 lead on a pair of third-quarter touchdowns, only to have the visitors score two straight TDs, tying the game at 28.
The Minutemen dominated the third quarter, outscoring Hawaii 14-3. Marquis Young (20 carries, 85 yards) wrapped up a 10-play, 79-yard drive with a one-yard TD run, and fullback Malik Lee scored on a three-yard pass on the 12th play of a drive with 4:35 left.
When Young capped off a five-play, 46-yard drive with a 21-yard touchdown run, the Minutemen had taken a 35-28 lead, and most of the 12,145 in McGuirk Alumni Stadium started dreaming of the first season-opening win for UMass since it beat Holy Cross in Worcester in 2011.
On Hawaii's next drive, the Rainbow Warriors converted twice on fourth down to keep drives alive. The second one came on a 23-yard, catch-and-run pass play from Young to John Ursua, giving the visitors the ball on the UMass 15.
The Minutemen forced a 29-yard field goal by Hawaii's Ryan Meskell thanks, in large measure, to a sack by linebacker Bryton Barr. Barr, who arrived here as a graduate transfer from Towson, had 13 tackles, 1 1/2 tackles for loss and the sack. The field goal made it 35-31.
Holding Hawaii to a field goal gave UMass a golden opportunity to run a lot of clock and perhaps get an insurance score. The Minutemen managed one first down and had to punt.
UMass almost ended the game on the next drive, when Brown was flushed on a first-down pass play and Minuteman cornerback Isaiah Rodgers stepped in front of Ammon Barker but could not bring in what would have been a game-clinching interception.
Facing third-and-10 from the Hawaii, Brown found Ursua wide open for 52 yards. Ursua had 12 catches for 272 yards, including an 85-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter. Brown was 25 of 38 for 391 yards and three TD passes.
"He just beat our guy," Whipple said of the play. "We weren't leveraged on the receiver. He did it twice on the same play. I said our guys will learn from it.
"Credit them. Brown threw the ball on the money. [Ursua] made two big plays."
Facing third-and-goal from the 12, Brown found 'Unga in the back of the end zone after the Hawaii tight end had eluded linebacker Jarell Adoo.
When the night was over, Hawaii had 503 yards in total offense on 73 plays, while UMass had 413 yards on 75 plays.
"We've got to find a way to finish these games," Breneman said. "We've been in a lot of close games like that. We have to find a way to hit the nail on the head at the end of the game."
Hawaii 7 7 7 17 — 38
UMass 7 7 14 7 — 35
UH—Brown 29 run (Trifonovitch kick), 8:51.
UM—Isabella 6 run (Schreiner kick), 6:00
UH—Ursua 85 pass from Brown (Trifonovitch kick) 1:57.
UM—Isabella 2 pass from Ford (Schreiner kick). 0:02.
UM—Young 1 run (Schreiner kick) 11:12.
UM—Lee 3 pass from Ford (Schreiner kick), 4:35.
UH—Tuiasoa 2 run (Trifonovitch kick), 2:09.
UH—Armstrong-Brown 8 pass from Brown (Trifonovitch kick) 13:34.
UM—Young 21 run (Schreiner kick), 11:41.
UH—Meskell 29 FG, 5:23.
UH—'Unga 7 pass from Brown (Trifonovitch kick), 0:48.
Rushing — UH: Saint Juste 23-78, Brown 8-19, Tuiasoa 4-15. UM: Young 20-83. Ally 6-17, Comis 2-15, Isabella 1-6, Burch 1-4, Dingle 1-2, Ford 10-(-12).
Passing — UH: Brown 25-38-1 391. UM: Ford 21-30-1 275, Comis 1-4-0 23.
Receiving — UH: Ursua 12-272, Barker 4-42, 'Unga 3-30, Armstrong-Brown 3-23, Collie 2-13, Ewaliko 1-11. UM: Breneman 9-179, Isabella 5-40, Palmer 3-53, Young 3-16, Dingle 1-7, Lee 1-3.
Reach sports writer Howard Herman at 413-496-6253 or @howardherman.
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