Bell says 'we'll see' who starts at QB for UMass

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AMHERST — When the University of Massachusetts hit the football field last Saturday, Andrew Brito made his first collegiate start. The question remains: Will he make it two for two?

"We'll see" if Brito and Randall West are still battling to start at quarterback, UMass coach Walt Bell said after practice on Tuesday. "Honestly, we're going to come out here every single week and compete everywhere. We have too many young guys and too many inexperienced guys not to compete every day.

"We have to keep competing and the best guy wins."

Brito went the distance in Saturday's 52-17 loss at Charlotte. The junior quarterback was 18 of 27 for 127 yards. He threw a second-quarter touchdown pass to OC Johnson, but had one ball picked off. Johnson ended up being his top receiver, catching five passes for 38 yards. Brito also ran the ball seven times for a net minus-15 yards. He was sacked five times in the game.

"He was okay, not a ton of critical errors, obviously a couple of throws he'd like to have back," Bell said. "The interception he had was on a protection issue. But I thought he managed the game okay. There were some things he'd like to have back, I'm sure, but it was a good first start."

The interception came on Brito's second drive as a starter. Charlotte's Henry Segura picked off a pass at the UMass 49-yard line and took it for a touchdown. The protection issue came when the 49ers' Alex Highsmith got credit for a quarterback hurry on the pass rush.

"Charlotte had a lot of dudes on defense. I especially want to give a shout out to No. 5 [defensive end Highsmith]. He's a very good player, getting up the field really fast," said Brito.

In two games, Brito has completed 26-of-43 passes for 215 yards, three interceptions and two touchdowns. His passing efficiency rating is 103.86.

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Brito relieved West in each of UMass' first two games. Brito made his first appearance in the fourth quarter of the 48-21 loss to Rutgers. He played much of the second half in the 45-20 loss to Southern Illinois at home, before playing the entire game in Charlotte.

"Surprisingly, I wasn't that nervous going into the game," Brito said. "Honestly, that's one thing I've always been able to say about myself, to come into a game calm, cool and collected — except maybe for my first start in high school."

The Minutemen scored 10 points in the second quarter on a Cooper Garcia field goal and the three-yard TD pass to Johnson. The first drive took 10 plays for 66 yards and the second drive was 16 plays for 88 yards. That, Brito said, was when he really started to feel at home behind center.

"I think when we started picking up the pace as an offense entirely, that's really where our strength is, so that's when the whole offense was able to settle down," he said. "It can't just be one guy in the huddle, settling down. It has to be the whole offense has to come together as one. We have to settle down as a group and just realize that we have to play our game. If we do that, we can be dangerous."

When it comes to playing their game, the first-year Minuteman agrees with his coach. Bell preaches to reporters at every media session about taking care of execution and making sure that things are done the right way. Brito said once the team gets that down, good things could happen.

"I think it's just about execution and the little things," Brito said. "We're one block away from busting the ball. We're one read away, one more second away from throwing a touchdown.

"It's the little things at this point."

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.


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