Tuesday, March 11, 2014
BY JENN MENENDEZ
Maine Sunday Telegram
AMHERST, Mass. -- No. 15-ranked Massachusetts used a dominating first half to dismantle Maine 39-24 Saturday afternoon at McGuirk Stadium.
BIG QUARTER: Massachusetts' Jonathan Hernandez left, breaks the tackle of Maine's Donte Dennis to score a touchdown during the Minutemen's 39-24 victory Saturday afternoon in Amherst, Mass. UMass scored 26 second-quarter points.
The Black Bears (3-6, 2-4 Colonial Athletic Association) rallied for 14 second-half points, but fell short against its longtime rival to suffer their sixth loss of the season.
All-American linebacker Tyler Holmes intercepted Maine quarterback Warren Smith twice and ran them in for scores of 18 and 50 yards in the second and fourth quarters -- weighty points that cost.
"We didn't have a very good first half and got behind a very good team," Maine coach Jack Cosgrove said. "Opening kickoff and two defensive scores? That's tough to climb out of. We kept battling, kept playing. We had our chances but turned it over four times. That's not going to get it done."
Smith finished with four turnovers: Three picks and a fumble. He passed for 270 yards, threw two touchdowns and completed 29 of 41 passes.
The Minutemen (6-3, 4-2 CAA) outgained Maine 263-144 in the first half and scored a season-high 32 first half points, 26 of them in the second quarter.
Maine's bright spot: Pushaun Brown. He rushed for a season-high 141 yards on 22 caries with a score in the absence of Jared Turcotte, who did not make the trip with an injury.
"I was making my reads, trying to get vertical as fast as possible," Brown said. "The line was doing their job. I was trying to get upfield as fast as I could."
The game started off on the wrong foot when Maine gave up a 97-yard opening kickoff return and trailed by 22 points by halftime.
Among the Minutemen's most impressive scores was a key second quarter drive that went 72 yards on 19 plays during a span of 8 minutes, 56 seconds. It included three fourth-down conversions.
Kyle Havens finished it with 7-yard shovel pass to Jonathan Hernandez, who skipped through bodies and into the end zone.
Maine's operation improved in the second half, but the damage was done.
"We didn't talk about anything at halftime we just told ourselves what we were doing wasn't acceptable," said linebacker Donte Dennis. "We had to step it up. We did. But it should never have come to that. We should've done it in the first half. It was a little bit too late."
Smith led a 10-play scoring drive to open the second half that ended with his 12-yard touchdown pass to Maurice McDonald. A two-point conversion failed and the score stood at 32-16.
Holmes' interception return made it 39-16 with the point after.
"You know, Coach does a great job to teach us to read off the quarterback's intentions," Holmes said. "I played off his eyes, saw where he wanted to go, made a jump and it led to as core for us."
Smith recovered to lead a five play, 55-yard drive connecting with Tyrell Jones from the one, and again on a two-point conversion to make it 39-24.
He was picked off again on Maine's next drive, ending any chance of a comeback.
Brown scored Maine's first touchdown on a 40-yard run, breaking through a hole and picking up speed to make it 12-7 with the extra point with 10:55 to play until halftime.
UMass got a 19-yard touchdown pass from Kyle Havens to receiver Dan Sheeran to go up 19-7.
And Maine's next drive stalled with a holding penalty that nullified a 15-yard pass completion.
Next play Smith was picked off Holmes who ran it back 19 yards for a score.
The extra point was blocked: 25-7.
Brian Harvey kicked a 34-yard field goal for Maine before the Minutemen struck again with a 4-yard pass with 45 seconds to play until halftime.