AMHERST — Over a hundred combined points. Next to no defense. A final that was closer on the scoreboard than in reality. Yes, UMass fans remember those Mid-American Conference days well.
For one game, “MACtion” was front and center again at McGuirk Alumni Stadium, but yesterday’s final result served as a different, more painful reminder of that era. Ohio led consecutive scoring drives out of halftime of a tied game and never looked back in handing UMass a 58-50 loss.
“It was just back and forth,” said coach Mark Whipple. “I didn’t know the game would play out that way. I don’t know if (Ohio coach) Frank (Solich) did either.”
UMass (0-6), which has been unable to turn promising opportunities into victories this season, struggled mightily on defense. Without several key starters, the unit let up 292 yards rushing, highlighted by a 60-yard carry by Ohio’s A.J. Ouellette that set up Dorian Brown’s 15-yard touchdown a play later to make it 48-29 with 13:41 to play.
A late Andrew Ford-to-Adam Breneman touchdown and two-point conversion pulled UMass to within 51-43 with 3:23 left, but a failed onside kick and another long Ohio rushing touchdown put the game away for good.
“We left a lot of points out there,” Ford said.
Fifty points is the most the team has scored as an FBS program, while the 58 allowed is the most since giving up 51 at BYU last year.
From the start, UMass had no answer for Bobcats quarterback Nathan Rourke, who was as effective on designed runs as he was throwing downfield. He gashed the Minutemen on the ground for 113 yards and a pair of touchdowns while adding two more scores through the air.
“We knew we had to stop the run and we didn’t do a good job there,” Whipple said. “We just couldn’t get off the field a lot of times on third down.”
Added linebacker Steve Casali: “It came down to just not doing our job and bad tackling (yesterday).”
From the start, the game looked to be a classic back-and-forth MAC contest, complete with killer turnovers and wild momentum swings.
UMass jumped to a 13-7 lead early in the second quarter before an Andy Isabella fumble and Ford interception deep in the team’s own territory set up scores for Ohio (4-1). In a 24-13 hole, the offense quickly rebounded, with Ford finding Breneman and freshman receiver Brennon Dingle for back-to-back scores to take a 27-24 lead with 2:26 left in the half.
Ford, who didn’t finish last week’s game due to injury, started and…