AMHERST, Mass. — The Minutemen must be still be wondering what else they could have done.
The Massachusetts football team found the endzone six times, made a pair of field goals and recorded a safety, while outgaining non-conference guest Ohio by a 550-to-473 clip in total offense on Saturday at Warren McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Hampshire County.
The Bobcats overcame all of that, however, defeating UMass 58-50 in for their third straight win.
The Minutemen (0-6) led 3-0 after a Logan Laurent 24-yard field goal just 2:30 into play.
Ohio (4-1) — which has the most wins of any Mid-American Conference team currently — answered on its first drive of the game, as a five-yard touchdown run by Bobcats sophomore quarterback Nathan Rourke capped off a seven-play, 76-yard drive. Louie Zervos added his first of seven successful point-after kicks, giving the guests a 7-3 advantage.
The hosts answered back with a 13-play, 75-yard drive, capped off by a two-yard Ross Comis touchdown run. Laurent added his first of four successful point-after kicks and then made a 35-yard field goal with 11:35 left in the first half to increase the UMass lead to 13-7.
Ohio regained the advantage at the 10:22 mark, as Rourke connected with Brendan Cope for a 16-yard scoring pass.
After OU junior Andrew Payne recovered an UMass fumble, the Bobcats increased their lead to 21-13, when Rourke scrambled for a 17-yard touchdown with 8:57 to go in the period.
The Bobcat defense came up with another takeaway on the Minutemen’s next drive, as Chad Moore intercepted a pass and returned it to within seven yards of paydirt. OU was forced to settle for the field goal, however, and Zervos gave the Bobcats a 24-13 lead with 7:24 left in the first half.
After an 81-yard kickoff return by Marquis Young, the hosts cut the deficit to just four points, as Andrew Ford tossed a six-yard touchdown pass to Adam Breneman.
Following a Bobcat three-and-out, the Minutemen took a 27-24 lead, as Ford found Brennon Dingle for a 30-yard scoring pass. The guests tied the game before the half, however, as Zervos connected on a 23-yard field goal with 38 seconds left.
Ohio regained the advantage on the first drive of the second half, as A.J. Ouellette capped off a six-play, 75-yard drive with a five-yard rushing score. Just over six-minutes later, Ouellette finished a 10-play, 79-yard drive with a 12-yard scoring pass from Rourke, giving the Bobcats a 41-27 lead.
The Minutemen benefited from a Bobcat mishap, as a fumble led to the UMass defense earning a safety at the 3:20 mark of the third quarter.
The Ohio offense regrouped and scored again on its first possession in the fourth stanza. After a 60-yard run by Ouellette to start the drive, Dorian Brown found paydirt from 15 yards out, giving the Green and White a 48-29 lead.
The UMass offense scored its first offensive points of the second half with 10:41 left in the fourth, as Young hauled in a 19-yard scoring pass from Ford. The two-point conversion pass failed, however, leaving the hosts behind 48-35.
Ohio managed to take 4:31 off the clock with an eight-play, 45-yard drive that resulted in a 34-yard field goal by Zervos, stretching the Bobcat lead to 51-35 with 6:10 to play.
With 3:23 left in regulation, UMass was in the endzone again, with Ford finding Breneman for a seven-yard touchdown pass. This time, the two-point conversion pass was good, as Ford tossed a pass to Andy Isabella.
It remained a one-score game for just 1:41, however, as Brown broke a 42-yard touchdown run on the third play of Ohio’s ensuing drive, giving the guests a 58-43 advantage with 1:42 to play.
With 11 seconds left Dingle caught a 16-yard scoring pass from Ford, but it was too little, too late, as Ohio claimed the 58-50 win.
Despite the guests’ 72-yard advantage overall, the Bobcats held a 292-to-147 edge in rushing yards. UMass earned 30 first downs in the game, converting on just 5-of-18 third down tries, but 6-of-8 attempts on fourth down. Ohio had 25 first downs in the game and converted on half of its 10 third downs.
The Bobcats were penalized seven times for a total of 69 yards, while UMass was sent back five times for a total of 35 yards. Ohio was plus-2 in the turnover category, while the Minutemen held an advantage of over six minutes in time of possession.
With 12 carries and three receptions, Ouellette had 151 total yards and two touchdowns to lead the Green and White. Rourke was 13-of-24 passing for 181 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for 113 yards and two more scores.
Brown earned 72 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries, while Cope hauled in a team-best seven passes for 126 yards and one score.
Julian Ross ran the ball three times and gained four yards for the Bobcats, while Cameron Odom, DL Knock and Andrew Meyer each caught one pass of 17, seven and five yards respectively.
Quentin Poling led the Bobcat defense with 19 tackles, including nine solo. Moore posted 12 tackles and an interception, while Payne had a team-best 1.5 tackles for a loss, with half of a sack and a fumble recovery. Austin Conrad, Kent Berger and Tony Porter each had half of a sack as well for the OU defense.
Ford finished with 390 of the Minutemen’s 403 aerial yards on 32-of-54 passing with five touchdowns and one interception. Bilal Ally had 57 yards on 13 carries to lead the UM ground game, while Breneman recorded a game-best 12 receptions for 131 yards and two scores. Young combined 14 carries and three receptions for 90 total yards and one touchdown.
It’s MAC play the rest of the way for Ohio, beginning with the Bobcats annual homecoming game. The Green and White will welcome Central Michigan to Peden Stadium on Saturday at 2 p.m.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.