Game 533: Rainbow Warriors come up with sevens to defeat Minutemen in last minute of play, 38-35
Amherst, Mass – With 48 seconds left in regulation of our Game 533, the long distance visiting Rainbow “road” Warriors of Hawaii (1-0) came up all “sevens” in a comeback victory over the Massachusetts Minutemen (0-1) in the 2017 season opener for both programs and for Collegefootballfan.com, 38-35. On third and seven at the UMass seven-yard line, Rainbow QB Dru Brown threw a seven-yard TD pass to number 7, Metuisela ‘Unga. The win assuredly made the ‘Bows return flight home a happy one. For UMass football and its fans, the close, last-minute loss typified the Minutemen’s history since joining the FBS in 2012 – so near, yet so far. Despite an exciting and basically well executed game by both squads throughout, UMass’s fandom remained pessimistic that their team could come out on top right until the final tick off the clock. Guest Game Analyst (GGA) Mike Ford and his son, Colby, enjoyed their first UMass game in person, and Colby attended his first D1 football game ever during our Game 533. He’s trying to best his brother Conner who got to see Alabama vs. LSU a few years back. Different level, but a great football game to watch none-the-less. Father and son will definitely be attending more.
The Rainbow Warriors struck first after LB Solomon Mattautia picked off a pass tipped by a Minuteman receiver to take possession on the U of H 45-yard line. QB Dru Brown (25-38, 391 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) dropped back and scrambled left beyond the line of scrimmage for 29-yard touchdown scamper. PK Alex Trifonovitch’s PAT was good. UMass drove for 76 yards including a 28-yard TD pass from QB Andrew Ford to TE Adam Breneman to the six where Anthony Isabella ran it in from the slot around the right side to even the score after Mike Schreiner’s kick.
Defenses stiffen, but offenses heat up
For the balance of the first period and most of the second, the defenses dominated. CB Isaiah Rodgers picked off a pass to for UMass to put them on their 40, the teams exchanged punts, and UMass stopped a Hawaiian drive with their backs to the wall on their 16 on a fourth and one. After their ensuing punt, the Rainbow Warriors took over from their 17 late in the half. From the 25, Brown connected with WR John Ursua on a slant pass over the middle. Number five raced 75 yards to give the ‘Bows a short-lived lead with 1:57 remaining in the first half. Isaiah Rodgers returned the following kick-off out to his 37. Driving efficiently down to the two, Ford (21 for 30, 275 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) started to roll right, pivoted around left and hit Isabella with a two-yard scoring pass in the end zone with two seconds left. Schreiner put up the extra point to tie 14-14 going into the halftime intermission.
I took a walk literally all the way around McGuirk Alumni stadium looking to buy a game program. They had basically sold out the ten I had seen walking past the few fans who had them in the stands. Second game in a row where no programs were available. The previous was the CFP game I attended in Atlanta between Alabama and Washington. The UMass stadium looked no different than it had when I last attended back in 2007 when I watched the Minutemen defeat Fordham in an FCS playoff game. With little investment in this facility since joining the FBS ranks five years ago, we wonder how much longer UMass is committed to play at this level of NCAA football. The attendance announced totaled 12,145. If McGuirk is a 17,000-seat stadium, there must have been a lot of no-shows. Not many students attended this first of five games to be played on campus this season, but it didn’t look as if the student body had returned for the fall semester yet.
Second half excitement
The Minutemen offense came out smoking to start the second half. Ford connected with his HS teammate Adam Breneman (9 catches for 179 yards) twice on a 79-yard drive ending as RB Marquis Young ran it around left end for a one-yard score and UMass’s first lead, 21-14. They didn’t stop there. The D forced a Hawaii punt and started the ensuing drive from the 35. On a fourth and four at Hawaii’s 28, Ford raced 17 yards to pick up fresh set of downs. The Minutemen crossed the goal line again with a three-yard pass from Ford to Malik Lee in the left flat to extended the UMass lead, 28-14. The wary UMass fandom around Mike, Colby, and me conversed among themselves basically saying don’t get too excited, “We’ve seen this before.” Sure enough, Hawaii put up seven more points a little over two minutes later. Brown’s nine-yard pass to ‘Unga placed the ‘Bows on the Massachusetts two where RB Ryan Tuiasoa took it in to score. Going into the final period, the Minutemen led, 28-21. The UMass offense played conservatively and lost its steam. Hawaii started to drive again.
The Minutemen defense forced Hawaii to punt at the U of M 48. The wobbly punt by Aussie Stan Gaudion hit Frosh return man Jessie Britt square in the chest where the ball ricocheted off his pads and on to the ground where Tuiasoa recovered at the UMass 15. Brown zipped his next pass to WR Marcus Armstrong-Brown who kept both feet inbounds nest to the goal line pylon for six points. The PAT re-knotted the score at 28-all. Despite the pessimism surrounding us from Collegefootballfan.com, returner Andy Isabella too the ensuing kick all the way to Hawaii’s 46. On a fourth and one at the U of H 21, Young (20 rushes for 83 yards, 2 TDs) broke through the left side of the line all the way for a touchdown. His burst put UMass out in front, 35-28, but 11:41 remained on the clock. I predicted three more scores before this one ended. Mike repeated several times that the fumbled punt was the turning point that would lose this game for UMass.
Mike, Mike, Mike!
Hawaii started from their 41. They converted a fourth and one at the 50 for a first. On a critical fourth and three, Brown connected with a wide-open Ursua for a first down at the 14. Mike exploded, “How could they not be covering that guy (Ursua – 12 receptions, 272 yards, 1 TD)? Stupid!” However, UMass held the Bows to a 35-yard FG to cut the lead to 35-31 with 5:23 left. Mike liked HC Nick Rolovich’s decision to go for three instead of the six. Minuteman fans said that after their two TD lead, HC Mark Whipple’s play calling became too conservative. I agreed with that. To Mike’s point, Hawaii forced a punt after a UMass three-and-out to take over from their 26 with 2:52 remaining. Down four, they were hell-bent to get a TD. A pass to Urusa put the Bows at the seven. “Stupid!” reiterated Mike. We all saw who Brown’s go-to guy was and UMass left him too open, again. With :48 left, Hawaii rolled sevens and still came up a winner, 38-35. The UMass offense frustrated our senses with the play calling. Even with 23 seconds remaining and no time outs, a long bomb was the eventual choice, but a run and two short incomplete passes ended the game with a whimper by the Minutemen and not a bang.
Hawaii surely would enjoy its long flight home. UMass fans grumbled, “Same old same old.” I would have enjoyed seeing a hard-working UMass team looking to head in a better direction put up the win, but I appreciated seeing a good, competitive game going down to the final minute to start off the Collegefootballfan.com season. For a season opener both teams played well and generally executed well to make this a fun, competitive, exciting game. Mike and Colby agreed.
Hawaii heads home now to play FCS West Carolina next Saturday. UMass travels to Conway, SC to face the newest FBS member, Coastal Carolina. The Minutemen will play again on our slate on Friday night, September 15 when we see them play Temple at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. This Thursday night, we at Collegefootballfan.com start a stretch of four games in four days after Game 533. We will attend a D-3 game, an FCS game, and two FBS games. Seven of the eight teams we will see are ranked in their respective pre-season Top 25 polls. If only Rutgers… We will try to get a review out by Wednesday night. Check back with us then.
We plan to keep an eye on UMass CB and return man Isaiah Roberts who impressed us with his coverage including an interception and a pass break up in the end zone.
LB Sam Casilli, UMass’s leader on defense, played well but left with an injury late in the game. His name was called near the end, but we will watch for him again when we see the Minutemen play the Temple Owls.
The Rainbow Warriors had a good showing of fans and alum who came to Amherst, Mass for this game.
-Steve Koreivo, ed.