FOXBOROUGH — The University of Massachusetts’s difficult initiation into the Football Bowl Subdivision continued yesterday. Indiana took a 45-6 victory over the Minutemen in a nonconference game, UMass’s debut at Gillette Stadium, before a crowd of 16,304.
The Minutemen failed to keep up with the option playmaking ability of Indiana quarterback Tre Roberson for most of the opening half. And after Roberson departed with a broken left leg, UMass was unable to contend with the deliberate, pocket-passing tactics of second-string quarterback Cameron Coffman.
Roberson totaled 105 yards on four carries, scoring twice and passing for a touchdown, leaving the game seven plays into the second quarter with the Hoosiers leading, 21-6.
Coffman then guided Indiana on two successive scoring drives as the Hoosiers (2-0) took a 38-6 halftime lead, and was replaced early in the final quarter as both teams went deep into their benches.
Though the Minutemen suffered another blowout loss, they improved statistically over their 37-0 defeat to UConn in the season opener, when they had just three first downs, 3 rushing yards, and 59 total yards. By halftime of Saturday’s game, UMass had 164 total yards, before finishing with 14 first downs and 264 total yards. But that could not make up for the Minutemen’s defensive deficiencies — Indiana produced 33 first downs and 606 total yards, 427 yards on 50 first-half plays.
“I’m disappointed in the way we performed, I was expecting better,” said UMass coach Charley Molnar. “As I told the team, I don’t prepare a talk or speech for after a defeat — all I prepare in my mind as I go through the week is what I’m going to say after a win. So I was a little bit speechless, to say the least. I expected better in all phases of the game. We prepared very hard in practice, our guys were prepared mentally. We had good momentum, good feeling, at the beginning of the game, and all of a sudden it kind of got away from them and we just could never get it back.”
After its first possession, UMass appeared to be going nowhere offensively for the second successive week. But on the first play of their second possession, the Minutemen surprised Indiana with a double pass off a pitchout, resulting in a 56-yard completion from Mike Wegzyn to Marken Michel. Two plays later, Wegzyn scored UMass’s first FBS points on a 16-yard run. Indiana retained a 7-6 lead as Blake Lucas missed the extra point.
But UMass’s defense was slow to react to Roberson’s quickness, and unable to track him down once he crossed the line of scrimmage.
Roberson went 50 yards on the first play of Indiana’s second possession, then scored on a 39-yard run on the fifth play of the Hoosiers’ third possession.
“Our tackling was atrocious,” Molnar said. “I saw more missed tackles out there than I ever expected to see. I was hoping we would play darn near perfect in that area because we tackled well in the first game and in practice.”
Indiana appeared to be on the verge of another touchdown as Roberson sought receivers in the end zone on a second-down play at the UMass 5-yard line. Roberson decided to keep the ball, this time getting closed down at the 2 and suffering his injury. An ambulance arrived to take him from the field through the west exit.
Indiana coach Kevin Wilson said Roberson will miss the rest of the season.
Mitch Ewald’s 19-yard field goal upped the Indiana lead to 24-6. Then Coffman took over for Roberson, leading the Hoosiers on a 65-yard scoring drive, the key plays Stephen Houston’s reception of a 31-yard screen pass and a UMass offside penalty on fourth and 2. Houston’s 2-yard run made the score 31-6 with 8:13 remaining in the half.
Coffman guided Indiana on a 12-play, 78-yard scoring drive, Isaiah Roundtree’s 2-yard run making it 38-6. Coffman kept the drive going with two third-down completions, Indiana also capitalizing on a pass-interference penalty in the end zone on another third-down play.
UMass produced a sustained drive late in the third quarter as Wegzyn found Rob Blanchflower and Deion Walker for first downs on the first two plays. But Wegzyn was sacked on a second-down play and failed to convert on third and 11, Lucas then missing a 36-yard field goal attempt.
Indiana then converted three third-down situations on a 13-play, 80-yard drive, Coffman’s 12-yard scoring pass to Charles Love making it 45-6 early in the final quarter.
“I thought the energy was really good, I thought the focus was really good,” Molnar said. “I just think we need to bring our A-game every single week. There’s not going to be many games where the talent level is even on that field, it’s just not going to be. So for us to win the game, to stay in the game, we have to bring our A-game. If we brought our A-game it quickly dissolved into a B-game or less for a lot of guys.”
UMass went to backup quarterback A.J. Doyle and the Hoosiers inserted third-stringer Nate Sudfeld for the final quarter.
“Those are pretty good players, they’re Big Ten players,” Molnar said of Indiana. “That’s a team, similar to last week’s team, a little bit bigger, a little bit faster, a little bit stronger — and has played tougher competition week in and week out in the course of their careers. These guys are used to playing good, hard, tough, fast football. Our guys just aren’t playing at that level yet. We’ll get there, but we’re not there yet.”Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.