Holmes’s performance twice as nice for UMass
AMHERST — For a defensive player, the “pick-6’’ is the crown jewel. Every defensive lineman, linebacker, and member of the secondary yearns for the chance to do it even once: come up with an interception and bring it back all the way for a touchdown.
But if the pick-6 is a gem, then a “pick-12’’ is a diamond.
In a shining season, UMass linebacker Tyler Holmes came up with his most sparkling performance yesterday afternoon, taking two interceptions back to the proverbial house to highlight a 39-24 victory over Maine.
“I’ve been wanting to take one back since I started playing,’’ said Holmes, an apparent shoo-in to repeat as Colonial Athletic Association defensive player of the week.
In doubling that goal, Holmes became the first player in UMass history to record two touchdowns on interception returns in the same game. No other Division 1 player in the country has accomplished that feat this year. An 18-yarder in the second quarter and a 50-yarder in the fourth had UMass coach Kevin Morris reaching for the superlatives.
“He continues to make plays,’’ said Morris. “He keeps getting better.’’
Holmes’s heroics were part of a total team effort that lifted UMass to 6-3 on the season, and 4-2 in the CAA. After a surprising 4-1 start (the lone loss being a near upset at Michigan) was followed by two disheartening losses, the Minutemen have posted two impressive victories in a row to vault back into playoff consideration.
UMass got off to a roaring start yesterday, courtesy of the Carter family from North Laurel, Md. Anthony Nelson fielded a line-drive kickoff at the 3-yard line and started up the left side. He then looped a lateral to freshman Ryan Carter, careening right. Carter was sprung by a pulverizing block from his brother, Woody, that left Michael Mangiarelli flattened around the 20-yard line. Ryan blazed to the right, brushed off a tackle around midfield, then flew into the end zone for a touchdown.
“That was a great block,’’ said Ryan. “As soon as I got the ball, I looked and I saw a Maine player just go flying. That’s when I knew I was going all the way.’’
“That’s not a great way to start a football game,’’ said Maine coach Jack Cosgrove.
The Black Bears (3-6, 2-4) did get a career game from Pushaun Brown (141 yards and one touchdown on 22 carries), but they had too much to contend with against a UMass team that was clicking on just about every cylinder.
Minuteman quarterback Kyle Havens completed 22 of 28 passes for 213 yards and three touchdowns. All three of those scores came in the first half as UMass rolled to a 32-10 lead. His receivers made a number of fine catches, none better than Julian Talley’s one-handed grab in the end zone at the end of the half.
Maine drew closer in the second half when Warren Smith (29 of 41, 270 yards, 2 touchdowns, 3 interceptions) hit Maurice McDonald on the opening drive to close the gap to 32-16.
But before the Black Bears could gather any real momentum, Holmes struck again.
“[I] read off the quarterback’s intentions,’’ said Holmes. “I just played off his eyes and saw where he wanted to go.’’
Fifty yards later, Holmes was home free, and so — for all intents and purposes — were the Minutemen.