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UMass 21, Delaware 10

UMass surprises Delaware

By Chris Murray
Globe Correspondent / October 16, 2011

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NEWARK, Del. - That old football adage that says you have to play all four quarters to win didn’t apply yesterday to the University of Massachusetts offense, which scored 21 points on its first three possessions against ninth-ranked Delaware.

But then again, the Minuteman offense didn’t need the other three quarters because the defense was good enough to beat up on the Blue Hens (4-3), UMass coming away with a 21-10 upset in front of a sellout crowd of 21,902 at Tubby Raymond Field.

“Outstanding win. Any time you can come down to Delaware and walk out with a win, you’ve got to be pleased and proud of your unit’s effort,’’ said UMass coach Kevin Morris. “We came out fast on offense, we had the wind in the first quarter, and as the game went on we had to rely on the field position and the defense to keep the game in a situation where we can win it in the end.’’

Playing its final season in the Colonial Athletic Association, UMass (4-2) scored first on a 5-yard run by Jonathan Hernandez that capped a four-play, 47-yard drive.

“That was a big thing for the team because we always focus on coming out fast,’’ said UMass tight end Emil Igwenagu, who caught four passes for 30 yards and a touchdown. “Today we did a good job of doing that. Obviously, we can’t let up like we did. We just have to continue applying pressure and we have to finish through the fourth quarter. But the 21 points in the first quarter was big.’’

On their next possession, the Minutemen moved 82 yards in 10 plays, scoring on a 6-yard pass from Kellen Pagel, who missed last week’s game because of a concussion, to Igwenagu.

“I was trying to keep the play alive in the end zone and Kellen was moving around up front,’’ Igwenagu said. “Everything came together; he threw the ball and I ended up coming down with it.’’

After an interception by UMass safety Darren Thellen at the Delaware 49, the Minutemen marched to another score, this one a 3-yard run by Julian Talley off an end-around. It was the first time a team had taken a 21-0 lead on Delaware in the first quarter since 1975.

That was all the points the Minutemen would need.

Delaware got on the board early in the second quarter on a 14-yard pass from junior quarterback Tim Donnelly to Nick Boyle. Thanks to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on UMass freshman linebacker Ryan Delaire, who was ejected for throwing a punch on the kickoff return, the Blue Hens started their first scoring possession at their 41.

The Blue Hens then got a 27-yard field goal from Sean Baner to cut the margin to 21-10 with 58 seconds left in the first half, but would get no closer.

Meanwhile, UMass’s offense moved the ball at times in the second half, and even reached Delaware territory, but didn’t come close to the red zone. The Minutemen started 4 for 4 on third-down conversions, and finished 6 for 17.

After compiling 190 total yards in the first quarter, UMass had 155 yards for the remainder of the game.

The UMass defense forced three turnovers, two interceptions and a fumble, and sacked Donnelly and backup Trevor Sasek five times. Delaware was held to 88 rushing yards on 36 attempts.

“Our emphasis was to stop them from running, and I think we were able to do that and force them to pass. They basically played into our hands today,’’ said UMass linebacker Tyler Holmes.

The defense also got some help from punters Raymond Pendagast and Jeff Strait, who kept Delaware pinned deep in its territory in the second half with a pair of kicks to the 5-yard line.

“In the battle of field position, we definitely won today,’’ Holmes said. “Making them go 90- and 95-yard drives was definitely beneficial for the defense.’’