In a season of firsts for the Minutemen — moving up to the Football Bowl Subdivision, moving down to Gillette Stadium for home games, and moving into the Mid-American Conference — Saturday’s initial game in their new league against Miami (Ohio) figured to answer some questions for the growing program.
In its first three games — against Connecticut, Indiana, and Michigan — the University of Massachusetts was overmatched and overwhelmed, being outscored, 145-19. The hope was that a good showing in its Mid-American debut would take some of the sting out of the early season losses.
Against the Redhawks, the Minutemen made a better showing, but it wasn’t quite enough to earn their first win, dropping a hard-fought 27-16 contest in Oxford, Ohio.
Zac Dysert threw for three touchdowns and became the career completions leader for Miami, surpassing Ben Roethlisberger for first place with the RedHawks (2-2, 1-0).
Michael Cox rushed for 188 yards on 30 carries with two second-half touchdowns for the Minutemen, but Mike Wegzyn was intercepted three times in the second half.
With the RedHawks leading, 14-3, in the second quarter, the Minutemen (0-4, 0-1) reached Miami territory on two straight drives but were stopped on fourth and 1 from the 28 and the 29.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed on the outcome of the game,’’ said UMass coach Charley Molnar. “We had opportunities to stay in the game throughout but didn’t finish the deal a number of times. We moved the ball with confidence somewhat effectively. We had our stutters and what not but we were still able to get the ball down close.’’
Dysert’s third scoring pass, a 33-yarder to Spencer Treadwell at the start of the fourth quarter, was the 855th completion of his career. He also had touchdown passes of 49 and 17 yards to Dawan Scott and finished 12 of 22 for 192 yards while running for 76 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries.
“I’ve watched [Dysert] since he was a junior in high school so I know he can make something happen with his feet,’’ said Molnar. “I’ve been saying it all week, telling our players, telling our coaches, telling anybody who would listen the guy can hurt you — not only with his arm but with his feet. All those reps and all those games he’s played in, he’s so confident and never took a hard hit.’’
Deion Walker led UMass in receiving with 81 yards on six catches, and tight end Rob Blanchflower had five receptions for 50 yards.
Defensively, the Minutemen were led by Perry McIntyre (12 tackles) and Kassan Messiah, who had 10 tackles in his first career start.
Miami coach Don Treadwell knew that his team was in for a tough game.
“It was no surprise how physical they were,’’ he said. “I told everybody all along how big they were. You saw [Cox]. Shoot, it took about five of us at one time often just to bring him down. They have a team that plays very hard and physical and we respect that.’’
Western Michigan 30, UConn 24 — Alex Carder threw for 237 yards and a touchdown before leaving in the third quarter with an injured throwing hand to lead the host Broncos (2-2) to their second victory in two years over the Huskies (2-2).
Chandler Whitmer was 28 of 44 for 333 yards passing and three touchdowns for UConn.
Dartmouth 13, Holy Cross 10 — Riley Lyons’s 31-yard field goal with one second remaining, following a Crusader fumble, lifted the Big Green at Worcester.
With 11 seconds left in a scoreless second half, Vernon Harris recovered a fumble by Sam Auffant, putting the Big Green (2-0) at the 31 of Holy Cross (0-3). Alex Park’s 17-yard pass to Ryan McManus set up the winning kick.
Cornell 45, Yale 6 — Jeff Mathews (29 of 39, 340 yards) threw for three touchdowns and the host Big Red (1-1) scored 35 points in the first half and rolled over the Bulldogs (1-1) in the Ivy League opener for both teams.
James Madison 32, Rhode Island 7 — Justin Thorpe tossed for a pair of touchdowns, had 340 yards passing, and ran for 40 yards as the visiting Dukes (3-1, 1-0) routed the Rams (0-3, 0-2) in a CAA game.
Duquesne 35, Bryant 21 — The Dukes (3-1, 1-0) overcame a 21-17 fourth-quarter deficit to beat the host Bulldogs (0-4, 0-2) in a Northeast Conference game. Jordan Brown became Bryant’s career rushing leader, and Jordan Harris is now the Bulldogs’ all-time leader in receiving yards.
Monmouth 27, Sacred Heart 14 — Kyle Frazier threw for 313 yards, including two touchdowns to Tristan Roberts, and the host Hawks (3-1, 2-0) snapped a 14-14 halftime tie with 10 points in the third quarter to beat the Pioneers (0-3, 0-1) in a Northeast Conference game.
Western N.E. 44, Nichols 20 — Sophomore Kevin Cook rushed for 90 yards and a pair of scores to spark the Golden Bears ( 3-1, 1-0) to an NEFC victory over the host Bison (0-3, 0-1).
Salve Regina 41, Endicott 24 — Steven Wilken passed for 302 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 91 yards as the host Seahawks (4-0, 1-0 NEFC) beat the Gulls (2-2, 0-1) for their 10th straight victory.
Trinity 37, Bates 16 — In NESCAC, Evan Bunker rushed for 146 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Bantams (1-0) to their 44th straight home victory and 19th in a row over the Bobcats (0-1). Trinity last lost at home in 2001 to Williams.
Middlebury 42, Bowdoin 18 — McCallum Foote went 26 of 44 for 285 yards with five touchdown passes as the host Panthers (1-0) amassed 416 yards of total offense against the Polar Bears (0-1) in a NESCAC victory.
Wesleyan 35, Tufts 14 — Jesse Warren threw touchdown passes of 17 and 10 yards in the first seven minutes as the visiting Cardinals (1-0) opened a 21-0 lead and cruised to a NESCAC victory over the Jumbos (0-1), who dropped their 16th straight game.
Amherst 38, Hamilton 14 — Ryan Silva rushed for 170 yards and a TD and the host Lord Jeffs (1-0 NESCAC) racked up a 376-60 advantage on the ground to beat the Continentals (0-1).
Williams 41, Colby 7 — Adam Marske connected on 22 of 27 passes for three TDs and 277 yards in leading the host Ephs past the Mules in the season opener for both NESCAC teams.
Merrimack 38, Southern Conn. 35 — Joe Clancy passed for 274 yards and two scores and the host Warriors (2-2, 1-2 Northeast-10) opened the second half with 24 straight points to beat the Owls (0-4, 0-2).
New Haven 45, Saint Anselm 0 — Ronnie Nelson connected on 14 of 21 passes for 250 yards and four TDs as the eighth-ranked Chargers (4-0, 3-0 NE-10) took a 24-0 lead at halftime and rolled over the Hawks (0-4, 0-3).
Stonehill 26, Assumption 24