|Michael Shelton returns a punt. (Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo)|
The BYU Cougars (3-9) lost any chance to add a silver lining to the season as they lost 16-10 to the UMass Minutemen (4-8). Once again, BYU could not beat an opponent that was supposed to be as equally bad.
Maybe the game would have been very different if UMass hadn't gotten away with holding on the very first play. BYU quarterback Joe Critchlow threw a perfect long ball to Jonah Trinnaman, and the UMass cornerback was beat, so he grabbed Trinnaman's jersey at the end of the sleeve. A nearby official let it go. The cornerback knocked the ball away. Critchlow's accuracy was off after that, and BYU punted two plays later.
For much of the game, BYU just missed on long balls as the UMass defensive backs were there to break up the play. Would they have played a little less confident if a penalty had been called on that first play?
The Cougar defense came out of the gates just as strong as the Minutemen. UMass couldn't pick up a first down either, and punted the ball back to BYU.
Squally Canada had a nice five-yard run on first down, but Critchlow's inaccurate throwing led to his first interception of the season on 3rd and 5.
Amazingly, the turnover didn't cost BYU anything. Highlighted by Sione Takitaki's tackle for loss, BYU didn't allow a first down, and UMass attempted a field goal. The UMass placekicker had made his last 15 attempts, but missed this one.
Then, the BYU offense got moving. Canada got four carries in five plays. Trinnaman caught a short pass on 3rd and 6 and dragged defenders just far enough to get the first down.
BYU was now at the UMass 43-yard line. That's when the Minutemen defense stepped up. They stopped Canada for a loss of one, and then sacked Critchlow for another loss. A screen pass to Brayden El-Bakri got back the nine yards lost on the sack, but the Cougars still had to punt.
The Punt pinned UMass back at its own three-yard line. UMass was able to dig itself out of the hole, but shot itself in the foot twice with big penalties. An incomplete pass on 3rd and 11 started the second quarter, and forced a punt.
Michael Shelton returned the punt 21 yards. It was BYU's first punt return longer than nine yards this season. Two runs by Canada had BYU back in Minuteman territory at the same spot the previous drive stalled. Critchlow then overthrew Talon Shumway by about a yard on a deep post route. Critchlow got sacked on a play he should have thrown the ball away. That set up another third down where all BYU could do was get back the yards lost on the sack.
This time, the punt went out at the 10-yard line.
UMass then got on a roll. The Minutemen methodically moved down to the BYU 33-yard line. Back-to-back slant passes to wide open receivers moved the ball to the five. BYU wisely called time out. After that, BYU successfully defended a slant pass. Then, the Cougar defense moved UMass back 11 yards--six on a swing pass and five on a sack. This time, UMass made the field goal to take a 3-0 lead.
For the third consecutive series, BYU allowed a sack. UMass could do nothing on its next possession, so BYU got the ball back with 2:10 to play before halftime.
Critchlow navigated the Cougars to the UMass 39-yard line before throwing incomplete passes on second and third downs. BYU punted with just a few seconds left in the half.
BYU could have made a big stop on 3rd and 7 to start the second half, but Corbin Kaufusi missed a sack. The Minutemen quarterback rolled out and found a receiver for a 14-yard gain. That was a break through for the UMass offense.
Not only did they finish that drive in just two more plays to go up 10-0, they kicked a field goal on the next. Two big completions on slant passes largely helped the Minutemen get into field goal range.
Meanwhile, BYU got off to a terrible start in the second half. Confused on just the third play, BYU had to burn a timeout. UMass still got the third down sack as Critchlow stepped up in the pocket unnecessarily.
On the next series, not only did BYU fail to pick up a first down, again, Critchlow's pass on third down was tipped at the line of scrimmage. It went right to another UMass defender who intercepted it.
BYU had a chance to get the ball right back. Fred Warner was in better position to make the catch than the UMass receiver, but another Cougar defender came over and tripped Warner. That caused the second defender to stumble as well, which prevented him from intercepting the ball.
The Cougar defense didn't give up a first down, so with 4:55 to play in the third quarter, UMass kicked another field goal to take a commanding 16-0 lead.
Although it had been just over 10 minutes of game time, it had felt like an eternity since the Cougar offense had been productive. Desperate for life, KJ Hall came to the rescue. The shifty back turned two short passes from Critchlow into 15 and 11-yard gains. He sandwiched a 10-yard reception by Beau Tanner with runs of three and 14 yards. That moved the ball to the UMass 22-yard line.
Hall slipped on the next play resulting in no gain. Critchlow then had another pass batted at the line of scrimmage. On 3rd and 10, Critchlow took a shot to the end zone. The pass was incomplete, but UMass may have gotten away with another uncalled pass interference penalty. Replay appeared to show a UMass defender push Aleva Hifo as the ball approached.
BYU took the field goal to get on the board and make it a 16-3 game.
On the final play of the third quarter, Kaufusi got a sack on 3rd and 8. That forced a punt on the first play of the fourth quarter.
On the next series, BYU finally connected on a long ball. Critchlow found Micah Simon down the right sideline for 40 yards. That moved the ball down to the UMass 24-yard line, but on 3rd and 7, Critchlow was sacked for a loss of 13 to move the Cougars out of field goal range. Given the circumstances, BYU went for the first down on 4th and 20.
Critchlow threw a catchable pass that went through Matt Bushman's hands at the three-yard line. A UMass defender was in the end zone in perfect position to intercept the ball with 11:55 to play.
UMass stumbled on its next series, and BYU was able to get the ball back at midfield. BYU quickly moved inside the 30. Two plays later, Critchlow threw his fourth interception of the day.
UMass continued to run the ball to try and end the game as fast as possible, but the Minutemen only got one first down. Michael Shelton returned the punt 39 yards to the UMass 38-yard line with 5:16 to play.
Defense and special teams were doing their part to win, but the Cougar offense refused to do its part. BYU was called for holding on back-to-back plays. The second call wiped out a 13-yard pass to Bushman. Critchlow was then sacked for the seventh time. That set up 2nd and 35. On 4th and 27, Critchlow connected with Simon, who reached as best he could for the first down. He came up a yard short.
UMass went three and out, and BYU got the ball back with 2:21 to play, and 87-yards from the end zone.
Crichlow completed passes of 17 yards to Hifo and 18 yards to Shumway, but the Cougars needed to move faster. They needed two touchdowns. After another pass was batted at the line of scrimmage, Critchlow hit Trinnaman for 40 yards. BYU scored three plays later as Bushman hauled in the fade pass from Critchlow.
It was now 16-10 and 53 seconds remained. BYU was unable to recover the onside kick, and UMass ran out the clock.
Both teams finished with 299 yards total offense. Neither team had success on third down (UMass 4-15, BYU 5-16). UMass did not attempt a pass in the fourth quarter.
It was UMass' first win on the road against a FBS opponent.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Jonah Trinnaman's 40-yard catch. It was a difficult catch to make and set up only touchdown.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Michael Shelton--6 punt returns, 86 yards (14.3 ave.); 2 tackles
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