UMass cruises past Duquesne

AMHERST — A laugher. A rout. A clubbing.

Call it what you want, but there was never any doubt in UMass' 63-15 opening win over Duquesne at McGuirk Alumni Stadium Saturday.

And for a program looking for respect at the FBS level, UMass needed to make the Dukes look like the FCS team it is. The Minutemen, since making the jump to college football's highest level in 2012, haven't always done that against inferior competition.

But UMass, from the first snap, flexed muscles the Dukes simply don't have, and ones, perhaps, the Minutemen have not exhibited either in recent years.

Along the way, the Minutemen set a program record for points at the FBS level, and rang up their highest yardage total in an FBS opener by the second play from scrimmage in the third quarter (UMass finished with 572).

Most notably, the Minutemen have speed, lots of it. It was evident on the shallow, medium and deep crossing routes that left Duquesne consistently a step behind the UMass receivers. It also showed itself on the other side of the ball, as the Minutemen had no trouble sticking with the Duquesne wideouts in man coverage.

"We just had a little bit more speed," UMass coach Mark Whipple said in the first understatement of the season.

On Duquesne's first possession, UMass safety Bakhari Goodson picked off Daniel Parr, and the Minutemen didn't take long to make it hurt. Andrew Ford's play-action pass to Brennon Dingle (three receptions for 61 yards), a good two steps clear of the trailing Dukes defensive backs, resulted in a 32-yard touchdown.

"For about two weeks now, that has been the first play," said Ford, who completed 13-of-19 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns. "The first day we started working on Duquesne, we put that in knowing that was going to be the first play. We were lucky the defense gave us that short field and we were able to convert."

After a Duquesne three-and-out, running back Marquis Young (90 yards on 15 carries) raced around right end for 17 yards. Ross Comis, who mixed in series at quarterback with Ford, then executed another play-action fake that left Andy Isabella (five catches for 131 yards and two touchdowns) about as wide open as one can get for a 60-yard score.

Another quick three-and-out from Duquesne led to a third straight UMass score, when Bilal Ally (nine rushes for 109 yards) set up his own 1-yard touchdown with a 66-yard jaunt off left tackle.

After Mike Caggiano's extra point, the Minutemen were up, 21-0, with 6:20 to go in the quarter, and the rest was academic.

Isabella added a 14-yard end-around for a touchdown in the second quarter, and Young capped a 12-play drive with a 2-yard rush up the middle to push the lead to 35-3.

Duquesne popped in a score on a Parr-to-Nehari Crawford 5-yarder at the end of the half, but it was only a brief hiccup for the UMass defense.

In the third, Ford scrambled right and lobbed one to Isabella by the Duquesne sideline, and the latter put on a filthy move to lose Spencer DeMedal on a 44-yard catch and run for a touchdown.

Brice McAllister then made his second interception of the game and returned it 60 yards for a touchdown, and Comis sprinted in from 18 yards as the Minutemen headed into the fourth fat and happy on a 56-9 lead.

Each team added garbage-time touchdowns in the fourth, with Comis hitting Zak Simon for a 14-yard touchdown as the capper for the Minutemen.

Now, UMass can look forward to next week's trip to Boston College, where it will be a decided underdog.

As Whipple said, in another understatement, "Boston College is a different beast (than Duquesne)."

For now, though, the Minutemen can take comfort in knowing they played the role of beast better than they have in the past.

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