FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — While BYU is fresh off a painful, last-second loss at Boise State, UMass is coming off a thrilling, dramatic victory.
The two teams collide Saturday (10 a.m., MST, BYUtv) at Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots.
The Minutemen rallied from a 45-31 deficit in the fourth quarter against Liberty last Saturday at McGuirk Stadium in Amherst. UMass tied the game with 25 seconds remaining in regulation and eventually won in triple overtime, 62-59.
Cooper Garcia booted a 22-yard field goal in that third overtime period to lift the Minutemen (4-6) to victory.
It was a record-setting performance for UMass, as the Minutemen racked up a school-record 777 yards of total offense.
UMass’ 5-foot-10, 190-pound senior wide receiver Andy Isabella, who leads the nation in receiving yardage with 1,394 yards, caught nine passes for a school-record 303 yards and two touchdowns. He had TD catches of 89 and 61 yards.
“You’ve seen his numbers. He’s a phenomenal player, really fast, a good player,” BYU defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki said of Isabella. "We’ve got to keep him bottled up as a whole as a secondary.”
The previous school receiving record was held by Victor Cruz, who had 262 receiving yards in a game in 2008. Cruz was part of the New York Giants team that helped beat the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI in 2012.
In last year’s 16-10 win over BYU in Provo, Isabella caught seven passes for 84 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown.
UMass senior quarterback Ross Comis completed 29 of 44 passes for 540 yards, four touchdowns and one interception against Liberty and he also ran for 82 yards and had a pair of rushing touchdowns.
Comis took over as the starter earlier this season when Andrew Ford went down to an injury.
UMass averages 35 points and 457 yards of offense per game.
“I’ve seen a lot of points put up. They have a very good slot receiver. They have some good receivers in general. They can air it out, they can run the ball, they can put up a lot of points,” said BYU safety Austin Lee of the Minutemen offense. “We’re going to have to be really disciplined in how we do that. The key for us is to start out fast. That’s the biggest thing. The games that we have won, we’ve started out really fast. We’ve got to come out gunning.”
BYU’s offense, meanwhile, has scored only one touchdown in the last two games. The Cougars had fourth-and-goal at the Boise State 2-yard line on the final play when quarterback Zach Wilson was sacked as time expired.
“The challenge is, for Zach, as a young player, to learn when to just let the system work for him versus try to make a play,” said offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes.
Grimes said with all of the changes on that side of the ball, such as replacing Tanner Mangum with Wilson as the starting quarterback, there has been a learning curve for the offense.
“One of the things that our entire offense is undergoing is a little bit of a philosophical shift with the change in quarterback. Some of that has to do with Zach versus Tanner but some other things as well,” Grimes said. “Losing all the tight ends has changed us as well. We felt like we had to adjust and do some things differently. Without question, we’re moving in the right direction in terms of what we’ve chosen to do, but there have been some growing pains that have come with that as well.”
Maybe the UMass defense will allow BYU to score more points.
Defensively, the Minutemen rank No. 119 nationally in total defense (472.8 yards per game), No. 124 in rushing defense (265 yards per game), No. 114 in pass efficiency defense (153.15), No. 43 in pass defense (207.8 yards per game) and No. 125 in scoring defense (41.4 points per game).8 comments on this story
“We’ve opened (the offense) up quite a bit. We just have to be more efficient. We can’t make mistakes,” Grimes said. “You take away the sacks and the turnovers that we made in the last game — not taking any credit away from Boise State — but if you take the sacks out of that game, I think we win that game. We’ve got to take the sacks out and not turn the football over and I think we’ll have a drastic difference in how many points we score.”
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Cougars on the air
at UMass (4-6)
Saturday, 10 a.m. MST Gillette Stadium
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM