FOXBOROUGH — In his final home game, Rob Blanchflower needed just 14 receiving yards to become the leading tight end in UMass history. He finished with 26, including a 2-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
But it wasn’t enough to give the Minutemen the win, as they fell to Akron, 14-13, Saturday at Gillette Stadium.
Late in the fourth quarter it appeared UMass might get a chance to make a comeback. Instead, an uncommon penalty prolonged Akron’s final possession and the clock ran out.
With 1:30 left in the game, Robert Stein connected on a 25-yard field goal to give the Zips a 17-13 lead. However, defensive lineman Justin Anderson was called for unsportsmalike conduct/leaping on the play, extending Akron’s drive and denying UMass another possession.
“Here’s how it was explained to me,” said UMass second-year coach Charley Molnar. “Our man lined up a yard past the line of scrimmage. He jumped, which is certainly legal. He landed on top of the guys in front of him, which makes it [a penalty].”
Anderson was unaware such a penalty even existed.
“But it’s a part of the game and you live and you learn,” he said. “I won’t do it next week, I can tell you that.”
The field goal was taken off the board, Akron kept the ball, and quarterback Kyle Pohl took a knee until the clock ran out.
“It was greatly disappointing because I just have confidence in our guys because whenever you have players like Rob Blanchflower on your team, you feel like you got a chance to make a play even as the seconds are ticking down,” Molnar said. “It felt like if we had a little over a minute, a timeout, and Blanch, we had a chance.”
The Minutemen had plenty of chances early as Akron lost fumbles on its first three possessions. But the Minutemen couldn’t capitalize. Their only scoring play in the first quarter came on a Brendon Levengood’s 37-yard field goal on the only drive of the quarter that wasn’t started by a fumble recovery.
Entering the game, Akron appeared to be an ideal opponent for the Minutemen’s final home game.The Zips’ win at Miami of Ohio Oct. 19,was their first win on the road since 2008, snapping a 30-game losing streak.
Instead, the Minutemen fell to 1-9, 1-5 in the Mid-American Conference while Akron improved to 4-7, 3-4 MAC.
“It was not pretty,” said Akron coach Terry Bowden. “UMass did the type of things you need to do to win the game — creating turnovers and putting them in a position to win. UMass didn’t take advantage of that early but it was a hard-fought game and an evenly fought game.
“I don’t know that we played the best today, but we were 1 point better.”
Akron took a 7-3 lead with 13:13 left in the first half on Pohl’s 10-yard run.
At 9:56 Levengood’s 33-yard field goal cut the UMass deficit to 7-6 UMass took the lead, 13-7, in the third quarter on Blanchflower’s touchdown, capping a nine-play, 91-yard drive. Mike Wegzyn replaced A.J. Doyle at quarterback after Doyle was hurt on the first play of the drive.
But Akron secured its win with 9:49 remaining when Pohl connected on a 17-yard scoring strike to Jawon Chisholm.
Blanchflower, who was one of 18 seniors playing their final home game, passed All-American Milt Morin for the record. He now has 1,164 yards.
“It’s an honor to receive the record,” said Blanchflower, a Leominster native. “Hopefully I’ll have a couple more yards this season. But kind of a hollow feeling. Milt Morin was a legend. He always will be. He’ll never be forgotten. We come from the same city. It’s a memorable event, I guess. But just wish it could have happened a little differently.”