ATHENS, Ohio — The University of Massachusetts Minutemen traveled to southeastern Ohio with the goal of trying to avoid matching last season’s dismal 1-11 record. And they were putting up a fight against Ohio, trailing just 14-10 in the second quarter before an old nemesis reared its head: the turnover.
The Minutemen coughed the ball up twice in the quarter and a promising start turned into a 21-point deficit at the half and ultimately into a 51-23 defeat to the Bobcats Friday at Peden Stadium.
UMass finished with an identical record to last season: 1-11, 1-7 Mid-American Conference. Ohio improved to 7-5, 4-4.
UMass coach Charley Molnar said his team just couldn’t rebound after the turnovers.
“You could really feel the guys really felt like ‘OK, we are gonna get back in this football game,’ ” Molnar told the Springfield Republican. “We knew it would be hard, but I think the momentum had swung over to our sideline, at least up until that moment. I don’t think all the wind left our sails, but we definitely deflated a little bit after that.”
Tyler Tettleton passed for 246 yards and two touchdowns as Ohio outgained UMass, 461 yards to 290.
On the second play from scrimmage, Beau Blankenship set the tempo by busting out for a 50-yard touchdown run. Tettleton followed that with a 2-yard strike to Chase Cochran and it was 14-0 before the fans had settled into their seats.
The Minutemen got a 42-yard field goal from Brendon Levengood and a 3-yard TD run from freshman Shadrach Abrokwah to cut the deficit to 14-10, but the Bobcats scored two more touchdowns after the turnovers and added a 30-yard field goal from Josiah Yazdani to lead, 31-10, at the half.
In the second half, Tettleton added a 4-yard touchdown pass to Landon Smith and Travis Carrie returned an interception 30 yards for another score.
Abrokwah, making his first start, was a bright spot for the Minutemen, rushing for 110 yards on 31 carries. Quarterback A.J. Doyle was 4 for 12 passing for 109 yards and a touchdown, but also tossed two interceptions. Tajae Sharpe had three catches for 73 yards and a touchdown.
Devin Brown (12 tackles) and Trey Dudley-Giles (10) led UMass on defense.
The Bobcats got off to a fast start, scoring in two plays on their first drive when Blankenship ran through the Minutemen for a 50-yard jaunt just 25 seconds into the game.
After a UMass three-and-out on its opening possession, the Bobcats needed just five plays to make it 14-0 with 10:45 left in the quarter on a 54-yard drive.
The Minutemen got on the board six minutes later with a 42-yard field goal from Levengood and then closed the deficit to 4 points following a second-quarter, 45-yard drive that was capped by a 3-yard touchdown run by Abrokwah.
After forcing an Ohio punt on the next possession, the Minutemen were driving again as a 34-yard pass from Doyle to Sharpe led UMass to the Ohio 39-yard line. On third and 9, Doyle was picked off by Carrie, who returned it 66 yards for a touchdown.
That was followed by a muff on the ensuing kickoff, leading to an 18-yard scoring drive by Ohio that made it a 28-10 lead with 6:23 left in the half.
The Bobcats finished the half with a 30-yard field goal and pretty much finished any chance the Minutemen had of getting a second win.
UMass tried to make it interesting in the second half, with Doyle hooking up with Sharpe on a highlight reel, 38-yard touchdown pass early in the third. But Ohio steadily pulled away in the second half for the victory.