Just a few years back, UMass vs Coastal Carolina would have been a compelling matchup between two solid FCS teams. In 2017, UMass vs Coastal Carolina turned out to be a compelling matchup between two teams striving to assert themselves in the FBS landscape.
It was Coastal Carolina’s first game as an FBS school, and they made their debut in style, winning 38-28 against the now 0-2 Minutemen. Fantastically named running back Osharmar Abercrombie led the Chanticleers, racking up 149 yards and two touchdowns on just 17 carries against a hapless Minutemen defense. The Abercrombie-led offense ate up the clock, with a time of possession of 34:35, and committed zero turnovers.
Coastal Carolina’s ability to consistently gain big chunks of yards on the ground and take care of the football allowed them to overcome their struggles under center and on third down. Both Tyler Keene and Dalton Demos saw time under center, though Demos did not throw a pass. Keene completed nine passes on 17 attempts for only 78 yards, and the Chanticleers were a horrendous 1-11 on third down conversions, both of which are unusual statistics for a team that put up 38 points in a game.
On UMass’ side, Andrew Ford had another good game at quarterback, throwing for 316 yards and a touchdown on 25-41 passing. Andy Isabella caught the touchdown as part of his six receptions for 101 yards. Tight end Adam Breneman caught nine passes for 126 yards. However, he also left the contest due to injury in the third quarter and did not return. Breneman is the Minutemen’s best player and the possibility of him being out for an extended amount of time is a scary thought for UMass fans.
The run game struggled, as the offensive line was dominated by the Coastal Carolina d-line. Marquis Young ran for only 40 yards on 12 carries, though he did score a touchdown. On the defensive side, cornerback Isaiah Rodgers was tied for the second leading UMass tackler with seven, which shows just how consistently Abercrombie was able to get to the second level.
The first half featured the two teams trading touchdowns. For the second game in a row, UMass’ first offensive drive ended in a turnover, as a failed backward pass led to a Demos rushing touchdown for the Chanticleers. Young then tied the game up back at seven with a rushing touchdown of his own, which was promptly answered by another Demos touchdown run, this one from 22 yards out. Ford then countered with a 21 yard touchdown pass to Isabella, but the Chanticleers went into the half with a 21-14 lead.
In the second half, UMass quickly tied it up with a Ford rushing touchdown, and then it was all Coastal Carolina from there on out. After the Ford touchdown, the Chanticleers went on to score 17 unanswered points, punctuated by an Abercrombie touchdown run on an 89 yard drive.
It’s a great start for Coastal Carolina as they adjust to being in the FBS, and UMass is now in a difficult position, having lost the first two games of the season, and now might be without Breneman for at least some chunk of time. Perhaps most frustrating for the Minutemen is that both games were winnable, but they were thwarted by defensive struggles and a knack for making untimely mistakes. However, it’s still early in the season, so hopefully UMass can address these issues. They certainly have the talent to win some games this year, it’s just a matter of if they can put it all together.
UMass’ next game is September 9th at home against Old Dominion, at 3:30 pm ET. Coastal Carolina’s second ever game as an FBS school isn’t until September 16th, when they take on the newly resurrected UAB in Birmingham.