‘Nova fumbles in last minutes



James Evans

In the biggest game of the day on Saturday in the Atlantic 10, it would only make sense that big plays would decide the outcome of the game. Unfortunately for Villanova, it was UMass making all the big plays, en route to a 19-14 win.

Up 14-13, with a little more than two minutes left and facing a 2nd and four, the ‘Cats were running out the clock and were on the verge of winning their seventh straight when quarterback Marvin Burroughs fumbled the snap. UMass defensive back Shannon James scooped it up and went 39 yards untouched into the end zone to give the UMass a 19-14 lead.

“It was more of a bobbled snap,” Burroughs said. “I was always told that a fumble snap is the quarterbacks fault and that is the way I look at it.”

Burroughs, who came into the game at the 9:22 mark of the third quarter, played well completing 11 of 20 passes for 146 yards. Joe Casamento, who has been the ‘Cats’ regular starter this season, had started the game.

He was having a decent game, passing for a touchdown and was 16 of 23 for 146 yards, but had been intercepted twice, including on his last possession.

Though Burroughs took the blame, crucial mistakes by the ‘Cats haunted them all day.

Despite the setbacks ‘Nova’s defense was just as good as advertised once again, holding UMass down, especially in it’s running game; the ‘Cats only gave up 79 yards on the ground on 34 carries by UMass running backs. Also, the ‘Cats secondary and frontline was making it a hard day for Minutemen quarterback Jeff Krohn.

Krohn completed 13 of 35 passes for 244 yards, including a touchdown pass. However, if not for a 97-yard pass from him to Jimmie Howard in the second quarter, Krohn’s numbers would have been drastically lower. The pass was a slant route and the defender slipped allowing Howard to coast the rest of the yards for the touchdown and an early 7-0 lead.

The ‘Cats offense was stagnant for the rest of the first quarter and the start of the second quarter. However, with just over three minutes to go in the first half and trailing by 10, ‘Nova took the ball down the field on a 12-play, 80-yard touchdown drive.

Casamento found wide receiver John Dieser slanting toward the middle and hit him with a rope to put the ‘Cats on the board and cut the lead to 10-7 going into halftime.

‘Nova’s defense was able to stop the Minutemen for the rest of the game, only allowing a Mike Torres field goal, his second of the game. The ‘Cats continued to struggle on offense and it seemed as soon as the ‘Cats defense would sit down to rest they would be lining back up to get ready to go out on the field.

At the 10: 22 mark of the fourth it seemed as if the ‘Nova offense finally clicked. After a great defensive play by Darrell Adams, causing UMass to loss four yards on a third-and-two, the Minutemen had to punt the ball and the ‘Cats took over at their own 46.

After a couple of runs by Martin Gibson and a Burroughs nine-yard completion, the ‘Cats faced a second-and-nine from the Minutemen 39.

Burroughs then rolled out and hit Dieser with a perfect pass for 32 yards and set up a first-and-goal from the Minutemen 7-yard-line.

Three plays later, Terry Butler drove through the Minutemen front line and into the end zone, to put the ‘Cats ahead 14-13, a lead they would not hold onto for much longer.

Though the loss was the first of the season, the team seemed to not be dwelling on it.

“We knew UMass would be tough and we came out and played our best and it came up as a fluke loss,” the senior wide receiver said. “I don’t take it as a loss, just a ‘L’ on the schedule. You just have to put it past you.”

Head coach Andy Talley knows that this loss may hurt, but also knows that the best way to deal with it is by eliminating it and not letting it affect you.”The young guys around me are focused and are mature, but they have to know hoe o eliminate the loss like I do,” Talley said. “At 3 tomorrow [Sunday] this loss will be out of my system.”

The ‘Cat’s have four games left, including three on the road. The true test should be in the last two weeks of the year when they travel to Maine, then come back to play No. 2 ranked University of Delaware. The game against the Blue Hens, might well be the game that determines the A-10 champion.