Richmond 34, UMass 12

Thrown away in a minute

UMass done in by 7 turnovers

By David Squires
Globe Correspondent / October 25, 2009

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RICHMOND - For the Minutemen, they didn’t even have time to think.

The top-ranked Richmond Spiders - aided by three UMass miscues - utilized three first-half scoring drives under two minutes long in a convincing 34-12 victory over the visiting Minutemen yesterday.

In total, UMass quarterbacks were picked off six times and lost a fumble, and the team was charged with eight penalties for 55 yards.

As a result, the Spiders (7-0, 4-1 Colonial Athletic Association) were able to grab a 20-3 halftime lead thanks to drives lasting 1:51, :46, and 1:51.

Although the game was played in off-again, on-again rain, UMass coach Kevin Morris did not use the conditions as an excuse.

“It was a bad weather night and all, but you still expect a good football game, and it really wasn’t,’’ Morris said. “If you turn the ball over, especially against a team as good as Richmond, it’s hard to overcome.

“We played on the same field. They did a better job of controlling the elements than we did.’’

It was the 15th consecutive game at University of Richmond Stadium in which the Spiders scored 31 points or more.

Spiders coach Mike London said his team was fortunate in getting off to a fast start against the 14th-ranked Minutemen (4-3, 2-2).

“We play in so many elements - in rain, in snow,’’ London said. “You just have to be able to execute, and then hunt the ball. These guys did a great job of that.’’

The Minutemen scored first, with senior Armando Cuko connecting from 33 yards at the 10:58 mark of the first quarter. After the Minutemen helped themselves, though, they went about helping the Spiders to 27 straight points.

Linebacker Patrick Weldon grabbed one of Kyle Havens’s four interceptions, giving the hosts the ball at the Richmond 29. That set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Ben Keating at 6:18 of the first quarter to give Richmond a 7-3 lead.

Richmond’s next score, a 17-yard scamper by running back Justin Forte at 7:38 of the second quarter, was set up after Havens’s fumble at the UMass 26 was recovered by the cornerback Justin Rogers.

After a bad snap of a punt was recovered by the Spiders’ Tyler Kirchoff at the UMass 17-yard line, the Spiders tacked on a 29-yard Andrew Howard field goal to lead, 17-3, with 5:56 to play in the half.

Howard hit another, this time from 22 yards with no time left, for a 20-3 lead at intermission.

Then the storm clouds began to roll in, the skies opened up, and the bottom fell out for the Minutemen.

The Spiders widened their lead to 27-3 when Parker Miles picked off a pass by backup Scott Woodward and returned it 15 yards for another score.

Woodward hit Victor Cruz on a 20-yard touchdown pass with 13:14 to play in the game to close the gap to 27-12.

Woodward, whom Morris said he brought in to give the team a spark, finished 11 for 23 for 137 yards, two picks, and the lone touchdown. Havens was 10 for 25 for 78 yards and four interceptions.

On the other side, Eric Ward only completed 8 of 20 passes for 52 yards and one interception, as his receivers dropped at least another half-dozen passes. Ward also rushed nine times for 62 yards.

UMass linebacker Tyler Holmes said Ward was a challenge all night.

“He’s a very talented kid,’’ said Holmes, who had four tackles for a loss and 17 tackles total. “He made some plays on his athleticism and his legs alone.’’

Holmes said he only wishes he and his defensive mates could have done more when the offense was stalling.

“You try to be there for your offense,’’ Holmes said, “and we really weren’t.’’

Forte led the Spiders with 118 yards rushing on 26 carries and two touchdowns.

UMass rushed for a total of 62 yards compared with 184 for Richmond.

Richmond nearly tacked on a final TD when Michael Ireland picked off Woodward at the Spiders’ 8 and returned it 91 yards before he was dragged down by Jeremy Horne at the UMass 1 as time expired.