With Colgate playing the number three team in Division 1-FCS last Saturday, there was no doubt that many Raiders fans were worried the match would proceed very much like Godzilla vs. Tokyo. However, the Raiders stuck right with UMass for half a game, and if it had not been for some very costly turnovers, they very well might have pulled off the biggest upset since King Kong took down Godzilla in 1963.
UMass got on the board first when Liam Cohen connected on a 25-yard strike to wideout Jeremy Horne to give the Minutemen a 7-0 lead. The drive began when senior Cody Williams lost a fumble on a punt return, giving Massachusetts the ball at the Colgate 39. Colgate answered right back about a minute later when junior quarterback Alex Relph connected on a thirty-yard strike to senior wide receiver Erik Burke to even the score.
In the second quarter, Colgate again had a costly turnover when Relph’s pass was picked-off by Courtney Robinson, who returned the ball 20 yards to the Raider 26. On the ensuing drive, the Minutemen retook the lead as Cohen again threw a touchdown, this time to Breyone Evans. The score remained 14-7 until the last drive of the half. The Raiders had the ball at their own 22 and originally planned to run down the clock. However, Colgate changed its strategy after three Jordan Scott runs for thirty-two yards put the Raiders past midfield.
“On the first play of the drive we planned on doing the safe thing, but we got a couple of nice runs and decided to go for it,” Head Coach Dick Biddle commented. “Sometimes in those types of situations the defense lags off, and we took advantage of that.”
The Raiders certainly did take advantage of the situation. Relph fired a nine-yard pass to Burke to get Colgate down to the thirty-yard line with three seconds left. From there senior Mike Buck just got a 47-yard field goal though the uprights to best his career long by 14 yards. Colgate went into the half down 14-10 despite the two turnovers.
UMass got the momentum rolling back in their favor during the third quarter. Cohen threw for another touchdown and J.J. Moore had an electrifying 55-yard punt return to put the Minutemen up 28-10. Colgate still had some life as they marched all the way to the goal line, but Scott fumbled the ball and UMass recovered. It was the third turnover of the day for Colgate and one of the ill-timed mistakes that cost the Raiders the game.
“Having turnovers like that takes away the opportunities you have to win football games,” Coach Biddle said. “One took away seven points from us right down on the goal line and the other two gave them 14 points. Take the turnovers out and you get a much closer game.”
Despite the crippling blow at the goal line, Colgate came back and cut the lead to 28-17 as Burke made a spectacular catch in the end zone. It was Burke’s second touchdown, and he finished the game with nine receptions for 142 yards.
“They played a lot of single coverage and we exploited that,” Coach Biddle noted in regards to Burke’s success. “We got good protection, Relph threw some nice passes and Burke made some good catches.”
UMass would add another touchdown to drive the nail in the coffin on another Cohen touchdown strike. Choen had a phenomenal four touchdowns on the day.
With the 35-17 loss, Colgate has fallen to 1-1 on the year. However there were some bright spots. On defense, senior Mike Gallihugh had another stellar performance with 17 tackles. Ssenior safety Andre Dawson had an interception for the second straight game. On offense, the passing game was much improved, more than doubling its output against Albany the week before. At the helm, Relph threw for 218 yards and two scores.
“He did a credible job as quarterback”, Coach Biddle said. “He managed the game well and threw catchable balls for his receivers.”
Scott also had a good game despite the fumble, racking up 103 yards on the ground.
Colgate will be expected to do the trampling next week as they battle a Dartmouth team they have manhandled in recent years, winning 13 out of the last 15 games in the rivalry. The game will start at 12:30 in Hanover this Saturday as Colgate hopes to get back above .500 with a win over the Big Green.