Massachusetts defensive back Devin Brown (10) intercepts a pass during the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game against Miami Ohio in Foxborough, Mass., Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013. Massachusetts won 17-10. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
FOXBOROUGH — After a season-and-a-half of very little bouncing its way, the ball caromed in the University of Massachusetts’ favor on three big plays in the second half Saturday at Gillette Stadium.
A.J. Doyle’s 47-yard touchdown pass to Rob Blanchflower was deflected and nearly intercepted, but the senior tight end hauled it in for a score. Another deflection pinballed to Khary Bailey-Smith for an interception that set up another score as the Minutemen held on for a 17-10 win over Miami (Ohio).
Blanchflower’s touchdown may have turned the result.
After RedHawks defensive back Dayonne Nunley tipped Doyle’s pass in the air, Blanchflower twisted his neck back and forth scanning the Gillette Stadium sky for it.
The ball had wobbled upward, but didn’t completely change trajectory, splashing down right in the Leominster native’s arms at the Miami 19-yard line. Blanchflower shoved aside one defender and raced into the end zone to complete the 47-yard scoring play.
“I have to thank the man upstairs for that one. It landed right in my breadbasket,” said Blanchflower, who had five catches for 98 yards. “It was more luck than skill. Luckily I was able to track it and not fall over. I was a little dizzy running to the end zone.”
UMass (1-5, 1-1 Mid-American Conference) will try to produce its first winning streak as a Bowl Subdivision team when it travels to Buffalo on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
“It was a great feeling,” UMass coach Charley Molnar said. “You play these games to win. For these young men who work so hard and believe in what we’re doing and want to be champions. For them to experience that great feeling for 66 men working together is what makes football such a great game.”
Tied 7-7 at halftime, Miami pulled ahead when Kaleb Patterson made a 45-yard field goal with 8:09 remaining in the third quarter to put the RedHawks up 10-7.
Doyle regretted the throw before Nunley had even touched it, but when Blanchflower hauled it in, he celebrated.
“I wanted it back right away. I was like ‘oh god, oh god,’” Doyle said. “I was thinking another pick, I’m going to go to the sideline and get chewed out. Then I see Blanch catch it. I was ecstatic.”
Another fortunate bounce led to another UMass score. RedHawk quarterback Austin Boucher’s pass skipped off the hands of Dawan Scott into the hands of Bailey-Smith, who took the ball back to the Miami 26. Seven plays later, Blake Lucas kicked a 25-yard field goal to give UMass a 17-10 lead with 11:49.
It was the second time Bailey-Smith intercepted Boucher in the game. The first came in the end zone to end a promising second-quarter drive with the game tied 7-7.
Doyle, who completed 19 of 35 pass attempts for 249 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, shook off an early interception at Miami’s 1-yard line and directed a 55-yard drive that gave the Minutemen a 7-0 lead when he connected with Elgin Long on a 22-yard touchdown pass with 5:51 left in the first quarter. Boucher hit Steve Marck with a 13-yard TD pass in the second quarter to tie the game at halftime.