Miami Ohio wide receiver Dawan Scott (25) watches as his team during the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game against Massachusetts in Foxborough, Mass., Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013. Massachusetts won 17-10. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
FOXBOROUGH — If not for Antoine Tharpe’s ejection, University of Massachusetts sophomore safety Khary Bailey-Smith might not have had the chance to deliver the best game of his career in Saturday’s win over Miami (Ohio).
In the second quarter, Tharpe was flagged for a targeting-a-defenseless-player personal foul when he drilled Miami’s Jared Murphy on third down with 4:59 left in the first half.
The call automatically includes a review, which was upheld, and an ejection.
With Tharpe out, Bailey-Smith, a former starter, had two big interceptions. The first came in the end zone, preventing Miami from scoring in the first quarter. The second happened early in the fourth quarter to set up a UMass field goal.
“I was just well coached. Coach called the right play. I was in the right spot,” Tharpe said. “It happened to come my way. ... Luck played a little part of it. Being in the right spot, competing and fighting for the ball put us in the right position to make a play.”
UMass coach Charley Molnar praised his defensive back.
“Khary exemplifies what we’re trying to instill in our young men,” he said. “That’s the next-man-in approach. He’s still a young football player. Today was a big step for Khary as his career progresses.”
Bailey-Smith’s two interceptions gave him the program’s first two-pick game since Darren Thellen intercepted Delaware twice in 2011.
Molnar said Tharpe’s play wasn’t dirty.
“The rules are for the right reasons — to protect the players on the field. Unfortunately for Tharpe and for us, we lost a very good football player for just trying to make a play,” Molnar said.
ATTENDANCE — The 21,707 fans in the band day crowd was the largest UMass has drawn at Gillette since moving up to the Bowl Subdivision. It gave them 53,750 home fans this season. They need to average 12,083.3 in the final three home games to avoid the NCAA probation that would come with averaging under 15,000 per game.
UMass is now 1-9 in 10 career games at Gillette.
WIDE LEFT — Blake Lucas had the distance to break UMass’ career-long field goal record of 52, but his 54-yard try was wide left in the first quarter. Sandro Vitiello (1978) and Denis Gagnon (1971) share the record.
BYRNE BACK — Senior defensive lineman Kevin Byrne, who missed last week’s game for what the school called “non-football reasons” was a surprise addition to the lineup. On Friday, UMass announced Byrne wouldn’t play, but issued a release prior to the game announcing his return.
MISCELLANEOUS — UMass’ maroon on its black helmets was replaced with pink to with the Minutemen’s pink socks to promote breast cancer awareness.