Massachusetts wide receiver Shaquille Harris (86) picks up long yardage on a punt return as he is pursued by Akron offensive linesman Stephen Ericksen (57) during the first half of their NCAA college football game in Foxborough, Mass., Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
FOXBOROUGH — As he watched the Akron field goal attempt sail through the goal posts with 90 seconds remaining to put the Zips ahead by four, University of Massachusetts quarterback Mike Wegzyn was already shouting to his teammates, trying to fire them up for a game-winning drive.
The Minutemen never got the chance. On the field goal, UMass’ Justin Anderson was called for leaping, an obscure 15-yard personal foul. Akron took the field goal off the board, got the ball back and ran out the clock for a 14-13 win at Gillette Stadium Saturday.
“Frustrating is probably the best word,” Wegzyn said. “We were getting ready to put together a 2-minute drive there. What happened, happened and the clock ran out.”
Senior tight end Rob Blanchflower agreed.
“Losing by a point twice at home this year was obviously a gut shot and a huge let down,” Blanchflower said. “It’s the worst feeling in the world.”
Anderson said he wasn’t aware what he’d done was illegal.
“I was told by the ref that the fact that I was a yard behind the line of scrimmage and when I jumped up, I fell on top of teammates,” Anderson said. “They told me the fact that I came down on teammates was the reason that penalty was called. It’s part of the game. You live and you learn. I won’t do it next week, I can guarantee you that.”
UMass coach Charley Molnar said he’d never seen that call made in a game he’s been involved with.
“That doesn’t make it right. It doesn’t make it wrong,” said Molnar, who didn’t see the infraction. “It’s just not a call you’re going to see very often. If they called it, you’d hope it was flagrant. ... It was greatly disappointing because I have confidence in our guys. When you have players like Rob Blanchflower on your team you feel like you have a chance to make a play even when the clock is winding down.”
UMass (1-9, 1-5 Mid-American Conference) will close its season with two road games at Central Michigan (Saturday at 1 p.m.) and at Ohio (Nov. 29, TBA).
UMass took the lead in the third quarter when Wegzyn, who replaced injured starter A.J. Doyle, led a 91-yard scoring drive. Wegzyn completed a 2-yard touchdown pass to Blanchflower on a play-action rollout that put the Minutemen ahead 13-7 with 6:58 left.
Akron (4-7, 3-4) pulled ahead with 9:49 left in the game when quarterback Kyle Pohl connected with Jawon Chisolm, who leapt toward the goal line and reached his hand and the ball over the pilon for a touchdown that made it 14-13.
Riding Jamal Wilson (22 carries, 70 yards), UMass tried to answer and crossed into Akron territory where it had fourth-and-one. But Wilson was stopped short of the line, giving the Zips the ball on downs to set up the game’s final drive.
The Minutemen missed a chance to take control early. They forced and recovered three Akron fumbles, but couldn’t turn strong field position into points.
Brendon Levengood made two first half field goals of 37 and 33 yards, but Pohl’s 10-yard touchdown run put Akron up 7-6 at halftime.
“We had plenty of opportunities to win the football game and take control of the football game,” Molnar said. “It certainly didn’t come down to the last sequence of events. There were opportunities to salt that team away. You can go back to the first quarter with the three turnovers.”