UMass' Downey tack­les dual role

Boston Herald - - BASEBALL SCOREBOARD - By RICH THOMP­SON — rthomp­son@boston­her­

AMHERST — Da’Sean Downey has led a de­fen­sive resur­gence on the UMass foot­ball team.

The 6-foot-4, 330-pound se­nior end from White Plains, N.Y., is a hy­brid quar­ter­back hound who is equally com­fort­able at­tack­ing the edge from out­side line­backer.

The Min­ute­men (0-5) will need an­other sound de­fen­sive per­for­mance from Downey when they take on Ohio Univer­sity (3-1) in a clash of for­mer MAC ri­vals this af­ter­noon (3:30) at McGuirk Alumni Sta­dium.

“He’s been all in and he’s been phys­i­cal and he brings a lot of en­ergy,” said UMass coach Mark Whip­ple. “He has shown a lot more lead­er­ship than he has and I’m ex­cited about where he is headed.

“He is such a smart player that we can put him in dif­fer­ent po­si­tions and move him around. He can play cover­age on one play and spy him on the quar­ter­back on the next be­cause he is our best pass rusher off the edge.”

Downey is im­prov­ing on his work from last sea­son when he was ninth in the na­tion with four forced fum­bles and led the Min­ute­men with 8.5 tack­les for loss. In four games this sea­son, Downey has 24 tack­les, 6.5 tack­les for loss and three sacks.

“My speed is my ad­van­tage from mov­ing from line­backer to de­fen­sive end,” said Downey. “Just the way we move gaps and things it con­fuses the (of­fen­sive) line and that is why we have had so many TFLs the last cou­ple of weeks.”

The Min­ute­men are win­less this sea­son be­cause they haven’t had the de­fense and the of­fense show up at the same time. The of­fense, un­der the di­rec­tion of quar­ter­back An­drew Ford, put up 63 com­bined points in con­sec­u­tive losses to Hawaii and Coastal Carolina only to have the de­fense fall flat in the fourth quar­ter.

The de­fense found its groove and be­gan mak­ing plays in a 17-7 loss to Old Do­min­ion on Sept. 9. The unit be­came hy­per ag­gres­sive with 23 com­bined tack­les for loss in road de­feats at Tem­ple (29-21) and Ten­nessee (17-13). In their three pre­vi­ous losses, the Min­ute­men had only 11 TFLs. Downey was in on the ac­tion with two against the Owls and Vols.

“I feel like ev­ery­body is buy­ing into the de­fense,” Downey said. “We were ex­e­cut­ing poor in the first two games and it was like some­body wasn’t do­ing their job and the next per­son thought they had to do some­thing else.

“When we would get out of our gaps that’s when we gave up big plays and things like that. Ev­ery­body is 100 per­cent com­mit­ted and they trust everyone else to do their job.”

The Bob­cats of­fense is led by quar­ter­back Nathan Rourke, an ef­fi­cient pocket passer who can scram­ble and throw on the run. Rourke has com­pleted 52of-81 passes for 632 yards and five touch­downs with no in­ter­cep­tions.

“He is a sneaky ath­lete and he can run,” Downey said. “We are go­ing to have to be fo­cused and wrap­ping him up and at­tack him in dif­fer­ent ways.

“We have to go out there and ex­e­cute what we’ve been do­ing dur­ing the week, watch film and watch per­son­nel and know their ten­den­cies. You have to do all the dif­fer­ent things like that and we are re­ally fo­cused this week.”

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