THE CHATTANOOGA CHARGE CONTINUES: UMass Defeats Montana 19-17 In NCAA Semifinal
Dec. 8, 2006
MISSOULA, Mont. - No. 3 UMass advanced to its third NCAA Division I National Championship game in history with a 19-17 win at No. 2 Montana before a sold-out and raucous crowd of 23,454 at Washington-Grizzly Stadium and a national-television audience on ESPN2. The Minutemen, who won the 1998 national title, will take on No. 1 Appalachian State, a 49-24 win over Youngstown State on Saturday. UMass will be the home team in the National Championship next Friday at 8 p.m., in Chattanooga, Tenn., at Finley Stadium and televised live on ESPN2 in HD.
Senior tailback Steve Baylark was an amazing all-purpose back with 245 total yards. He had his ninth 100-yard rushing game this season and 25th of his career with 169 yards and two touchdowns. He also had a career-high 76 receiving yards to lead the receiving corps. It was Baylark's 14th career two-touchdown game and UMass is 13-1 in those games. In his 25 career 100-yard games, UMass is now 22-3. He had 12 carries in the fourth quarter to help keep Montana's offense off the field.
The Minutemen, who haven't given up a point in the second half of their three playoff games, held the Grizzlies to just 67 yards in the final 30 minutes.
"We're not artistic,'' UMass coach Don Brown said. "We just find a way to win. Holding them to 67 yards in the second half was big.''
Kicker Chris Koepplin kicked the eventual game-winning field goal from 43 yards away with 13:25 left in regulation.
Koepplin's game-winner was set up when the UMass defense forced a safety in a defensive-minded third quarter. The Minutemen pressured Grizz quarterback Josh Swogger to fumble the ball out of the end zone to make it 17-16 with 1:26 left in the third quarter. Senior Domenique Milton was credited with the safety as he was the last player to hit Swogger after Brandon Freeman and Brad Anderson unleashed huge pressure.
It was again the UMass defense that sealed the game when Brandon Smith intercepted Swogger with 36 seconds remaining in the game after the Minutemen turned over the ball on a missed 46-yard field goal.
The all-around team effort saw unheralded players step to the forefront. Graduate student Tim Washington set a season-high in rushing yards with 50 yards. On defense, senior Domenique Milton forced a safety for his first career points and sack. Sophomore Courtney Robinson had a forced fumble and his second career interception.
Punter Christian Koegel was huge weapon with a career-high tying four punts landing inside the 20-yard line.
With UMass up 19-17, the Minutemen regained possession on the ensuing drive as Courtney Robinson picked off a floating pass by Josh Swogger to give UMass the ball with 12:40 left in the fourth.
Junior Chris Koepplin kicked his fourth 40-yard field goal of the season, from 43 yards away with 13:25 left in the fourth quarter to make it 19-17 UMass. It was his 15th field goal of the season, tying him for sixth-most field goals in a career, accomplished in just one season, at UMass.
Montana took a 17-14 lead with 10 seconds left in the first half as Brady Green punched the ball in from 1-yard out. The Grizzlies drove down the field as quarterback Josh Swogger connected with his three best receivers on plays of 19 yards are more: Eric Allen (19 yards), Ryan Bagley (19) and Craig Chambers (29).
UMass took over just two plays after Baylark's second touchdown as sophomore Courtney Robinson recovered a fumble at the Montana 38-yard line with 7:25 left in the half. The Minutemen were not able to move the ball, but it allowed UMass to pin the Griz deep in their end zone. All-American punter Christian Koegel blooped a 39-yard punt that was downed by Brandon Freeman at the Montana 2-yard line. The Griz subsequently went three-and-out.
Baylark rushed in from six yards out to give UMass a 14-10 lead with 8:33 left in the second quarter. The drive was keyed by three Baylark catches for 60 yards.
Muckie Foreman picked off Liam Coen for his first-career interception and returned it 58 yards for a touchdown to give Montana a 10-7 lead with 11:54 left in the first half. It was the first interception returned for a touchdown against UMass since Oct. 15, 2005 when James Madison's Akeem Jordan returned a Coen error 70-yards for a score.
Montana got on the board as Dan Carpenter kicked a 23-yard field goal on the first play of the second quarter wrapping a 13-play, 60-yard drive in 5:10.
UMass scored on the opening drive, capped by a 35-yard bolt by Baylark to put the Minutemen ahead, 7-0 just 2:50 into the game. The Minutemen got a huge kickoff return from junior Matt Lawrence to open the game as he brought the ball back 32 yards to the UMass 37-yard line to start the drive.
Steve Baylark had his 25th career 100-yard game and ninth this season. UMass is 22-3 all-time in those 100-yard games including 9-0 this season.
Steve Baylark had a career-high in receiving yards in a game with 76. He passed his old mark of 64 at Maine on Oct. 22, 2005.
Steve Baylark scored his 46th and 47th career touchdowns to move into sole position of third all-time at UMass in career touchdowns. He broke his tie with Lou Bush (1931-33) at 45 coming into the game. Of the 47 career TDs, Baylark has 41 rushing scores, which is also third-most all-time at UMass.
Steve Baylark had his 14th career two-touchdown game, UMass is 13-1 in those games.
Steve Baylark had his longest reception of the season at 26 yards in the second quarter.
Tim Washington had a season-high 50 rushing yards. His career high of 53 against Notre Dame, while he was at Syracuse on Dec. 6, 2003.
UMass had its first safety of the year as Domenique Milton was credited with a one in the third quarter as he pressure Montana QB Josh Swogger to fumble the ball out of the end zone. UMass last had a safety when it had an NCAA-record three sacks against Albany on Sept. 20, 2005.
Kicker Chris Koepplin made his fourth field goal of 40 or more yards this season, 43 yards. With 15 field goals, this season, Koepplin now is tied for the sixth-most field goals in a career at UMass with Jason Cherry (1998-2000).
Tim Washington had a 22-yard carry in the second quarter, his longest of the season.
Matt Lawrence had a 20-yard catch in the third quarter, his longest catch of the year.
Christian Koegel had four punts inside the 20-yard line including two that landed at the 2-yard line. That tied his career-high for punts inside the 20, done twice before, most recently done on Sept. 25, 2004 against Delaware.