AMHERST, Mass. — Given a chance to show his skill in a pressure situation, true freshman quarterback Montel White came through in grand fashion.
A 15-yard touchdown pass by White to Tre Gray with nine seconds left in the game gave the University of Richmond an improbable 11-10 victory over the University of Massachusetts Saturday afternoon at McGuirk Stadium.
"The last play sort of reminds me of a young Eric Ward," said Gray, comparing White to the former Spider quarterback who led them to many comeback wins. "He's calm, he's poised. He didn't try to go out of direction and he did what he was supposed to do."
White had been a non-factor in the game until the eight-play, 60-yard drive that started with 1:51 left in the game. The drive started off well when Richmond took over at its own 40-yard line after the UMass kicked the ball out of bounds following its field goal to make the score 10-5.
Up until that drive, White had only one passing attempt which he threw out of bounds with a pair of Massachusetts defenders chasing him.
Headed into the game, a starting quarterback had not been named by Richmond coach Latrell Scott. Injuries to the three quarterbacks on the depth chart left questions about whether Scott would turn to White or use a committee of quarterbacks.
He did both against the Minutemen as tailbacks Jovan Smith and Garrett Wilkins ran plays as the quarterback. Richmond threw the ball only six times, all of which came from White.
"We wanted Montel to relax and let the older guys make plays for him," Scott said.
With the uncertainty surrounding the quarterback position, the defense had to shut down the Minutemen's high-powered offense to put Richmond in a position to win the game. Led by senior Eric McBride and sophomore Darius McMillan, the defense held UMass it 171 rushing yards — its lowest total of the season — and 78 yards passing.
Perhaps no defensive play was bigger for Richmond than a stop by senior defensive tackle Martin Parker on a fourth-and-goal play midway through the fourth quarter with UMass leading 7-5. UMass had the ball at Richmond's one-yard line on first down and was prevented from scoring when Jonathan Hernandez tried to run the ball up the middle, but was met by Parker for a two-yard loss on fourth down.
"We came together as a d-line, as a linebacker core, as a secondary core and we played four terrific plays and stopped them," Parker said.
Massachusetts came into the game averaging just under 30 points per game. Its lone touchdown of the game came during the second quarter when quarterback Kyle Havens rolled out to the right and threw back across the field to connect with tight end Andrew Krevis on a seven-yard touchdown.
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Special teams also played a key role in Richmond's win. With the Minutemen backed up on their own seven-yard line and forced to punt from their endzone early during the first quarter, the snap went over the head of punter Caleb Violette and through the back of the endzone for a safety.
Despite the heroics of White, Scott would not commit to White as the starting quarterback for next week's home game against Towson University or that White would get more opportunities to pass if he starts.
"We're going to go back on Sunday, as we do every Sunday, and figure out... if he's our quarterback," Scott said.
Things started ominously for White. His first play of the game was a handoff to sophomore Kendall Gaskins but after Gaskins got the ball, White tripped and fell down.
"The first play, when I tripped, I actually laughed at myself because laughter is the best medicine," White said. "I got up and played the next play."
The first time White got the opportunity to throw was with about seven minutes left in the first half. On a third-and-10, White started scrambling when he was hit by defensive lineman Charles Thompson and fumbled the ball, which was recovered by the Minutemen.
But he responded by going 4-5 for 47 yards on the game-winning drive.
It was a big win for the Spiders as it improved them to 3-3 and keeps their hope of a playoff berth alive. It also showed that they can compete with a top-10 team in the nation on the road, as UMass came into the game as the No. 8 team in the nation with a 4-1 record with the only loss coming at the University of Michigan.
"We challenged our kids all week to believe in each other and trust our staff," Scott said. "And I think only the 54 guys who made the trip and our fans and our families and our friends were the only ones who thought we'd get this thing done.
"And we stuck together, hung together and won a football game."
Contact staff writer Andrew Prezioso at email@example.com
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