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UMass quarterback Kyle Havens’ success coming from teammates

footBAfter throwing for his first 300-yard game in a Massachusetts football uniform, quarterback Kyle Havens earned the Colonial Athletic Association Offensive Player of the Week on Monday.

The junior led the Minutemen (2-1, 1-0 CAA) to a 30-10 victory over Rhode Island with 329 yards on 22-of-30 passing, including two touchdowns and one interception. The first half against Rhode Island is where Havens was most impressive, as he went 15-of-17 for 206 yards and threw both of his touchdowns, lifting UMass to a 21-0 lead at halftime.

Havens may have put up the numbers to warrant the honor, but to him the honor is more for the entire offense.

“It feels good. It shows that the hard work is paying off, but it wasn’t just me doing that on my own,” Havens said of the honor. “I have a whole offense that has to operate correctly for me to be able to do my job, so I kind of needed everyone to help me get that.”

The stat that stands out the most and exemplifies the quarterback’s point that he could not have done what he did without the offense around him, is how the team went seven-for-seven on third-down conversions in the first half. Five of the seven conversions came from Havens’ arm, while the other two came with the ball in tailback Tony Nelson’s hands.

Since his first game as a Minuteman, Havens continues to progress, and with that, so has UMass’ offense.

“I feel like it has been really good, the offense just in general is progressing really well and we’re getting into a much better rhythm then we started in,” Havens said. “Hopefully we can keep it rolling through the season.”

However, the progress being made does not mean Havens can’t improve further, and he knows it.

“I think just sharpening my decision making,” Havens said of where he can make the biggest improvement. “I feel like I make good decisions, I could just make them a little bit quicker.”

Even UMass coach Kevin Morris knows his quarterback can always improve, something he often stresses, and would not let Havens forget that. But at the same time, Morris knows a lot of the improvements will come with time.

“Kyle has not got to have those bad plays, a play where he misses the read or just doesn’t figure out where to go with the ball at the right time,” Morris said. “We have just got to get better with those things and he can certainly improve there. A lot of it is just reps and now he’s getting more game reps and he’ll continue to improve.

“He’s getting better week-to-week, understanding the system better, staying true to his reads and getting the ball to the right guy at the right time is what we have got to continue to work on and we showed some good results last week, but there is still a lot of room for improvement.”

Moving on up

Not only did the victory over URI (1-1, 0-1 CAA) give Havens some recognition, it also gave some to the team as they moved up two spots in both the Sports Network poll and the FCS Coaches poll to No. 15. The ranking is the highest of the season for the Minutemen, who had been No. 17 for the first three weeks of the season in the Sports Network poll and ranked 18th in the FCS Coaches poll for the first two weeks.

UMass’ win coupled with then-No. 20 Maine’s loss to Albany – who the Minutemen defeated 44-7 in Week 2 – and losses by Wofford and Cal Poly propelled UMass to its highest rankings since late last season.

But for the Minutemen, the rankings mean little to the team, and according to Morris, are just a bunch of opinions that do nothing to help them reach their goals.

“It makes no difference to where we end up and it is all about winning the conference and the ranking has nothing to do with anything in terms of postseason or anything else,” Morris said. “It is just an opinion poll, and people have opinions. It’s good because it gets people talking about Division I-AA football, but it makes no impact on us.”

Even for Havens, the rankings do nothing for the team’s goal of winning games now, and he relishes being lower in the rankings.

“I actually didn’t know that we had moved up,” Havens said prior to Tuesday’s practice. “We pay attention and we look obviously, but we try not to let that bug you. We just want to win games.

“At the same time, it is kind of nice being the underdog so no one really expects much from us, so when we go on to shock everyone it’s that much better.”

Red zone alert

After two victories with a combined score of 74-17, it is hard to find much wrong with UMass this early in the season. But Morris constantly stresses that there is always room for improvement, and one of those areas is red zone scoring.

To this point in the season, the Minutemen have scored on 9-of-11 trips into the red zone, and seven of the nine scores came by touchdown.

“I think we’ve missed two opportunities and they were both turnovers at this point so we need to obviously improve on that,” Morris said. “We need to just keep scoring touchdowns because we kicked three field goals in the second half on Saturday, that game could have been a much more lopsided-looking game if we had scored touchdowns instead of field goals, so that is going to be an emphasis this week.”

Jeffrey R. Larnard can be reached at jlarnard@dailycollegian.com.

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