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May 4, 2017

Minutemen look for third straight win

FootCThe Massachusetts football team has had few hiccups the past two weeks, routing both Albany and Rhode Island.

With Stony Brook coming to Amherst this Saturday, most think it will be another easy victory.

But to the No. 15 Minutemen’s coach, Kevin Morris, no team can be taken lightly, even the Seawolves who have started off slowly.

“Like every game, it is a must win for us, and we better be prepared because they are a quality team,” Morris said prior to Tuesday’s practice.

Morris would know, as he has numerous connections to the coaching staff at Stony Brook (1-2), and even coached at the Long Island school.

He was the offensive coordinator in 1999 before moving on to Northeastern, and later UMass (2-1, 1-0 Colonial Athletic Association).

The Seawolves possess a tandem of tailbacks in Edwin Gowins and Conte Cuttion. The two have combined to average 113 yards per game on the ground, and Cuttion has contributed to the passing game as well.

“They can fly, and they both average well over 100 yards a piece per game,” Morris said of the tailbacks. “This year they are not doing as well early in the year right now, but they can still hit at anytime, so we have to take care of them.”

To compliment the duo of running backs, Stony Brook utilizes two quarterbacks that pose a threat. Sophomore Michael Coulter has taken most of the snaps for the Seawolves in the first three games, but Dayne Hoffman has also seen time under center.

Through three games this season, the Seawolves offense has struggled to produce, averaging 14.7 points per game, but Morris is aware of what their offense is capable of, especially from the tailback position.

“They have two guys playing quarterback, and they both can throw it and they have some quality wideouts,” Morris said. “But their tailbacks are who they really want to emphasize in their offense.”

The Stony Brook offense may find it hard to get on a roll when they arrive at McGuirk Stadium, especially with the way UMass’ defense has been playing. The Minutemen have not allowed their opposition to score in either the first or fourth quarters of the first three games, and has also not allowed an offensive touchdown in 10 quarters – a streak that started in the third quarter of Week 1 at Kansas State.

While UMass’ defense has been suffocating, its opposition has still been able to put points on the board, meaning there is room for improvement. The unit has set goals in previous games of not allowing points in the third quarter, or not allowing any points in the second half, but this week, the goal is bigger.

“Shutout,” cornerback Ke’Mon Bailey said of the team’s goal for Saturday’s game. “[A] one hundred percent shutout.”

Even the Minutemen offense, which has been stronger with each game, sees room for improvement, and the contest with the Seawolves is the perfect opportunity to get better before UMass goes into an open week followed by a tough October schedule.

“On offense, we just need to execute a little bit better and everyone needs to do their part,” said quarterback Kyle Havens, this week’s CAA Offensive Player of the Week.

Havens is coming off his best game as a Minuteman, in which he was 22-of-30 for 329 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. The offense is producing more than 30 points per game under the leadership of Havens, as well as tailback Tony Nelson, who is averaging 114 yards per game and five yards per rush.

The Seawolves defense will look to disrupt the rhythm that Havens and the rest of the offense has established in the last two games, and may be able to do so with a number of talented players on that side of the ball.

“For each level they have a star,” Morris said of Stony Brook’s defense. “They [have] got stars up and down the line up defensively and offensively.”

The contest will be UMass’ second night game under the lights at McGuirk Stadium with a kickoff time of 6 p.m. on Saturday.

Jeffrey R. Larnard can be reached at

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