Scrolling Headlines:

UMass men’s basketball falters in the second half, falling to George Washington 83-67 Thursday -

February 24, 2017

UPDATE: SGA announces second and third artist for ‘Mullins Live!’ -

February 23, 2017

Divest UMass and STPEC host panel on building ‘solidarity economies’ in the Trump era -

February 23, 2017

UMass women’s basketball losing streak extends to 10 games after loss to URI -

February 23, 2017

Sixth annual Advocacy Day set to take place March 1 -

February 23, 2017

Panel discusses racial, sexual and psychological violence in response to art exhibit -

February 23, 2017

Judy Dixon enters final season with UMass tennis with simple message: One match at a time -

February 23, 2017

UMass baseball enduring early-season limitation in playing in New England -

February 23, 2017

Minutewomen softball begins season with cross-country travel, string of tournaments -

February 23, 2017

UMass baseball looks to bounce back from disappointing 2016 season -

February 23, 2017

UMass women’s lacrosse senior Hannah Murphy is Angela McMahon’s latest legend in the making -

February 23, 2017

UMass women’s lacrosse senior defenders accept leadership roles in quest for ninth consecutive Atlantic 10 Championship -

February 23, 2017

Kelsey McGovern rejoins UMass women’s lacrosse as an assistant coach after starring for Minutewomen -

February 23, 2017

UMass men’s lacrosse looks to continue improving throughout 2017 season -

February 23, 2017

Spring Sports Special Issue 2017 -

February 23, 2017

UMass men’s lacrosse defense relying on senior leadership with new faces in starting lineup -

February 23, 2017

UMass softball fills holes left by seniors with freshmen for 2017 -

February 23, 2017

The Hart of the Lineup -

February 23, 2017

UMass men’s lacrosse defenseman Tyler Weeks makes his way back from ACL injury -

February 23, 2017

UMass softball prepares for a long, busy season in 2017 -

February 23, 2017

UMass protecting McGuirk, hope to stay undefeated at home

With all five of its victories coming at home this season, the Massachusetts football team looks to finish the season undefeated at McGuirk Alumni Stadium when it hosts James Madison Saturday. 

While road woes took a toll on UMass’ playoff hopes this season, the team’s play at home has been a saving grace, especially with the home-heavy schedule for the season. A chance to finish the season with a spotless home record is just another motivation for the team heading into Saturday’s match-up against the Dukes.

“It’s very important to us, to protect our home. That’s what we talk about. This game is real important [in order] to do that,” defensive end Michael Hanson said of the team’s home record. Hanson will be one of 19 seniors honored at Senior Day this weekend.

Running the numbers tells the difference between the Minutemen’s performance at home and on the road. This season, UMass (5-4, 3-3 Colonial Athletic Association) at home has won all of its games by an average of 35.6-11.6. On the road, though, the Minutemen have lost by an average score of 29.3-16.3. That success, though, is not something the team takes for granted, as UMass coach Kevin Morris and his team look to finish their home slate against the Dukes.

“You always want to defend your home turf. We’re a very prideful group, and we want to defend McGuirk Stadium. It’s our home; we want to win,” Morris said.

James Madison (4-5, 2-4 CAA), meanwhile, enters this weekend with a season that has been below expectations record-wise. The Dukes started off the season strong by tallying three straight wins against non-conference opponents, but ran into a four game skid once they began conference play.

“They’re a very tough team, very athletic. Their record doesn’t indicate how good of a team they are,” Morris said.

JMU’s struggles were compounded when junior quarterback Drew Dudzik broke his leg against Richmond in the team’s fifth game of the season. Dudzik was splitting snaps with freshman Justin Thorpe at the time. But, since the injury, the rookie quarterback has been thrust into the starting role. After initial struggles, though, (the Dukes were shutout 27-0 in Thorpe’s first full-time start), Thorpe has found success in the offense, winning CAA Rookie of the Week honors with his performance in last week’s win over Maine while leading the team in rushing and passing.

“Rookie of the Week last week tells you that he’s got some skills,” Morris said of Thorpe. “He can throw it, he can run it and he’s figuring out the tempo of play and figuring out their offense and he’s doing a real nice job.” 

Thorpe, who is a threat to both run and pass from the pocket, presents a particular challenge for the UMass defense. Although the Minutemen have played against mobile quarterbacks in Rhode Island’s Chris Paul-Etienne and Richmond’s Eric Ward, Thorpe enters the game with more rushing yards (641, which ranks sixth in the CAA) than any player on either UMass or JMU.

“It’s hard, because you’ve got to think about stopping him as well as everyone else, running-wise with the quarterback,” Hanson said. “You’ve always got to worry about getting sacks and passing, but the fact that he can run brings another element to the game and another thing you have to worry about stopping.” 

The Minutemen are back over .500 with their 37-7 drumming and are currently tied for second place in the Colonial Athletic Association North with Maine. UMass currently trails No. 8 New Hampshire by two games.

With two games remaining on the conference schedule, the Minutemen are still alive in the race for the conference title, but do not control their own destiny. To have a chance, UMass must win out, while UNH must lose its final two games against No. 5 William & Mary and Maine.

Nick O’Malley can be reached at nomalley@student.umass.edu.

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