The cause of those results has been one UMass coach Kevin Morris’ biggest goals: holding on to the ball.
Last season as a junior, Havens started 10 games and threw for 1,908 yards and nine touchdowns. He ranked seventh in the Colonial Athletic Association in total offense with 181.2 yards per game. The signal-caller ranked first, however, in the league in interceptions thrown with 15.
It’s been a day-and-night difference this year for the Concord, Calif. native, who not only leads the league in passing yards, but is tied for first in the conference in interceptions (five) among quarterbacks who have played nine games.
“A lot of his decision-making is much better this year, a much better understanding of the scheme and what we’re trying to do with it,” Morris said in his weekly teleconference. “Again, he made some real critical throws in the last few weeks and in the JMU game as well on third down and making some big third and fourth-down conversions.”
In the win over Maine this past week, Havens led the offense with an efficient 22-of-28 completion rate along with 213 passing yards and three touchdowns.
Though the Minutemen lost two fumbles on the day, Havens didn’t turn the ball over, preventing the Black Bears from completing a comeback.
“The biggest stat, obviously we love the touchdown passes, one was a shuffle pass and that counts as well, but he didn’t throw any interceptions,” Morris said.
This week, UMass will take on a Delaware team which ranks second in the CAA in both passing defense and in turnovers forced with 21 (six fumbles, 15 interceptions).
In the matchup between the two teams last year, the Minutemen suffered a 43-27 loss on the road, in large part due to turning the ball over.
Despite the defense forcing two turnovers, tailback Tony Nelson and Havens each lost fumble, with Havens also throwing an interception. One of the fumbles was recovered by the Blue Hens and returned 42 yards down the sideline to increase their lead to 20-0 late in the first quarter.
With UMass trying to dig itself out of a hole in the third quarter, Havens’ pass was intercepted, setting up a 27-yard touchdown run to give Delaware the 37-6 lead.
Heading into this week, Morris doesn’t want to see a repeat of last season’s game and knows holding on to the ball will be key once again.
“It’s going to be a boring story from my end but we need to take care of the football,” Morris said. “We went down there last year and had a turnover for a touchdown and two other turnovers that set those guys up and that game got away from us early down at Delaware.”
In the CAA, Richmond is the only team with a winning record (5-4), despite committing over 16 turnovers (25). Both Maine and Towson, which rank just behind the Spiders in turnovers lost at 19 and 17, respectively, have a combined 4-14 record.
“That’s been the case in the CAA all the time,” Morris said. “If you don’t take care of the football, you’re going to have a tough time winning the ballgame. Our thought is to come out, take care of the ball, play our game on offense and defense.”
Jay Asser can be reached at email@example.com.