Scrolling Headlines:

UMass women’s basketball handles Duquesne at home -

January 16, 2017

UMass men’s basketball’s late comeback falls short after blowing 15-point first-half lead -

January 15, 2017

UMass hockey outlasted at home against No. 6 UMass Lowell -

January 14, 2017

Hailey Leidel hits second buzzer beater of the season to give UMass women’s basketball win over Davidson -

January 13, 2017

UMass football hosts Maine at Fenway Park in 2017 -

January 12, 2017

UMass men’s basketball snaps losing streak and upsets Dayton Wednesday night at Mullins Center -

January 11, 2017

UMass women’s track and field takes second at Dartmouth Relays -

January 10, 2017

UMass hockey falls to No. 5 Boston University at Frozen Fenway -

January 8, 2017

UMass professor to make third appearance on ‘Jeopardy!’ -

January 8, 2017

UMass women’s basketball suffers brutal loss on road against Saint Joseph’s -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops thirds straight, falls to VCU 81-64 -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops tightly-contested conference matchup against George Mason Wednesday night -

January 4, 2017

Late-game defense preserves UMass women’s basketball’s win against rival Rhode Island -

January 4, 2017

AIC shuts out UMass hockey 3-0 at Mullins Center -

January 4, 2017

UMass professor to appear as contestant on ‘Jeopardy!’ Thursday night -

January 4, 2017

Penalties plague UMass hockey in Mariucci Classic championship game -

January 2, 2017

UMass men’s basketball falls in A-10 opener to St. Bonaventure and its veteran backcourt -

December 30, 2016

UMass woman’s basketball ends FIU Holiday Classic with 65-47 loss to Drexel -

December 29, 2016

UMass men’s basketball finishes non-conference schedule strong with win over Georgia State -

December 28, 2016

Brett Boeing joins UMass hockey for second half of season -

December 28, 2016

Strong start, tough finish for Minutemen campaign

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

Though the Massachusetts football team put forth a notable effort and made an impression this season, it came up one win short of advancing to the postseason

“In the end, it was a disappointing season because we didn’t achieve our goal of making the playoffs,” UMass head coach Kevin Morris said.

In the first half of the year, it seemed the No. 19-ranked Minutemen (6-5, 4-4 Colonial Athletic Association) were well on their way after 4-1 record heading into the bye week. The lone loss came in a closely-contested shootout against a storied Michigan program on the road, 42-37. Despite dropping the most anticipated game on its schedule, UMass played well enough to raise some eyebrows.

Throughout the season, the Minutemen played games down to wire, something that Morris was pleased to see.

“We had some really quality games,” Morris said. “We had a lot of great individual efforts … The one thing we talked about was that we played hard for 60 minutes, so we’re very happy about that.”

The second half of the season, however, was a different story entirely. The Minutemen went 2-4, dropping their first two games out of the bye week and the final two contests of the year.

In the regular season finale against Rhode Island on the road, UMass needed a victory to make a strong a case to be selected by the Football Championship Subdivision committee for a postseason berth.

“The Rhode Island game and the Richmond game are the two games that stand out as games that we didn’t execute like we were capable of executing during the year,” Morris said. “If we would have done that at that point, we would have won those games, but we did not.”

In the disappointing loss to the Rams, the Minutemen allowed a 3-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Steve Probst to Brandon Johnson-Farrell with one minute, 10 seconds left in the contest. URI then punched in the 2-point conversion to earn the three-point win and end UMass’ season.

Against the Spiders right after the bye week, the Minutemen also allowed a game-winning drive. After not completing a pass until the final drive of the game, fourth-string freshman quarterback Montel White led the Spiders down the field and connected with Tre Gray for a 15-yard touchdown pass with nine seconds remaining for the 11-10 victory.

While UMass was arguably playing its best football of the year in the first half of the season, the bye week seemed to hurt the Minutemen. Morris, however, views the tough conference schedule in the second half as the reason for his team’s struggles down the stretch.

“I don’t think the bye week had much to do with it,” Morris said. “It was just a matter of continuing the focus and playing hard and well and playing as a team. In the second half we had all our conference games and those are usually the best teams on our schedule.”

Individually, various UMass players had career seasons. Quarterback Kyle Havens, after throwing for nine touchdowns and 15 interceptions in his first year as the starter in 2009, led the CAA in passing yards per game (244.7) and touchdowns (20). The senior was also called by multiple opposing head coaches as the most improved player in the conference.

Havens’ main target this season was senior Anthony Nelson, who transferred from Hofstra prior to the start of the year. The wide receiver led the league with 61 catches for 830 yards and four touchdowns, while being named to the ESPN Academic All-American Football First Team and New England Writers All-Star Team.

On defense, linebacker Tyler Holmes amassed 110 tackles, tied with fellow linebacker Mike Mele for the team-high. For his efforts, the junior co-captain was named a New England Writers All-Star, CAA Co-Defensive Player of the Year and team MVP.

The Minutemen also garnered national attention this season with their matchup against Michigan and their contest versus New Hampshire at Gillette Stadium, the home of the New England Patriots.

“It was great exposure for our kids and great experience for our kids, as well as for the program,” Morris said.

Though the future of the program is still up in the air with rumors of a possible move to the Mid-American Conference, Morris and Co. will look to make another run at the postseason next year in the CAA.

Jay Asser can be reached at jasser@student.umass.edu.

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