The Massachusetts football team moved up four spots to No. 21 in the national Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) rankings this week after defeating Holy Cross in its season opener, 24-16, on Sept. 1.
“[It was] certainly an excellent win on the road,” UMass head coach Kevin Morris said in a UmassAthletics.com interview. “We started off a little slow at the quarterback position with Brandon Hill and Kellen Pagel trying to get their legs under them. But, we played well defensively throughout and we really won the game through field position, I think.”
Starting tailback Jonathan Hernandez played the biggest offensive role for the Maroon and White in their victory. The senior racked-up 151 rushing yards on 29 carries, the second-highest total in his career, and was vital to the offensive attack.
“We’re going to run our offense through Jon,” Morris said. “He’s such a cog in our wheel, he’s the guy we have to go to. He does it through taking a 3-yard run and making it 12 and a 12-yard run and making it 20. That’s just who he is and how he plays and I can’t be more excited about Jon and his production [in the first game].”
The Minutemen have plenty of company in the Top 25, as there are five teams on their schedule ranked 20th or higher. Beginning with a matchup against Delaware in October, UMass will play ranked opponents in five of its last six games. The only team that isn’t ranked in that span, Maine, is also receiving votes as a Top 25 team, and easily could be ranked by November when the Minutemen visit Orono.
Also highlighting the end of the season are games against New Hampshire, Richmond, Villanova and James Madison. Just like a season ago, UMass will once again travel to Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. to play UNH in what many people are considering a preview of 2012, when UMass will play every home game there.
UMass isn’t letting its new ranking go to its head, as it knows it still has a lot of work to do to keep improving and move up even further in the national rankings.
Due to an early bye in week two of the season, the Minutemen were off this weekend, and will open up their home schedule on Saturday against Rhode Island at McGuirk Alumni Stadium. The game is slated for a 6:30 p.m. kickoff. Morris said it was particularly difficult to have a bye week so early in the season, but that the team has put it to good use.
“This is the first time we’ve ever had an off-week this early on,” Morris said. “Then, put that on top of the fact that we played Thursday night [last week], so we had Thursday through Saturday off and then the bye week after that.”
Morris also pointed out that since URI had a bye week in week one, there isn’t any game tape on them for him and his staff to watch prior to Saturday’s matchup. Collegiate programs prepare for upcoming games by watching film of other teams before playing against them. Since there is no film of URI, UMass is at a significant disadvantage.
Michael Wood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.