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November 15, 2017

Sanzo: Appalachian State is a reminder of the type of win UMass football needs

(Caroline O’Connor/Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts football team almost had its moment.

It was week five and the Minutemen were already 0-4 on the year. The game against Tennessee was their first contest against a major opponent all season. Playing down in Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee, the situation did not bode well for the Minutemen.

But with 10:06 left in the game, Ross Comis and the UMass offense approached their 20-yard line with an opportunity to take the lead. On the very first play Andy Isabella accelerated his way 42 yards to the Tennessee 38-yard-line.

A lead became more and more of a reality.

But that reality soon died. By the end of the drive, UMass had been pushed back to the Vols’ 44-yard-line forcing Logan Laurent to punt.

The current score remained for the final seven minutes of the game. Tennessee 17, UMass 13.

Tennessee currently 3-4, 0-4 in the Southeastern Conference has been far from the goliath it traditionally is, but a power-five team is a power-five team. A win over them could have been a defining moment for the program, a moment that UMass desperately needs.

Four and a half weeks later, the Minutemen finally have a win and will host its final home game of the season against a team that knows a thing or two about program defining upsets.

Appalachian State was a successful program for years prior to its stunning 34-32 week one win over Michigan in 2007. However, its success came at the Football Championship Subdivision level where the Mountaineers had already won back-to-back FCS national championships in 2005 and 2006. They would later go on and win in 2007 as well.

Ten years later and UMass is looking for its win that would “stun the college football world,” as broadcaster Thom Brennaman had so elegantly put it.

If UMass can beat Appalachian State (5-2, 4-0 Sun Belt), it would show up as shiny win in an otherwise dull year. While it wouldn’t be the win that defines the program, it would make some noise. And UMass sure needs some positive noise.

Just last week “The Athletic” ran a column about the Minutemen’s game vs. Georgia Southern – two winless teams.

Constantly being ranked in the preseason toward the bottom of the Football Bowl Subdivision and averaging three to four wins a year makes up the majority of the publicity that UMass gets.

Even if UMass could eke out a win against a Tennessee or a Mississippi State, it doesn’t have to be pretty but it will catch the eye of sports fans. It will catch the eye of recruits looking to play in the FBS, but don’t quite have the talent to make it to a major school.

It would catch the eye of the fans. As it stands now, disappointing games and losing seasons has become a tradition in Amherst. To restore any sense of excitement, UMass needs that upset win.

They couldn’t get it in Tennessee; maybe they can flip the script on Appalachian State.

Philip Sanzo can be reached at psanzo@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @Philip_Sanzo.

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