A week for recovery

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

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Michael Phillis/Collegian

It was a tumultuous weekend for the Massachusetts football team. And the 24-14 loss to Boston College on Saturday is only partly responsible.

Star UMass quarterback Liam Coen re-injured his left knee – despite wearing protective knee brace – early in the fourth quarter against the Eagles. Coen was hit on a first down play, while completing a 5-yard pass to fullback Breyone Evans. The play ended up being called back because of a holding penalty. Coen stayed on the ground for a few minutes before limping off the field.

Coen originally injured his left knee against Towson, but only missed one series. Backup Scott Woodward replaced him in both games and looked solid throwing the ball. The Minutemen are off this weekend for their bye week and UMass coach Don Brown thinks that his signal-caller will be ready for the following week against Villanova.

“I would anticipate that he will be available to us next week,” said Brown during the weekly teleconference. “He injured it initially against Towson. He played against Maine. They say he is not set back to that point.

“So that is a positive that we have the bye week,” he added. “So there is no rush on our end. We just want to make sure we get it quieted down.”

The Minutemen received more bad news when freshman Johnny Evans was stabbed in the buttocks early Sunday morning on campus.

The freshman linebacker does not travel with the team, and did not make the trip to Chestnut Hill.

A running start

UMass (4-1, 2-0 Colonial Athletic Conference) possesses one of the elite offenses in the Football Championship Subdivision, with a great combination of passing (Coen) and running with Matt Lawrence and Tony Nelson.

The Minutemen have averaged a superb 32.6 points per contest, outscoring their opponents 163-91 after five games.

But where UMass has really excelled is on the ground. Lawrence has led the rushing attack this season, as the Minutemen average 156.4 yards rushing per game – compared to the 90.8 yard average of the opposition.

Lawrence (581 yards, 5.7 yards per carry) and Nelson (263 yards, 6.0 yards per carry) have helped the Minutemen accrue a 4.5 yards average per rush attempt – a figure that dwarfs the opposition’s 2.5 yard average.

UMass has 43 rushing first downs this season, while opponents have just 32 (an average of 6.4 per game).

Heads or tails?

The Minutemen have an uncanny ability to win coin tosses – they’ve won all five this season – and it’s something that Brown and his team takes advantage of.

Rather than choosing to receive the opening kickoff, like most teams do, Brown chooses to defer the decision to the opposition. The coach opts to choose which direction the teams will play before alternating between quarters.

“Well there’s no question why I did it [against Maine], there was a very strong wind, so if we choose to defer, they have to take the ball and we get the wind,” Brown said during the week leading up the Boston College matchup.

“And I have a lot of confidence that we will go out there, stop them and get the ball to the offense with good field position,” he added. “So for a lot of our games, that’s held up being true.”

“Spread” offense

The Minutemen have scored 20 touchdowns this season. And those scores have come from a variety of people.

Coen has thrown 11 touchdown passes this season to eight different receivers. Only J.J. Moore, Rasheed Rancher and Jeremy Horne have caught two touchdowns. Two fullbacks (Chris Zardas and Evans), one tight end (Ian Jorgensen) and two receivers (Michael Omar and Joe Sanford) are the others who have been the recipients of a Coen touchdown pass.

Of the other nine UMass touchdowns, seven have come on the ground (Lawrence 5 and Omar and Evans 1), one has come on defense (Sean Smalls interception return) and one on special teams (J.J. Moore punt return).


Following the loss to Boston College, the Minutemen fell two spots in The Sports Network Poll, dropping to No. 4