Football: Team notebook

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

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Brian Tedder/Collegian

The Massachusetts football team keeps winning ugly. And they keep getting rewarded for it.

For the second straight week, the Minutemen have climbed up one spot in the Sports Network’s Football Championship Subdivision poll. UMass is now the No. 3 team, behind only two-time defending national champions Appalachian State and North Dakota State.

UMass (2-0) started the season at No. 5, before climbing to No. 4 after a season-opening 28-16 win over Albany. The Minutemen – who received one first-place vote this week – moved up again after defeating Holy Cross, 45-42, on a 42-yard field goal as time expired.

While the team continues to move up in the poll, UMass players continue to collect accolades. Linebacker Josh Jennings took an award in Week 1, while quarterback Liam Coen and wide receiver Julian Talley were honored after their performances against the Crusaders.

In a classic quarterback battle with Holy Cross’ Dominic Randolph, Coen had one of the best games of his career – throwing for three touchdowns (and running for another) while accumulating 395 yards in the air on 25-for-36 passing. For his efforts, the senior signal caller was named the Sports Network National Player of the Week.

Talley (four receptions, 71 yards) was named Colonial Athletic Association Rookie of the Week. The 6-foot-1 redshirt freshman wide receiver had only one catch for 20 yards in the opener against the Great Danes.

Special teams fun

For whatever reason, any and all games involving UMass seem to provide endless suspense on special teams – and last weekend’s game was a perfect example.

Sometimes that drama makes UMass coach Don Brown ecstatic. But mostly, it seems to anger him to no end. Last year it was the problem with punting (starter Brett Arnold was benched in the playoffs, and backup quarterback Scott Woodward had to take over). This year, it seems to be the coverage teams.

Against Holy Cross, the Minutemen allowed an 88-yard kickoff return touchdown to Brett McDermott in the second quarter – giving the Crusaders their third lead of the game at 21-14. They also allowed a 32-yard punt return to Josh Jenkins, which help set up a touchdown to extend the lead to 28-14.

“Our special teams play was downright bad, especially in the first half,” Brown said. “We played much better in the second half. We still have a long way to go there, but you have to give them credit too. McDermott is an excellent return man and he earned everything he got.”

But special teams would ultimately lead to the win for Brown and Co., as senior kicker Armando Cuko – who hasn’t attempted a field goal for the Minutemen in almost three years – nailed the 42-yard field goal to escape Worcester with the victory.

Arnold, who had his ups and downs last season, punted the ball very well again last weekend. He has a 46.1 average on 10 punts this season in two games. Last year his average was 37.9 on 51 attempts.

Grabbing life by the Hornes

Entering this season, skeptics wondered whether Coen would have anyone to throw to with the graduation of receivers J.J. Moore and Rasheed Rancher and tight end Brad Listorti.

He does. And that player is Jeremy Horne.

The 6-foot-3 redshirt junior wideout wasn’t much of a factor last season with all the talent on offense – catching 12 passes for 146 yards. However, three of those passes were hauled in for touchdowns, showing his play-making ability.

He showed it in a big way against the Crusaders – exploding for 172 yards and two touchdowns on 10 receptions. He now also had a touchdown reception in the win over Albany.

The pair of touchdowns came at great times against Holy Cross. His first, a 26-yarder, tied the game at 14-14 midway in the second quarter. His next one (19 yards) cut the lead to 28-21 just one minute before halftime.

“I don’t think there are anymore questions about our receiver corps now,” Brown said. “I don’t think anybody can say anything about them now. They’re a great group and have been working their tails off. It was just a matter of getting on the same page.”

News and notes

UMass continues to have problems in the penalty department. It committed 11 against Holy Cross, resulting in six first downs and 107 total yards.