Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Even with offensive production, turnovers and penalties still cause for concern

Six weeks into the football season, the best asset of the Massachusetts football team is its offense.

The Minutemen (4-1, 2-0 Colonial Athletic Association) are exhibiting the type of balanced attack that UMass coach Kevin Morris hoped they would, doing so with certain success.

John Griffin, Jonathan Hernandez and the UMass rushing attack is providing the foundation for an offense that ranks first in the CAA (445.8 yards per game) and second in rushing yards (208.4 ypg).

Additionally, the Minutemen are throwing the ball efficiently with quarterback Kyle Havens, ranked second in the league in pass offense with over 237.4 yards per game.

Yet, amidst the Minutemen’s offensive efficiency have been fundamental errors they look to avoid going into, perhaps, their most difficult stretch of games on their schedule.

UMass is eighth in the conference in turnover-margin (80th in Football Championship Subdivision). Morris stressed ball security, as well as penalties and tackling during the bye week before he began preparing his team for its game against Richmond on Saturday.

“We tried to get healthy, work on fundamentals and then work on Richmond,” Morris said.

The Minutemen were poised to upset Michigan on the road on Sept. 18, when a Hernandez touchdown gave them a 10-point lead as the second quarter drew to a close. That lead evaporated before the break, due in large to a costly fumble with 45 seconds to play in the half.

In its last game against Towson on Oct. 2, UMass lost three fumbles in the first 17 minutes of the game, allowing the Tigers to take a 14-7 lead.

All season, UMass has struggled to shore up its high tendency for penalties. UMass gave up 181 penalty yards combined over its first two games at home against William & Mary and Holy Cross. The Minutemen currently average seven penalties per game for over 62 yards, ranking seventh in the CAA in that category.

Last week, they had their least penalized game (three for 23 yards), helping them overcome their turnover discrepancy in a 27-14 win against the Tigers.

“All year long, we have tried to make sure we are better in our technique,” Morris said. “Making sure that we get to our spots in good position, so that we are not having some not-smart penalties that have cropped up. Tackling and ball security is always very big for us and we spend a good amount of time on that, as well.”

Aside from its giveaways, the Minutemen have dominated control of the ball in the first half of their season, ranking second in the nation in time of possession (35:37) and fourth in first downs (24.2 per game).

The UMass defense forced two turnovers-on-downs against the Tigers, which do not show up under turnover margin on the stat sheet, but are just as equitable. The Minutemen are fourth in the FCS in 4th down percentage defense (14.6 percent), allowing one conversion out of seven attempts.

Junior captain Tyler Holmes, last week’s FCS Defensive Player of the Week and a recent addition to the Buck Buchannan Award Watch List, leads UMass in interceptions.

On Sept. 25, Holmes intercepted a deflected pass with 1:08 left to seal a 26-21 win at Stony Brook. In the season opener, Holmes made an interception of on the final Tribe possession, also off of a deflection, in a 27-23 win.

One of only two linebackers in the FCS with three picks, Holmes says himself that he always seems to be “in the right place at the right time.”

Ball security and other fundamentals could end up  being the difference between wins and losses, especially during a stretch of the schedule that includes three opponents ranked in the FCS Top 25 and two in the top seven (No. 7 James Madison and No. 2 Deleware). 

Dan Gigliotti can be reached at [email protected].

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Massachusetts Daily Collegian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *