Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Minutemen Report Card: Havens, Holmes look to lead in second half

By Adam Miller

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As the Massachusetts football team looks forward to its second half of the season which begins on Saturday against Richmond, it’s time to assess how the Minutemen look going into their final six games.

Here is a position-by-position midterm report card of where No. 8 UMass stands heading into its Homecoming weekend match-up against the Spiders.

Quarterbacks

Adam Miller: A-

David Brinch: A-

A quarterback is one of the essential tools needed to make a successful team, and the Minutemen are no exception.

Senior quarterback Kyle Havens has an efficiency rating of 141.56 with a 64.86 completion percentage, which is very good, but not remarkable. However, it’s also important to take into account that he plays in the Colonial Athletic Association, the best conference in the Football Championship Series.

That being said, if UMass alum Liam Coen is the gold standard for UMass quarterbacks, Havens isn’t too far away from being at that level. After all, you don’t come close to beating Michigan on its home turf without the ability to throw the ball. Havens can do just that. He also has cut down on the turnovers from last year, throwing just three interceptions so far this season. Last season, Havens threw 15 interceptions, including four against the Spiders.

Running backs

AM: B+

DB: A

The two-headed monster is making a difference for the Minutemen this season. With two durable backs, UMass coach Kevin Morris can feel comfortable running the ball as much as he wants without worrying about the wear and tear.

Despite sharing the ball with Jonathan Hernandez, John Griffin still averages 100 yards rushing per game. Since the first game against William & Mary, the running game has been very stable and is pretty much guaranteed to get the Minutemen yards when necessary. These two are the main reasons why the Minutemen are ranked second in the CAA in rushing offense (1,042 yards/208.4 yards per game) and lead the conference in rushing scores with 13.

Receivers

AM: B

DB: B+

The receiving corps has been pretty solid all-around with contributions coming mostly from Julian Talley and Anthony Nelson. Combined, they have over 600 yards receiving and three touchdowns.

Both receivers are the only two players from the same school to be in the top five for receiving yards per game and are capable of making big plays. UMass is the second-best passing offense (237.4 yards per game) and Havens couldn’t help his team get that feat without the help of his receivers. Considering the loss of the likes of Victor Cruz and Jermey Horne to the N.F.L, this group has been a pleasant surprise.

Tight ends

AM: B+

DB: B

Emil Igwenagu gives his team a very valuable offensive weapon, not only as a tight end, but also as a running back. He currently has seven catches for 89 yards in the four games he has played.

Igwenagu played a large role in the team’s win over W&M with five catches for 58 yards. He is a team captain not only because of his experience, but because of his ability to adapt to different positions. Redshirt freshman Rob Blanchflower has been a formidable back-up, playing in all five games while registering five catches for 38 yards and his first career touchdown against Holy Cross. As the season goes on, Havens should continue to look for his tight ends over the middle to balance the offensive attack.

Offensive line

AM: A-

DB: A

Without Vladimir Ducasse, the O-line had gigantic shoes to fill. Allowing just four sacks all season is certainly a good start.

The Minutemen suffered not only from the loss of Ducasse, but this season, center Quinton Sales is learning how to adjust on the fly after senior John Ihne suffered an injury in the second half against Michigan.

Ihne, a redshirt senior, started the first three games of the season and was a key factor in the Michigan. When Ihne has been in the starting lineup for the Minutemen this season, the offensive line has allowed just two sacks and has amassed an average of 221 rushing yards. Ihne is slated to return against the Spiders.

In his absence, Sales has embraced the added pressure and is making the transition pretty seamlessly, while Northeastern transfer Greg Niland has started all five games at left guard.

Defensive line

AM: C

DB: C

If there’s any area that’s a work in progress right now, is the defensive line. While the defense itself has been very good, the line up-front is having problems getting to the quarterback or making the other team’s offensive line a non-factor. This can also be attributed the unit’s inexperience. Out of the 12 defensive linemen on the roster, seven are redshirt freshmen and two are true freshmen.

The Minutemen are currently ranked worse than 100th in the FCS both for sacks and tackles for loss. However, other facets of the defense, including the linebacker play as well as their solid offense production are a reason why the D-line’s problems are a non-factor, for now.

Linebackers

AM: A

DB: A+

Tyler Holmes continues to be the focal point of the UMass defense and is probably the Most Valuable Player of the first half. Not only is he making the case for being considered as the best player on his team, but the best in the nation as well.

The captain leads the team in interceptions (three) as well as tackles (51). His teammate at middle linebacker, Mike Mele, isn’t too far behind with 38 tackles on the season.

With two strong options at the linebacker position, it’s hard to find any reason to mark this position down.

Secondary

AM: B

DB: B+

It hasn’t been the same without Jeromy Miles, Courtney Robinson or Sean Smalls, but this unit is still doing just fine. The Minutemen have allowed a respectable 180.60 yards per game this season and for the most part have kept other team’s deep threats from getting into the end-zone.

The safeties, Darren Thellen and Shane Viveiros have a combined eight pass deflections on the season while Kumar Davis has been pretty solid with an interception of his own. Redshirt seniors David Cozzo and James Carven have helped bring a veteran presence on the field. Cozzo has played in four games this season with a tackle at Holy Cross, while Carven has seen the most minutes of his collegiate career, especially in defensive packages. He has seven tackles, including two against the Wolverines.

Special teams

AM: B-

DB: B

The special teams are certainly making some highlights in the first half of the season, specifically Scott Duggan’s punt-block against the Wolverines. But overall, there’s nothing flashy in the return game numbers (16.4 yards), and the punting has been good, but not great.

The one positive for the Minutemen is that Caleb Violette has been perfect in field goals on six attempts. His longest field goal was from 37 yards out. Carven also recorded an on-side kick against the Crusaders earlier this year.

Overall

AM: A-

DB: A-

UMass had very low expectations coming into the season, especially with the losses to graduation and players to the N.F.L, which has only benefited the entire program, along with an near-upset at the Big House. Morris, in his second season, continues to lead his team to an impressive season and the No. 8 team in the FCS.

At this point, the Minutemen look like heavy contenders to win the CAA – not an easy feat by any stretch of the imagination. Even though UMass might not be an overwhelming team, it can win games on either side of the ball and look to in the second half of their 2010 campaign.

David Brinch and Adam Miller are Collegian columnists. David can be reached at [email protected] Adam can be reached at [email protected]

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