Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Raising more questions for UMass football

By Jay Asser

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The loss for the Massachusetts football team against Boston College this past weekend seems like a lost opportunity.

With no playoffs on the horizon due to NCAA rules, UMass had the Eagles circled on its calendar, hoping to make a case as to why it will be successful when it jumps to the Football Bowl Subdivision next year.

Instead of making a statement, the Minutemen just raised more questions.

But before taking the loss at face value and denouncing UMass’ ability to hang with FBS opponents in a knee-jerk reaction, consider the following:

The Minutemen are in a transition year.

On both sides of the ball, UMass lost seniors from last season who were staples of the team. Former quarterback Kyle Havens in particular was the main cog of an offense that posted prolific numbers in 2010, with Havens ranking first in the Colonial Athletic Conference with 244.7 yards per game and the unit as a whole leading the league in total offense (413.1).

Sophomore Kellen Pagel is the current starter under center for UMass this season. While he showed glimpses of stardom in the first two games this year, leading the Minutemen to a pair of victories, Pagel reminded everyone that he’s still a young, developing quarterback against BC.

Nevertheless, the lumps Pagel took against a quality FBS opponent will only serve as valuable experience when UMass’ level of competition rises in the coming years.

This also wasn’t a significant game just for the Minutemen.

After a disappointing start to their season with three-straight losses, the Eagles were looking to bring their best game and make a statement of their own – that they’re still the team to beat in Massachusetts.

All the attention and hype heading into the game was placed on UMass, the underdog trying to make a name. The Eagles, meanwhile, were perceived as simply a necessary stepping stone.

BC came out and quickly quieted down the buzz that was generated throughout the week for the Minutemen, taking a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter.

After making halftime adjustments, the Minutemen played better in the second half, despite being outscored 21-10. However, 14 of those points for the Eagles came on two fumble recoveries for touchdowns, including a 96-yard return after the UMass offense drove down the field.

The 45-17 final score looks deceiving, appearing much worse for the Minutemen than what was the case, considering how they played.

Still, it was a far cry from the near-upset UMass managed against a storied Michigan program last season at the Big House. The Wolverines survived in that contest, despite three fourth-quarter touchdowns by the Minutemen, who fell short, losing 42-37.

Bottom line, don’t write off UMass from making an impact in the Mid-American Conference in the near future. While it may be disappointing seeing the Minutemen squander multiple chances to top an FBS team, a young team can only learn and get better from their failures.

Jay Asser can be reached at [email protected]

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