UMass football set to face Kent State in annual homecoming game Saturday

By Andrew Cyr

Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian
(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

There’s no sugar coating it. Last weekend was a bad one for the Massachusetts football team.

Following a 62-38 blowout loss against Bowling Green last Saturday, in which UMass (1-4, 0-1 Mid-American Conference) allowed a season-high 725 yards of offense, the Minutemen return to McGuirk Stadium for the second time this season to face Kent State in the annual homecoming game.

“We can’t let Bowling Green beat us twice,” center Matt Sparks told Masslive.com after Tuesday’s practice. “We’ve got to move on and keep trusting in each other that we’re going to get the job done.”

Sparks added: “We can’t get caught up on mistakes that we made in that game. We’ve got to move on and look at Kent State and get ready to beat them.”

The Golden Flashes (2-4, 1-1 MAC) enter the weekend after losing to Toledo last Saturday 38-7, in which they totaled 257 yards of offense. The previous week against Miami (OH), Kent State held on for a 20-14 win in which it had 320 total yards of offense.

The Minutemen defense has proven it can play in small spurts this season as they held Temple’s Jahad Thomas – the nation’s third-highest rusher at the time – to 66 yards on 25 carries on Sept. 19 and again against Florida International where the Panthers only scored a pair of touchdowns Oct. 3.

Linebacker Shane Huber said the main problem UMass faced against Bowling Green was its execution, and not the preparation or matchups.

“It’s all about getting 11 guys in the right spot at the right time. A lot of times we find ourselves with 10 guys in the perfect spot and one guy out position,” Huber said. “You can’t win specific plays like that and you can’t win games like that.”

With a series of injuries to its key skill position players – Antwan Dixon, Nick Holley and Myles Washington – Kent State has struggled to find its rhythm offensively and third-year quarterback Colin Reardon has not helped its cause.

According to Flashes coach Paul Hayes via Elton Alexander from Cleveland.com, there was an open competition between Reardon and redshirt freshmen George Bollas, after Reardon struggled to spark the offense that only has six passing touchdowns through as many games.

Both Reardon and Bollas have appeared in all six games for the Golden Flashes, although Reardon is still listed as the started on their two-deep depth chart.

Unlike quick, shifty running backs that the Minutemen have faced this season like Thomas and Notre Dame’s C.J. Prosise, Kent State’s Trayion Durham is a power back that relies on his size rather than speed in the running game.

The 6-foot-1, 250-pound back leads the team with 290 rushing yards this season and his pair of rushing touchdowns are tied for most on the team. A week after allowing over 200 yards on the ground, UMass has made it a focal point this week to stop the run game.

“You want to stop him at the line of scrimmage,” UMass defensive coordinator Tom Massella said. “He’s 250 pounds and with their scheme he’s a downhill back. We have to get him to go east and west a little bit and stop him before he gets in the second level.”

Saturday’s kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. and the game can be seen on ESPN3.com.

Andrew Cyr can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Andrew_Cyr.