Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass running back Marquis Young looks to build off momentum gained against Mississippi State

By Andrew Cyr

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(Alec Zabrecky/Collegian)

(Alec Zabrecky/Collegian)

Prior to last weekend’s game against Mississippi State, Massachusetts running back Marquis Young knew he was close to breaking open his first big run of the 2016 season.

After a promising freshman campaign that ended with a 240-yard, three-touchdown performance in UMass’ season finale against Buffalo, entering the Minutemen’s fourth game of the season, Young had accumulated just 171 yards on 60 carries (2.85 yards per carry).

With 6:19 remaining in the first quarter against the Bulldogs, on UMass’ (1-3) first play to start the drive, Young broke off his longest run of the season, an 83-yard score to give the Minutemen an early lead over heavily-favored MSU.

But before Young could bust open a big run and use his speed in the open field, he first needed to slow down.

“I just had to tell myself to be patient, be calm and make sure I was using my proper reads,” Young said after Tuesday’s practice. “I just had to slow my game down because I knew [breaking a big run] was going to happen.”

“Last week we got him the ball in space a little, and we’ll continue to try to do that,” UMass coach Mark Whipple said. “We finally got him out there and he made a big run—the guys did a good job of following him on the sweep—so we’re going to try to continue to do those things.”

As a standout at Milford Academy during a year of prep school, Young said it was that season where he prepared himself for the speed and pace of playing college football. However, it wasn’t until he joined the Minutemen that he learned being a good running back doesn’t translate to who can run the fastest.

“I feel like at times I’m a little too fast when I go 100 miles per hour,” Young said. “But one thing that Jamal Wilson told me was that you can’t go 100 miles per hour if your offensive line is going 65 miles per hour. I just try to slow myself down and, like I said, read my keys and proper alignments and proper assignments.”

Young added: “I feel like the more that I can control my speed, the more dangerous I am as a player.”

UMass endured its share of struggles running the ball in the first two weeks, as the Minutemen accumulated only 23 total rushing yards through weeks one and two against Florida and Boston College. Although the statistic is skewed because in college football sacks count toward rushing yards, UMass had a net-gain of -23 yards against the Eagles.

“We had trouble with the running game before that,” offensive lineman Michael Boland said. “But when he broke that run, it just gave us a lot of confidence, especially against a really good team like Mississippi State. We’re just hoping he can break one every week.”

With the game against the Bulldogs well in the rearview mirror for UMass, the Minutemen turn their focus toward this Saturday’s matchup against Tulane at McGuirk Stadium in what will be the annual homecoming game.

The Green Wave (2-2, 0-1 American Athletic Conference) enter Saturday’s contest sitting at .500, coming off of a four-overtime thrill in which they beat Louisiana Lafayette 41-39. Headlined by all-conference defensive tackle Tanzel Smart and linebacker Nico Marley, Tulane has allowed its oppositions six rushing touchdowns on 557 rushing yards.

“It was mainly just getting everyone [blocking] the right guys, every play,” Boland said when asked about the changes the Minutemen made against Mississippi State. “If they blitz, making sure we are picking up the right guys every play, and doing that consistently. And we just need to make sure we do that over and over and over again to grind the defense down, and that’s how we’ll break one.”

Although every one of the Minutemen has their focus shifted toward Tulane, Young still has one thing left over from the Mississippi State game that he needs to address, and his teammates are starting to get grumpy over it.

So what exactly does Young owe his offensive line?

Pizza.

“I told them that if we have over a 100-yard game, I’ll take them home some food,” Young said.

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

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