UMass football prepares for Old Dominion Friday after change in schedule

By Adam Aucoin

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

The Massachusetts football team has taken on major challenges thus far during the 2016 season. From facing the stout Florida and Boston College defenses to trying to slow down a potent Mississippi State offense, the Minutemen have had their work cut out for them trying to find any consistent success.

However, one thing they haven’t had to face is inclement weather. As UMass (1-4) prepares to make its way down to Virginia for a matchup with Old Dominion (3-2, 2-0 Conference USA), Mother Nature is looming on the horizon.

With Hurricane Matthew set to hit Virginia hard on Saturday, the teams agreed to to move the game to Friday night at 8 p.m., instead of the originally slated 6 p.m. kickoff on Saturday.

Minutemen coach Mark Whipple was aware there was a chance the game would be moved after Tuesday’s practice.

“We had talked about it being a possibility,” Whipple said. “We have a plan together. [The weather] always factors in; it’s like playing in New England. You’re going to get bad bounces and good bounces, so that’s probably what we’re going to have to deal with Friday.”

Consistency is key

Finding a way to play well for 60 minutes has eluded UMass thus far, and if the Minutemen want to find any run of success in 2016, they will need to correct that quickly.

UMass has seen stretches where it has played like a competitive, well-rounded FBS team, like the first half against the Gators, for stretches against the Bulldogs and the win over Florida International, but the Minutemen have also seen stretches where they can’t produce anything on either side of the ball, like they did in the second and third quarters last Saturday against Tulane.

UMass will look to right the ship and bring some more consistency to its game when it faces the Monarchs.

Old Dominion comes in with two straight wins, and in each of its three wins this season, the team has scored more than 30 points.

“Their guys are all back from last year all the way through the whole team,” Whipple said. “They score a lot of points and they hold people down. We play at their place, but we really need to focus on ourselves.”

UMass running back Marquis Young believes the team needs to play smarter this week against the Monarchs to avoid the inconsistent play they have faced all too often this season.

“We weren’t playing our game last week,” Young said about the loss to the Green Wave. “Some teams go off of talent, some teams go off of technique, and some teams go off of IQ. This week we have to be smart enough and don’t over think the game. If we all relax and play our game, we will be successful.”

Young struggled to get much going on the ground during the first two games of the season, rushing for a total of 86 yards. In the three games since, the sophomore has 255 yards, averaging 4.9 yards per carry over that span.

“It was just bringing us back to square one,” Young said about the change in approach. “I am trying to be patient in the backfield and tell myself to be calm. Just relaxing and trusting in my offensive line and trusting in the schemes we run has been big for my play.”

As for the guy who will be handing the ball off to Young on Saturday, questions are still evident.

Quarterback Andrew Ford has gotten the last three starts, throwing nine touchdowns and five interceptions over that span, but he was replaced by Ross Comis during the Tulane game after the Minutemen struggled to move the ball. Comis started the first two games of the season and, missed the next two games due to nagging injuries.

Whipple is not making any decisions on how he will split up the snaps for Saturday’s game.

“Probably both of them,” Whipple said, when asked who the quarterback will be Saturday. “They both have had good moments and bad moments. They both practiced really good, so that’s a good problem.”

Comis believes the two can make it work splitting time behind center.

“Obviously you like to get into rhythms, but me and Andrew talked about this. We’re both starting guys and we know that we can both provide valuable minutes to the team,” Comis said. “Whoever is playing really well is going to help the team.”

Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. at Foreman Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium.

Adam Aucoin can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @aaucoin34.