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Weekend Hangover Thoughts from UMass vs. UConn

UMass vs. UConn

UConn defeated UMass 37-0 on August 30, 2012. (Photo by Andy Heller for MaroonMusket.com)

I must admit that after Thursday’s game I wasn’t very eager to start jotting down my thoughts about the drubbing. I’m thrilled that UMass is now officially playing FBS football, but there wasn’t a lot of positives to take away from the game against UConn. Here are my biggest thoughts from the matchup:

UMass’ Offense Is Not Very Good.

It was painfully obvious early in the game that UMass was going to have a problem getting on the scoreboard. I sent this tweet out following Tom Brandt’s 1st quarter interception.

It was a prediction I was hoping to be wrong about. No such luck.

UMass had 59 total yards and only three first downs. I will stay away from the rest of the gory statistical details, but take my word for it, it wasn’t pretty. The offensive line was overmatched and it created problems all night. Runningbacks had nowhere to go, and quarterback Mike Wegzyn never looked comfortable dropping back to pass. I’m not giving those guys a pass because they didn’t play well either. Wegzyn finished the night 9-for-22 for 56 yards in his Minutemen debut. AJ Doyle replaced Wegzyn in the 4th Quarter, and Molnar suggested after the game that the true freshman will see more playing time this season. I like Doyle simply based on the fact that he is a local kid, but I’m not sure a change at Quarterback will do the team much good until they find a way to protect whoever it is taking the snaps. The competition may not be as strong as UConn at some points this season, but make no mistake, the Minutemen have a lot to work on.

Hear Coach Molnar discuss his team’s quarterbacks:

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UConn’s Solid Defense Didn’t Help Matters Much.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that a defense led by second-year defensive coordinator Don Brown appeared aggressive, fast and physical. UMass’ offense didn’t make it into UConn territory at any point in the game. Sophomore Linebacker Yawin Smallwood was downright impressive. He led UConn with seven tackles; 3½ of which were behind the line of scrimmage. Smallwood’s impressive performance also included one of the Huskies’ two sacks on the night.

UConn's Defense had Mike Wegzyn on the move. (Photo by Andy Heller for MaroonMusket.com)

Speaking of Brown, I couldn’t help but wonder during the game if he has any regrets about leaving UMass. He spent 2 years as the defensive coordinator at Maryland before being hired in Conneticut prior to the 2011 season. Most people assumed when he went to coach the Terrapin’s that he was trying to bolster his resume in an attempt to get an FBS level head coaching gig. I know I wasn’t alone at the time in thinking the Maryland job was a lateral move, and four years later he still doesn’t have a head job. In his defense, Brown had no way of knowing what was in store for UMass. Although I’m very optimistic about the direction of the program under Charley Molnar, what would it look like today had Brown stayed?

UMass’ Defense Was On The Field A Lot.

UConn’s offense was on the field for 36 minutes and 37 seconds. I was pleasantly surprised with what UMass’ defense showed in the game but it felt like they were on the field all night. If this becomes a trend, the unit is going to wear down over the course of the season. The defense may be more equipped for FBS play than the offense is, but it won’t do the team any good if defensive players are tired and/or injured.

A 37-0 Loss Can’t be Good For Marketing.

True UMass fans know this roster is not very strong and that not much should be expected from the team on the field this season. On the other hand, outsiders and casual fans probably have no clue. When they see that UMass was blown out 37-0 they might automatically assume the team isn’t worth paying attention to. UMass is now getting ready to take on Indiana in their home opener at Gillette Stadium. I’m hoping that week-of ticket sales don’t suffer at all due to Thursday night’s game.

On a related note, I was able to confirm this week that UMass merchandise will be for sale at Gillette Stadium on game days. The product offering at the UMassAthleics.com online store has certainly improved in recent months and hopefully it carries over to game days. Many fans have asked for replica jerseys to be available and it appears that the athletic department has responded.

Rentschler Field Is A Great Football Facility.

Thursday was my first visit to Rentschler Field which opened in 2003 after $91 million was spent to build it. Rentschler isn’t the most elaborate stadium (The majority of seating is in the form of metal bleachers) but it certainly serves its purpose well. Getting to the stadium and parking was relatively easy (I’m willing to overlook the rather clueless parking staff) and the tailgating scene looked to be top-notch for a football game in New England. Although this has little impact on the majority of fans, the press box and suite areas were beautiful. Rentschler field is the type of facility UMass should be trying to get built. A project of this scale could not happen without support from state government, and the timing of UMass’ move to FBS isn’t great considering the current status of the economy.

The current McGuirk Stadium renovation project has an estimated cost of $30 million. The current plan calls for a new locker room and training facility along with a renovated press box. General seating areas are not expected to grow. There is no doubt that the improvements are long overdue considering Lyndon Johnson was the U.S. President when the stadium opened and not much has changed since. I do, however, doubt that the improvements will be enough to put UMass on the same level with UConn and Boston College in terms of game-day facilities. Gillette Stadium is a tremendous asset for recruiting and UMass should be in no rush to resume games in Amherst.

A rendering of what McGuirk Stadium will look like after renovations are completed.

Darren Thellen’s Tip Was Awesome.

Even with a 37-0 loss, the Minutemen found their way to the top of Sportscenter’s Top 10 Plays. Late in the first quarter, Darren Thellen jumped in the air out of bounds and tipped a pass back in bounds to teammate Tom Brandt for an interception. It was one of the most athletic and unique plays I have ever seen on the football field. It was certainly worthy of a top billing on ESPN.

One Comment

  1. Andy says:

    Can’t agree more about the Rentschler experience. First time visit also, and really believe this is the ideal “New England” D1A stadium. Not fancy, but comfortable enough. One of these in Springfield would be ideal for UMass, but just can’t see it happening. As for the McGuirk upgrade…..yeah, no rush at all to return games there, as these proposed “upgrades” do little to aid the fan experience. It’s still a damn ugly concrete slab and an old one at that.







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