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John Griffin, Jonathan Hernandez give UMass a solid 1-2 punch
Published: Saturday, September 04, 2010, 8:43 PM Updated: Saturday, September 04, 2010, 8:47 PM
AMHERST - The University of Massachusetts football team has the pleasant challenge of trying to fit two elite backs into one running game.
"They're not a couple of your average Joes. They're a couple of high-level Johns,'' coach Kevin Morris said after Saturday's 27-23 victory over William & Mary.
Or Jons. He was talking about John Griffin and Jonathan Hernandez, who combined for 46 carries, 212 yards and three touchdowns.
Hernandez also caught two passes for 69 yards. His 64-yard catch-and-run set up Griffin's winning touchdown at McGuirk Alumni Stadium.
"It's great for Jon to be here to give me relief, or for me to come in as relief for Jon,'' said Griffin, who transferred from Northeastern after that school discontinued football.
"It gives us a pretty potent 1-2 punch.''
Last year at Northeastern, Griffin was the only running back in the Colonial Athletic Association to surpass 1,000 yards in the regular season.
Hernandez, a junior, was the heir apparent to Tony Nelson's starting tailback spot - until Griffin arrived as a senior transfer.
The opening game proved there is room for both.
"I don't have John's breakaway speed. I'm trying to get it,'' Hernandez said.
The UMass depth chart lists "Griffin or Hernandez'' as the No. 1 tailback. It is the only position where no clear distinction is made.
"Instead of one guy having to cary 46 times, we can split it up. It gives us fresh legs,'' Morris said.
Hernandez carried 25 times for 132 yards and one touchdown. Griffin had 21 carries for 80 yards and two scores, including the game-winning, 5-yard TD with 3:23 left.
Griffin was the first-half workhorse, carrying 14 times for 58 yards.
Hernandez fumbled on UMass' second possession, the only one five Minutemen fumbles to be lost.
But in the second half, Hernandez took over. He had 20 carries for 102 yards after the break.
After seeing Northeastern's program dissolve around him, Griffin appreciates his senior year at UMass.
"It's different. The offense is a little different, but I'm just happy to put on the pads,'' he said.
ET CETERA: UMass was 8 for 16 in third down conversions and 3 for 4 on fourth down ... The crowd of 10,072 was the 17th UMass home crowd since 2005 to top 10,000 ... UMass cost itself with 81 penalty yards to William & Mary's 10, but had the ball for 34 minutes.