"We kind of regrouped in the second half," preseason All-American linebacker Tyler Holmes said. "We knew in the first half it was just poor tackling. We just needed to settle down a little bit and not let him get out of the pocket. (UMass coach Kevin) Morris came in and told us, 'settle down, it's still our game to win.'"
UMass adjusted play in 2nd half for victory
Published: Sunday, September 05, 2010, 6:34 PM Updated: Sunday, September 05, 2010, 7:38 PM
By MIKE GILLMEISTER
AMHERST - When William & Mary quarterback Mike Callahan evaded a first-quarter sack by a University of Massachusetts defensive lineman, it seemed like luck.
When he did it three more times, something needed to be done.
At the time, the first half of Saturday's game against No.4-ranked William & Mary seemed to serve as a grim omen for the Minutemen. Continued poor tackling and poor containment of Tribe quarterback Callahan looked like they would doom UMass.
But UMass found a way to control Callahan, a key element in the Minutemen's come-from-behind 27-23 Colonial Athletic Association victory in the season opener for both squads.
Callahan did not look like a player making his first collegiate start, but rather a veteran who knew what to do in every situation. By the end of the first half, he had two touchdowns to his credit - one in the air and one on the ground. He also finished the first half with more rushing yards than teammate Jonathan Grimes, one of the premier backs in the league.
However, the UMass defense emerged from the tunnel at the start of the second half and played an entirely different game.
"We kind of regrouped in the second half," preseason All-American linebacker Tyler Holmes said. "We knew in the first half it was just poor tackling.
"We just needed to settle down a little bit and not let him get out of the pocket. (UMass coach Kevin) Morris came in and told us, 'settle down, it's still our game to win.'"
Callahan torched the Minutemen for a 28-yard rushing touchdown in the first half, but rushed for just five yards in the second.
In the meantime, the UMass offense was staging a comeback. Trailing by nine points early in the fourth quarter, the Minutemen rallied to take the lead for good with 3:23 left on John Griffin's five-yard touchdown run.
The most important defensive play for UMass arguably came late in the fourth quarter. Callahan tried to connect with Grimes for short yardage, but Grimes tipped the pass and Holmes caught the ball just before it hit the ground for an interception.
"Unbelievable" is how UMass quarterback Kyle Havens described watching Holmes make the pick before it hit the turf. The offense then ran out the clock.
"I told Tyler, I said 'Get us the ball back one more time and this game's over,'" Havens said.
Holmes finished with 10 tackles, including the only UMass solo tackle for a loss. The only Minuteman with more tackles was fellow linebacker Mike Mele, who had 11.
The Tribe began the game with three drives in the first half that amassed at least 50 yards. After Morris' halftime speech, only one of William & Mary's four drives went for more than 30.
UMass limited Callahan through the air in the second half as well - 7-of-14, for 91 yards and a touchdown, including 20 yards on 2-of-6 passing in the third quarter.
With Callahan seemingly under control, UMass needed to focus on stopping the ground game of William & Mary, which wasn't limited to just the rushing attack. Grimes had a kick return of 43 yards in the first half and 44 more return yards in the second half. For the game, he rushed for 67 yards with no scores.
"We just came on the field with a lot of energy and we knew the offense did their job scoring the ball," Holmes said.
"You've got to love when you're in that kind of position. You've got to love the game."