"It's never good to lose. We worked hard, and you never work hard to lose,'' the University of Massachusetts quarterback said after one of the great "almosts'' in school history, a 42-37 loss to Michigan before 110,187 fans.
Havens' attitude is absolutely the correct one for a good team, and this game erased whatever doubts lingered that UMass is a good team. Read the full story in the Springfield Republican
In defeat, UMass removes all doubt about its ability, and reaffirms its pride
Published: Saturday, September 18, 2010, 5:44 PM Updated: Saturday, September 18, 2010, 7:44 PM
When all was said and done, Kyle Havens sat glumly at a podium, looking quite unlike a man who had just played one of the best games of his career.
"It's never good to lose. We worked hard, and you never work hard to lose,'' the University of Massachusettsquarterback said after one of the great "almosts'' in school history, a 42-37 loss to Michigan before 110,187 fans.
Havens' attitude is absolutely the correct one for a good team, and this game erased whatever doubts lingered that UMass is a good team.
But it also told only part of the story on a weekend that saw UMass players, coaches and fans experience a rollercoaster of emotions ranging from anticipation to sadness, and from boyish enthusiam to pride.
In the end, pride won. Heartbroken by the unexpected death of band leader George Parks Thursday, the UMass marching band played its hearts out this weekend, winning the admiration of the Michigan fans.
Linked by school loyalty to the band, but otherwise motivated by different goals, the football team went out and did the same thing.
They sent Michigan's massive crowd home feeling not a sense of superiority, but of relief.
The end was like the first "Rocky'' movie, the challenger trailing and running out of time, but pounding away.
The champ was on the ropes, hanging on. Everyone was shocked but the Minutemen.
"Everyone put this game on a pedestal ... humongous,'' UMass running back John Griffin said.
"We zoned that out. It was just another football game, played on a 100-yard field.''
When Football Bowl Subdivision teams play Football Championship Subdivision teams (and am I the only one who yearns for the days we called it I-A and I-AA?), several assumptions exist.
Most are misleading. FBS teams are expected to muscle their FCS opponents, but Michigan did not push UMass around.
A lot of the time, it was UMass that did the pushing. The Minutemen controlled the ball for more than 37 minutes and had 26 first downs.
"I thought our offensive line did a great job on the defensive line. Our receivers did a great job blocking downfield,'' said running back Jonathan Hernandez, who ran for 114 yards and two touchdowns.
"They flat-out beat us. But they did not out-physical us,'' Griffin said.
Michigan also did not out-mental UMass. Not by a long shot.
"We played hard and tough to the end, but that's what we expect,'' coach Kevin Morris said.
"At the end of the day, though, we want to come out with a win, whoever we play.''
The UMass team did not come away as the winner Saturday, but the UMass football program did.
Beating William & Mary was nice, an upset. Thumping Holy Cross was expected.
Forcing Michigan to hang on by its fingernails tells Western Massachusetts not to be fooled by the FBS-FCS caste system.
It says anyone investing their passion into the Minutemen is supporting a team in our own backyard, one that can stand up to the giant programs we watch on TV.
UMass now returns to the more modest trappings of the FCS. After Saturday's sports spectacular, next week's game at Stony Brook looks Lilliputian by comparison.
It's not. It is the next step on a 2010 UMass football journey that is becoming very, very interesting, and very promising.
"Miichigan is a great team, but we can play with them,'' Hernandez said.
"Now we've got to move on.''
The fans will move on, too. But they should take a little time to appreciate what happened Saturday in Ann Arbor.
The Minutemen may think there are no moral victories, but there are morals to the story.
The moral here is that UMass Nation should be very proud of the team, the band, and a school that took a plunge into the world of big-time football, and looked very much like it belonged.