Telegram: Griffin, UMass To Test Holy Cross - UMass Athletics

Telegram: Griffin, UMass To Test Holy Cross

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Holy Cross coach Tom Gilmore thought John Griffin was a good player last year when the Crusaders saw him at Northeastern. Griffin, the former Oakmont Regional High running back who is now at UMass, will present the Crusaders' defense with a whole new challenge tomorrow night at McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Amherst. Read the whole story in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

College football: Griffin, UMass to test Holy Cross

Jennifer Toland TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
jtoland@telegram.com

Holy Cross coach Tom Gilmore thought John Griffin was a good player last year when the Crusaders saw him at Northeastern. Griffin, the former Oakmont Regional High running back who is now at UMass, will present the Crusaders' defense with a whole new challenge tomorrow night at McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Amherst. 

"I don't think last year he had the supporting cast he has at UMass now," Gilmore said. "Now, with a bigger, better offensive line and more weapons across the board, it's hard to just focus on him, and that's opened up some things for him. He looks really good." 

Griffin, a senior, transferred to UMass after Northeastern dropped football at the end of 2009. He had a terrific debut for the Minutemen, rushing for 80 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-23 upset of then-No. 4 William & Mary last Saturday. 

"It felt good to win, especially a big game like that," Griffin said after Wednesday's practice. "Coming here, I expected to be able to win games like that, so for us to live up to it was huge in my mind. It was good to be back on the field. I felt like I was part of a winning team. Everything felt right." 

Griffin was a 2009 All-Colonial Athletic Association first-team selection. He rushed for 87 yards against Holy Cross last year. 

Griffin, whose family lives in Westminster, enrolled at UMass in January, so he has had time to adjust to his new school. It took some time to learn a new offense, but he's obviously adapting well. 

"He had a real strong opening-day performance," UMass coach Kevin Morris said. "He brings great speed to the offense." 

Griffin joins another Central Mass. product, junior Jonathan Hernandez of Leominster, in the Minuteman backfield. Hernandez, the CAA Offensive Player of the Week, rushed for 132 yards against William & Mary and had a key 64-yard catch and run on a fourth-quarter screen play. 

"They are a great 1-2 punch," Gilmore said. "It's really hard to defend. It appears that they really want to run the football. They don't want to just establish the run. They're going to run the football and force you to defend that." 

Against William & Mary, the Minutemen rushed 52 times while quarterback Kyle Havens attempted 24 passes. The yardage (215 rushing, 223 passing) was almost even. 

Holy Cross held Howard University to a 2.7-yard rushing average in last week's season-opening win. 

"Their base run scheme we defended very well," Gilmore said. 

Hernandez, who set a school record with 2,099 rushing yards his senior year at Leominster High, really came on last year. Stepping in for the injured Tony Nelson, last year's starter, he rushed for a career-high 166 yards and the winning touchdown against New Hampshire. He played in 10 games and led the team with eight rushing TDs. 

Griffin and Hernandez were teammates in the 2007 Shriners Chowder Bowl Classic. Now they're together again, giving UMass one of the best backfields in the CAA. 

"It's great being here with Jon," Griffin said. "It's a pretty good tandem. We had a balanced attack against William & Mary, but I think running the ball will be a strength of our offense." 

Crusaders tidbits
UMass tight end Emil Igwanagu, the former Holy Name star, injured his foot in the William & Mary game, but Morris said X-rays came back negative and he will play against the Crusaders. ... UMass cracked the FCS Top 25 at No. 18 this week, while HC, No. 25 in preseason, fell out of the rankings. ... Holy Cross is the Minutemen's tuneup for Michigan next week at the Big House. "Holy Cross is an in-state, playoff team," Morris said. "We're not looking past them." ... Tomorrow's game is the first in a new four-year deal between Holy Cross and UMass. Next year's game will be played in Worcester. ... HC fifth-year senior linebacker Sean Lamkin, who missed almost all of 2009 after tearing his ACL, played well in his comeback with six tackles, two sacks and two pass breakups. 

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