Republican: Football Passes Chemistry Test - UMass Athletics

Republican: Football Passes Chemistry Test

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In the Springfield Republican, Ron Chimelis has a column on how UMass' football win was a big one.

Coaches tend to avoid calling one win bigger than another, but Kevin Morris knew this one was very special.

"I won't rate it (against others), but it was definitely one we needed,'' the University of Massachusetts football coach said after Saturday's 21-14 win at James Madison. "We try to stay away from the highs and lows. Everybody had been a little frustrated, so (the coaches) just wanted them to enjoy the competition and refocus.''

UMass footballers passed their chemistry test when the outlook looked bleakest

Published: Sunday, October 31, 2010, 1:36 PM     Updated: Sunday, October 31, 2010, 5:42 PM
Ron Chimelis, The Republican Ron Chimelis, The Republican 
UMass Football vs HolycrossUMass junior Jonathan Hernandez (22), shown here in an early season game, was back in business Saturday, rushing for 137 yards at James Madison.

Coaches tend to avoid calling one win bigger than another, but Kevin Morris knew this one was very special.

"I won't rate it (against others), but it was definitely one we needed,'' the University of Massachusettsfootball coach said after Saturday's 21-14 win at James Madison.

"We try to stay away from the highs and lows. Everybody had been a little frustrated, so (the coaches) just wanted them to enjoy the competition and refocus.''

Winning this one changes everything, or at least changes everything back. The comeback victory puts the playoffs back in the front mirror not the rear view.

Halloween is a time for vampires and the like. It was a good weekend for UMass, which had looked dead or dying, to rejoin the living.

"You get team chemistry with good leadership. When push comes to shove, you see how guys hold up,'' Morris said.

UMass (5-3) has three fourth-quarter comeback wins and three games left. After a 4-1 start had come an avoidable home loss to Richmond, and a drubbing by New Hampshire at Gillette Stadium.

With a 14-3 halftime deficit at James Madison, this was a season going, going, almost gone.

"Guys might have been a little uptight at Foxborough, but they took ownership and stepped up,'' Morris said.

UMass has been talking all year about its team chemistry and unity. Maybe there is something to it.

Down by 11 at halftime Saturday, on the road against a No. 15-ranked foe that had beaten Virginia Tech, the Minutemen could have mailed in their third straight loss and with it, the season.

Instead they rejoined the living.

Halftime did not require a lot of rah-rah talk, Morris said. By the time the coaches hit the locker room, the players had handled it from within.

Suitably refocussed, quarterback Kyle Havens threw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes. Receiver Anthony Nelson came up big in the clutch, again showing his modest frame and articulate manner mask an inner toughness.

Jonathan Hernandez rediscovered his knack, rushing for 137 yards. Tyler Holmes made 14 tackles, just another day's work for one of America's best linebackers.

Mentioning junior guard Josh Samuda in particular, Morris said the offensive line took charge. True freshman defensive back Antoine Tharpe's big-time hit forced a crucial incompletion, and redshirt freshman Mike Lee's pass breakup clinched it.

Winless on the road in 2009, UMass is 3-2 away from home this year, with losses at Michigan and in Foxborough.

UMass chemistry has been tested by a seven-week stretch with only one home game. That long grind is finally over.

Next up is Saturday, at home against Maine. It's the next of several so-called biggest games of the year, but it won't be the last.

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