Republican: UMass Football Getting It Done - UMass Athletics

Republican: UMass Football Getting It Done

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In the Springfield Republican, Ron Chimelis has a story on the football team and how the Minutemen have be winning without the benefit of the "big play."

It took a full season for Kyle Havens to realize he did not have to win football games on a single play.

If the University of Massachusetts offense has so far lacked the big-play strike, it has compensated with the type of ball control and shared responsibility that Havens has learned works best.

"I realize I don't need to force the ball. I can get it to our guys for five yards, and they'll make it 20,'' the senior quarterback said Tuesday.

Without the quick strike, UMass football offense is still getting it done

Published: Tuesday, October 12, 2010, 6:24 PM     Updated: Tuesday, October 12, 2010, 6:42 PM
Kyle HavensUMass quarterback Kyle Havens has moved the offense without the big-play strike, with the Minutemen averaging 446 yards and 24 first downs per game.
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AMHERST - It took a full season for Kyle Havens to realize he did not have to win football games on a single play.

If the University of Massachusettsoffense has so far lacked the big-play strike, it has compensated with the type of ball control and shared responsibility that Havens has learned works best.

"I realize I don't need to force the ball. I can get it to our guys for five yards, and they'll make it 20,'' the senior quarterback said Tuesday.

It's Homecoming for No. 8-ranked UMass (4-1, 2-0 Colonial Athletic Association), which plays at McGuirk Alumni Stadium Saturday for the first time in five weeks.

"It feels like forever since we've played here,'' Havens said.

The opponent is Richmond (2-3, 0-2), ranked 20th. For UMass, the offense has been all about time of possession (35 minutes, 37 seconds per game) and first downs (24.2 per game).

The Minutemen are tied for second among the nation's Football Championship Subdivision teams in the first category, and fourth in the other.

Only Colgate, which throws infrequently, has a better possession number at 38:45.

"We're throwing effectively, and we're doing a good job distributing the ball. The one thing we haven't had is the big play,'' UMass coach Kevin Morris said. 

In this offense, that has been more the result of a tradeoff than a deficiency. After throwing 15 interceptions last year, Havens came back determined to limit mistakes and trust his offensive unit.

UMass is averaging 5.6 yards per offensive play and 12.4 yards per completed pass. Their opponents have slightly higher averages.

But the Minutemen have had the ball so much, they have more than overcome the difference.

They are averaging 446 yards per game to their foes' 335. They have averaged 23 more offensive plays per game than their opponents.

Havens has completed 65 percent of his passes (up from 55 percent in 2009) with only three interceptions.

He's done so despite a revolving door of centers, handing him the snaps.

"It can be a little different. At Michigan, we went with a silent cadence, and we did the same thing at Towson,'' said Havens, who has had four different starting centers since spring practice.

"Mentally, though, they all know their stuff.''

The center in spring ball was Brandon Flanagan, a senior who was then shifted to the defensive line, which needed his experience.

Next came Greg Niland, a Northeastern transfer who was moved to left guard.

Morris' preferred starting center is senior John Ihne, who injured his shoulder at Michigan on Sept. 18 and has not returned.

He was replaced by Quinton Sales, a versatile sophomore. Health issues will determine whether Ihne or Sales starts Saturday.

"Each guy has his own way. Kyle has had two dance partners (Ihne and Sales) by necessity, but it should not be an issue,''' Morris said.

"They're getting it done.''

Efficient as the offense has been, Morris sees room for improvement.

"We're minus-2 in turnovers. You've got to be on the plus side there,'' he said.

"And we've fumbled more than we've been intercepted (5 to 3), which is not good, although we don't want either.''

He thinks those numbers can be turned around, without sacrificing the ball-control offensive patience that has allowed UMass to average 29.6 points per game.

"We're emphasizing ball-hawking on defense. Offensively, we're grinding it out and knocking the defense back, but you always want the big plays,'' Morris said.

"Those will come,'' Havens said. 

"We haven't had the opportunity for them, but they'll take care of themselves.''

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