The Massachusetts football team hosts Delaware on Saturday, as the No. 13 Minutemen (6-3, 4-2 Colonial Athletic Association) go for their third-straight conference win when they take on the No. 1 Blue Hens (8-1, 5-1 CAA) in a game that has major implications on the postseason.
UMass is tied with Villanova for third place in the conference standings with two league games remaining on its schedule and a win against Delaware gives them an advantage for one of two playoff spots guaranteed in the CAA.
Delaware is tied for first in the CAA with No. 2 William & Mary. The Minutemen beat the Tribe in their first game of the season on Sept. 2.
UMass co-captain linebacker Tyler Holmes enters this weekend's game concerned only with winning, not with the implications a victory may have on the team's postseason hopes.
"Right now, we have to worry about one game at a time, and the things that we can control," Holmes said in a teleconference on Monday. "If we don't take care of business, then the playoffs are not in sight. Every win is very vital to us, so we just concentrate on what we can do."
The Minutemen beat Maine last week 39-24 as Holmes intercepted two passes for touchdowns for the first time in school history. It was 23rd time in the history of the Football Championship Subdivision and the first since 2004.
Two other players in league history have accomplished the feat and the most recent before Holmes was Towson's Allonte Harris in 2004 in a non-conference game against Elon.
Holmes garnered several awards as a result of his play against the Black Bears. He was recognized as the National Defensive Player of the Week and National Linebacker of the Week by the College Football Performance Awards on Sunday. He is also the CAA Defensive Player of the Week for the second-straight week and third time this season.
Holmes leads a UMass defense which ranks sixth in the CAA in yards allowed (334) and ninth in rushing yards allowed (157.7). The Minutemen forced four turnovers last week, outscoring the Black Bears 32-10 in the first half. The previous week, UMass used an 18-0 second half run to rally in a win over James Madison.
Holmes feels that his team is excited by its play in the past two weeks. Facing the top-ranked rushing offense in the CAA and a nationally recognized quarterback on Saturday, he hopes the momentum it will carry over against a difficult Delaware team.
"It doesn't get any easier," Holmes said. "Pat Devlin is probably the best quarterback in the FCS, so we're very excited as a defense for the challenge that's coming up this Saturday and as a team for the Blue Hens."
"It's going to come down to reading our keys. They are a balanced team with a great running and offensive line."
The Blue Hens travel to Amherst following a 48-0 win over the Tigers in which they gained 589 total yards of offense. The CAA's top-ranked rushing offense (193.1) ran for five touchdowns, led by Leon Jackson (88 yards) and Andrew Pierce (79 yards), who broke the 1,000 mark and is the leagues top-rusher (112.7 yards per game).
A Walter Payton Award Candidate, Devlin was 29-38 for 318 yards and one touchdown, leading the Blue hens to its second shutout of the season (Sept. 2, West Chester 31-0). Devlin is third in the CAA in passing yards per game (201.6) and second in pass efficiency (145.52) with seven touchdowns and one interception.
By: Jay Asser | November 09, 2010 |
Samantha Webber, Collegian Staff
The results for Massachusetts quarterback Kyle Havens this season have been drastically different than in his first year as a starter in 2009.
The cause of those results has been one UMass coach Kevin Morris' biggest goals: holding on to the ball.
Last season as a junior, Havens started 10 games and threw for 1,908 yards and nine touchdowns. He ranked seventh in the Colonial Athletic Association in total offense with 181.2 yards per game. The signal-caller ranked first, however, in the league in interceptions thrown with 15.
It's been a day-and-night difference this year for the Concord, Calif. native, who not only leads the league in passing yards, but is tied for first in the conference in interceptions (five) among quarterbacks who have played nine games.
"A lot of his decision-making is much better this year, a much better understanding of the scheme and what we're trying to do with it," Morris said in his weekly teleconference. "Again, he made some real critical throws in the last few weeks and in the JMU game as well on third down and making some big third and fourth-down conversions."
In the win over Maine this past week, Havens led the offense with an efficient 22-of-28 completion rate along with 213 passing yards and three touchdowns.
Though the Minutemen lost two fumbles on the day, Havens didn't turn the ball over, preventing the Black Bears from completing a comeback.
"The biggest stat, obviously we love the touchdown passes, one was a shuffle pass and that counts as well, but he didn't throw any interceptions," Morris said.
This week, UMass will take on a Delaware team which ranks second in the CAA in both passing defense and in turnovers forced with 21 (six fumbles, 15 interceptions).
In the matchup between the two teams last year, the Minutemen suffered a 43-27 loss on the road, in large part due to turning the ball over.
Despite the defense forcing two turnovers, tailback Tony Nelson and Havens each lost fumble, with Havens also throwing an interception. One of the fumbles was recovered by the Blue Hens and returned 42 yards down the sideline to increase their lead to 20-0 late in the first quarter.
With UMass trying to dig itself out of a hole in the third quarter, Havens' pass was intercepted, setting up a 27-yard touchdown run to give Delaware the 37-6 lead.
Heading into this week, Morris doesn't want to see a repeat of last season's game and knows holding on to the ball will be key once again.
"It's going to be a boring story from my end but we need to take care of the football," Morris said. "We went down there last year and had a turnover for a touchdown and two other turnovers that set those guys up and that game got away from us early down at Delaware."
In the CAA, Richmond is the only team with a winning record (5-4), despite committing over 16 turnovers (25). Both Maine and Towson, which rank just behind the Spiders in turnovers lost at 19 and 17, respectively, have a combined 4-14 record.
"That's been the case in the CAA all the time," Morris said. "If you don't take care of the football, you're going to have a tough time winning the ballgame. Our thought is to come out, take care of the ball, play our game on offense and defense."