Football Season Review
Jan. 29, 2002
MINUTEMEN NAMED ALL-AMERICANS: Three UMass players received All-America honors from various organizations following the conclusion of the 2001 season. Sophomore defensive end Valdamar Brower (Florence, Mass.) led the way by earning first team All-America honors from Don Hansen's National Weekly Football Gazette. He was also a second team All-America selection by The Sports Network, while earning third team honors from the Associated Press. Junior punter David Sanger (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) and senior free safety Jeremy Robinson (Syracuse, N.Y.) were also honored by Don Hansen's National Weekly Football Gazette, with Sanger being named to the second team and Robinson earning honorable mention status. It marked the fourth straight season in which at least one UMass player earned first team All-America honors.
MORE HONORS FOR THE MINUTEMEN: UMass players brought in a number of other conference and regional honors following the 2001 season. Valdamar Brower, Jeremy Robinson and David Sanger were all first team All-Atlantic 10 Conference at the conclusion of the season. Brower and Robinson were both selected to the New England Football Writers Division I-AA All-Star Team, with Brower also being named to the Eastern College Athletic Conference Division I-AA All-Star Team.
MINUTEMEN BRING IN ACADEMIC HONORS: Five members of the UMass team were honored this season for their work both on the field and in the classroom. Sophomore linebacker Jeremy Cain (Tamarac, Fla.), senior tight end Eddie Campbell (North Arlington, N.J.), redshirt freshman quarterback Matt Guice (Coral Springs, Fla.), sophomore linebacker Mark Kimener (Oakton, Va.) and junior placekicker Doug White (Claremont, Calif.) were all selected to the 2001 Academic All-Atlantic 10 Conference Team. Both Cain and White were selected to the squad for the second consecutive season.
A TOUGH SLATE: One of the main reasons why UMass had a 3-8 record this season was that the Minutemen faced one of the nation's toughest schedules. UMass' schedule ranked as the second hardest among all Division I-AA schools according to Jeff Sagarin's rankings, thanks to games against Division I-A Marshall, Delaware, Hofstra, James Madison, Maine, New Hampshire, Northeastern, Rhode Island, Richmond, Villanova and William & Mary. Richmond's schedule ranked as the toughest in Division I-AA, with Cal State Northridge's placing third.
BROWER CONTINUES TO SHINE: Sophomore defensive end Valdamar Brower was one of the biggest bright spots for the UMass defense this season. Against Rhode Island, Brower had 10 total tackles, with a career-high six tackles for loss, three sacks and a forced fumble. In the victory over Northeastern, he totaled eight tackles with four tackles for loss, a fumble recovery and a key sack in the fourth quarter to help UMass secure the win, while at Villanova, he recorded his first career touchdown on an interception of a pass he deflected in the Wildcat end zone. Against James Madison, Brower led the Minutemen with a pair of sacks for 17 yards, and against New Hampshire, he recorded three tackles for loss and a sack for nine yards. At Hofstra, Brower recorded seven tackles, with two sacks for 14 yards, a pass breakup and a blocked field goal. He led the team and the Atlantic 10 with 10 sacks for 70 yards this season, to go along with 57 total tackles and 24 tackles for loss. In 2000, Brower led all UMass defensive linemen with 57 total tackles, while also recording five sacks and 11 tackles for loss. For his career, Brower now has 114 total tackles, including 15 sacks and 35 tackles for loss.
FOURTH AND GO: Since the beginning of the 1998 season, UMass has made a habit of going for it on fourth down. In 2001, the Minutemen converted 11 of 27 (.407) fourth-down attempts. Most of UMass' fourth down success this season came at Marshall, where it converted four of six attempts. In 2000, UMass was successful 23 of the 34 times (.676) it went for it on fourth down. In 1999, UMass was successful on 23 of 37 fourth down attempts for a 62.2 percent success rate. In 1998, the Minutemen converted 21 of the 37 times they went for it on fourth down for a 56.7 percent success rate. UMass has now been successful on 57.8 percent (78 of 135) of its fourth down conversions since the beginning of the 1998 season. By comparison, UMass opponents have converted on only 34 of 87 fourth down attempts over the last four years, good for 39.1 percent.
WHIPPLE FINISHES 2001 SEASON WITH 103 WINS: Having just concluded his fourth season as head coach of the Minutemen, Mark Whipple (Brown, 1979) has 103 victories in his collegiate coaching career. Whipple owns a career record of 103-52 (.665) in 14 years as a collegiate head coach, including four seasons at UMass (31-19 / 1998-present), four years at Brown (24-16 / 1994-97) and six seasons at New Haven (48-17 / 1988-93). With this year's victory over Northeastern, he became the seventh coach in school history with 30 wins at UMass. In 2000, Whipple became the first Minuteman coach in 20 years to lead his team to three consecutive winning seasons. The last UMass coach to accomplish the feat was Bob Pickett, who led the Minutemen to four straight winning years from 1978-1981. Whipple was the fastest coach in school history to record 20 victories, picking up the 20th win of his UMass career against Connecticut in 1999. He needed only 26 games to reach the 20-win mark. Previously, Mike Hodges held the record for fewest games needed to reach 20 wins, going 20-7 in his first 27 games as UMass head coach. Whipple also became the first coach in school history to win 20 games in his first two seasons.
QUINLAN CONCLUDES SOLID CAREER: Senior tailback Kevin Quinlan (Somerville, Mass.), who was a dependable backup to Marcel Shipp over his first three seasons, took over as the starter for UMass in 2001. He just missed a 100-yard game at Marshall, rushing for 96 yards against the Thundering Herd on only 16 carries. Quinlan also led the team in rushing against William & Mary (16 carries for 56 yards and a score), Delaware (13 rushes for 43 yards), New Hampshire (16 carries for 49 yards), Villanova (12 rushes for 51 yards and a touchdown), Maine (12 carries for 45 yards and a score) and Rhode Island (14 rushes for 68 yards). For the year, he rushed for 500 yards and three touchdowns on 136 carries, in addition to catching 31 passes for 156 yards. Quinlan's top game in 2000 came at Northeastern, where he rushed 38 times for a career-high 241 yards and two touchdowns, recording the ninth-best single-game rushing performance in school history. He also broke the 1,000-mark in career rushing yards against Northeastern in 2000, and finished his career with totals of 413 carries for 1,906 yards and 19 scores. Quinlan concluded his career in ninth place on the UMass career rushing list.
ROBINSON PLAYS BIG AT SAFETY: Senior free safety Jeremy Robinson showed once again in 2001 why he is one of the nation's top defensive backs. Against Richmond in the season finale, Robinson posted a career-best 15 total tackles, including 11 solo stops. At Villanova, he recorded 13 total tackles, the third-highest single-game total of his collegiate career. Robinson also recorded 12 total tackles against Northeastern and 11 against William & Mary. In addition, he had a pair of interceptions at Delaware, marking the second time he picked off two passes in a game during his collegiate career. For the season, Robinson led the team with 97 total tackles, including 76 solo stops. He also totaled three interceptions, five pass breakups and three fumble recoveries. In 2000, Robinson ranked third on the team with 75 tackles, while also posting a sack, four interceptions and eight pass breakups. In 1999, he ranked second on the team in tackles with 103, to go along with four sacks, six interceptions and six pass breakups, and was named a first team All-American by the Associated Press. For his career, Robinson recorded 336 total tackles (including 244 solo stops), with 15 interceptions for 171 yards and 25 pass breakups. He finished his career ranked fourth all-time at UMass in interceptions, fifth in solo tackles, and sixth in interception return yards, pass breakups and total tackles.
SANGER IS A WEAPON: Junior punter David Sanger continues to show why he is one of the top punters in school history. He punted 68 times for 2,812 yards (41.4 average) this season, with 20 punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line, and ranked second in the Atlantic 10 and 13th nationally in punting average. He also had UMass ranked seventh nationally and second in the Atlantic 10 in net punting average this year. Against Richmond in the season finale, Sanger averaged 41.5 yards on eight punts, with four of the kicks being downed inside the 20-yard line. At Villanova, he averaged 40.6 yards on seven punts and placed five kicks inside the 20, including two which were downed at the one-yard line. Earlier in the season against James Madison, Sanger averaged 50.3 yards on eight punts, to break John Romboli's school single-game record for punting average (50.2 at Boston College on Nov. 22, 1975). In addition, his 71-yard punt against the Dukes ranked as the eighth-longest in school history, and he was named Special Teams Player of the Week by the Atlantic 10 Conference and Don Hansen's National Weekly Football Gazette. In 2000, Sanger punted 38 times, landing 14 punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line. He also averaged 39.4 yards per punt, helping UMass to an Atlantic 10-best (and sixth in Division I-AA) net average of 36.8 yards per punt. Over the course of his UMass career, Sanger has now punted 168 times for 6,824 yards, and his average of 40.6 yards per punt ranks as the best in school history. Fifty-three of his 168 career punts have pinned opponents inside the 20.
CAIN GETS BACK IN THE FLOW: After missing some time due to injury early in the season, sophomore linebacker Jeremy Cain returned to the UMass starting lineup for the final seven games, and responded with some big performances. Against Richmond in the season finale, Cain led the team with a career-high 17 total tackles, including 12 solo stops. Against Rhode Island, he totaled 10 tackles with three tackles for loss and a sack, while against New Hampshire he posted 14 total tackles, five tackles for loss and a sack for eight yards. He also totaled nine tackles against James Madison, with two tackles for loss and a pass breakup, and had nine tackles against Northeastern. Cain opened the season with seven tackles and a sack against William & Mary in less than two quarters of action, before leaving the game with a sprained knee. He did not play at Marshall or Delaware due to the injury, and was on the field for only four plays at Hofstra. Despite all the time he missed, Cain ranked third on the team with 78 total tackles this season, and stood third on the squad with 11 tackles for loss. In 2000, Cain played in all 11 games and recorded 45 total tackles as the first linebacker off the bench. For his career, he now has 123 total tackles, including 82 solo stops and 12 tackles for loss.
HARDY PUTS UP BIG NUMBERS: Senior wide receiver and punt returner DeShon Hardy (Neptune, N.J.) continues to be UMass' top receiving threat. Against Richmond in the season finale, he led the team with six receptions for 82 yards and a score, while in the victory over Northeastern, he had a team-best three catches for 85 yards and a touchdown. Against New Hampshire, Hardy ranked second on the team with seven receptions for 71 yards, and at Hofstra he led the team with five catches for 60 yards. At Delaware, he set career highs for both receptions and receiving yards, catching 10 passes for 135 yards. The 10 receptions tied Hardy for the fifth-best single-game performance in school history, while he became only the sixth UMass player to reach double figures in catches for a single game. At Marshall, Hardy led the team with four catches for 90 yards and his first touchdown of the season. He also saw a bit of action as an option quarterback, rushing for 26 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. For the year, Hardy led the team in receiving with 47 catches for 692 yards and three scores. He has also caught at least one pass in 16 straight games and 21 of his last 22 contests. For his career, Hardy has 77 catches for 1,127 yards and five touchdowns, to go along with 71 punt returns for 534 yards. He ranks eighth all-time at UMass in career receiving yards and 10th in career receptions. Hardy can return to the team in 2002 as a fifth-year senior, provided he earns his undergraduate degree by August.
BROWN BECOMING A TOP RECEIVING THREAT: Junior wide receiver Neal Brown (Danville, Ky.) turned into one of the top wide outs for the Minutemen this season. He led the team or tied for the team lead in receptions for a stretch of five straight games, including a nine-catch, 118-yard game against New Hampshire in which he set career-highs for both receptions and receiving yards. Brown's other performances during that span included five receptions for 45 yards at Maine, three catches for 58 yards against Northeastern, three receptions for 42 yards at Villanova, and six catches for 63 yards and a touchdown against James Madison. For the season, Brown caught at least one pass in every game and ranked second on the team with 37 receptions for 414 yards and two scores. Brown just concluded his first season with the Minutemen, after transferring to UMass from the University of Kentucky in August of 2001. During his two seasons with the Wildcats, Brown caught 10 passes for 48 yards, including a two-yard touchdown pass at South Carolina in 2000.
MCGUIRK MAGIC: Since Mark Whipple took over as the head coach of the Minutemen prior to the start of the 1998 season, UMass has been tough to beat in the friendly confines of McGuirk Alumni Stadium. The Minutemen have gone 16-7 (.696) at home from 1998 to present, improving their all-time record at McGuirk to 124-68-2 (.644). Since 1992, UMass has had a losing record at home only once, while posting a home record of 37-20 (.649) during that span. The Minutemen also have a mark of 12-4 at McGuirk Stadium against Atlantic 10 Conference opponents under Whipple.
MINUTEMEN ON THE RADIO: All University of Massachusetts football games can be heard live on the UMass Football Radio Network, with WHMP 1400 AM (Northampton) serving as the flagship station. Bob Behler just finished his third season as the play-by-play announcer, while former UMass head coach Bob Pickett was in his fourth year as color analyst. Last season's list of affiliates on the UMass Radio Network included WXKS 1430 AM (Boston), WHMP 1240 AM (Greenfield), WBRK 101.7 FM (Pittsfield), WHMP 1600 AM (Springfield) and WORC 1310 AM (Worcester). In addition, WMUA 91.1 FM, the UMass student station, carries most Minuteman football games.
THE MARK WHIPPLE SHOW: Head coach Mark Whipple's weekly radio show, "The Mark Whipple Show," airs live from The Hangar Pub & Grill in Amherst. The show takes place on Thursday evenings during the season from 6:00-7:00 p.m. on WHMP 1400 AM (Northampton), 1240 AM (Greenfield) and 1600 AM (Springfield). Bob Behler serves as the show's host. The show is open to the general public.
COACH'S CORNER WITH MARK WHIPPLE: Every Sunday night during the season at 11:30 p.m., the Coach's Corner with Mark Whipple can be seen on WGGB TV, channel 40 in Springfield. The short segment, which runs at the tale end of the Sunday night news, features highlights from Saturday's game and a look ahead to the next week's opponent.
UMASS ON TELEVISION: The Minutemen had four games carried on live television during the 2001 season. The first televised game came at Marshall, which was carried by the Thundering Herd Network in West Virginia, with WSAZ-TV in Huntington serving as the flagship station. The game was also available nationwide, as part of the ESPN Gameplan package. The Delaware game was televised on CN8 in Philadelphia, New Jersey and Delaware. The Hofstra contest was shown on Fox Sports New York, and was available locally on Fox Sports New England. The final televised contest was last week's game with Rhode Island, which was shown on the Atlantic 10 Television Network. The game was carried locally by Fox Sports New England. The Minutemen have a record of 10-6 in televised games since the beginning of the 1998 season, including a 7-3 mark against Atlantic 10 opponents.
GUICE STARTING UNDER CENTER: Redshirt freshman quarterback Matt Guice, who just concluded his first season as UMass' starting signal caller, turned in some big performances as a rookie. He was named the Atlantic 10 Conference Rookie of the Week twice, following the victories over Rhode Island (14 of 25 for 175 yards and two scores) and James Madison (23 of 47 for 332 yards and five touchdowns, and tying the school single-game record for touchdown passes). Against New Hampshire, he completed 28 of 63 passes for 403 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed 16 times for 13 yards and another score against the Wildcats, to give him 416 total offensive yards on 79 attempts. Guice broke the school records for total offensive yards, total offensive attempts, passing yards and passing attempts against New Hampshire. He became the first UMass player to ever throw for over 400 yards, breaking Brian McNally's record of 389 yards passing against Connecticut on Oct. 23, 1976. For the season, Guice completed 192 of 394 passes for 2,266 yards and 12 touchdowns with 21 interceptions. He set a new UMass single-season record for passing yards by a freshman, breaking Gary Wilkos' old mark of 1,171 yards in 1989, and was the first Minuteman freshman to throw for 2,000 yards or 10 touchdowns. Guice also ranks third on the UMass single-season lists for passing attempts, completions and passing yards, while ranking eighth on the single-season chart for passing touchdowns.
MINUTEMEN NEAR TOP OF NCAA STAT LEADERS: Two Minutemen finished the season ranked among the NCAA Division I-AA statistical leaders. Junior punter David Sanger led the way by standing 13th nationally with an average of 41.4 yards per punt. The rankings:
Category NCAA Rank Player/Team Avg. Net Punting 7 UMass 37.3 Punting 13 David Sanger 41.4 Completions 24 Matt Guice 17.5 Total Offense 49 Matt Guice 198.5
MINUTEMEN AMONG THE A-10 LEADERS: Two Minutemen ranked among the Atlantic 10 leaders in various statistical categories this season. Junior punter David Sanger stood second in the league in punting (41.4 yards/punt), while junior placekicker Doug White ranked fifth in field goal percentage (.636). As a team, UMass stood second in the conference in net punting (37.3 yards/punt).
EXTRA POINTS: The 2001 UMass senior class concluded its career with an overall four-year record of 31-19, to set a new school record for most victories over a four-year span ... Senior free safety Jeremy Robinson played in the Blue-Gray All-Star Football Classic on Dec. 25, 2001 ... Sophomore linebacker Mark Kimener (Oakton, Va.) recorded 17 tackles with a sack and two tackles for loss against Richmond in the final game of the year. He finished the season ranked second on the team with 83 total tackles ... Freshman wide out Jason Peebler (Modesto, Calif.) concluded the year with 17 receptions for 231 yards. Peebler recorded the second-most catches ever by a UMass freshman, ranking behind only Adrian Zullo (29 receptions in 1998) ... Three former Minutemen are currently on National Football League rosters: rookie linebacker Kole Ayi of the New England Patriots, third-year linebacker Khari Samuel of the Detroit Lions and rookie tailback Marcel Shipp of the Arizona Cardinals ... UMass has scored in 80 straight games since a 34-0 loss to Rhode Island on Sept. 30, 1995 ... The Minutemen have scored in 103 consecutive home games since a 17-0 loss to Holy Cross on Sept. 17, 1983.