If there is one thing to be learned from the UMass Minutemen's opening-week loss it was that for all of the improvements Charley Molnar and Co. have made in the last 12 months there is still a ton of work to do. That work begins in earnest this week as they attempt to take a step backwards in order to take two more steps forward.
UMass will host former Yankee Conference foe and regional rival Maine this coming Saturday at Gillette Stadium. The level of competition will be a step down and should allow both the offense and defense to experience some success and build some momentum before heading back on the road to Kansas State.
The first part of that cannot be understated. This is a young and inexperienced team that was thrown straight into the fire against a team with BCS Bowl aspirations and got burned -- badly. Mike Wegzyn looked uncomfortable for many of his dropbacks, the offensive line -- though improved -- still looked porous at times and the defense was gashed for big play after big play in both the running and passing games.
Not exactly the best way to build a winning attitude.
Which brings us to this coming Saturday. Maine is a middle-of-the-road FCS squad that should be an inferior athletic group to the Minutemen. The defense won't have to deal with over-sized offensive linemen and All-American wide receivers running over the top. The offense won't have to deal with elite athletes in the defensive backfield flying around making plays or linebackers who play in the backfield.
On the whole, it should be a much more productive experience for everyone involved.
The Minutemen can also look forward to the possibility of getting Rob Blanchflower back and his presence will help the whole team, not just the offense. Blanchflower is the team's unquestioned leader and having him back will give the offense their best player back.
Either way, the first test is over and this Saturday offers a different test for the Minutemen to deal with and, this time, it's one they should pass.