Field goals are a part of football that most people take for granted, at least from inside 45 yards. For the UMass Minutemen, those scoring opportunities had been left on the field through eight games as Blake Lucas struggled to make even the easiest of kicks, but a switch at the placekicker position against Norther Illinois changed all of that -- at least for a day.
Fifth-year senior Brendon Levengood went a perfect 4-for-4 on field goals in the Minutemen's 63-19 loss to Northern Illinois and gave a UMass offense that had previously been dependent upon touchdowns that came few and far between and alternative way of putting points on the board. All four of Levengood's kicks came from 40+, with the longest checking in at 46 yards. Lucas, by comparison, had been just 1-for-5 from 40+ with a long of 42 yards.
Levengood had previously been handling the kickoff duties and been doing very well at it, averaging almost 60 yards per kickoff with six touchbacks in 27 tries. Armed with a powerful leg, he gives Charley Molnar something of an insurance policy for points that simply hadn't been there before -- an issue that reared its ugly head when Lucas missed a 22-yard kick against Western Michigan that ultimately cost UMass a win.
Molnar said following the game that Levengood has been working with the placekicking unit all season so making the change was as simple as plugging him in for Lucas. (MassLive.com)
"Our specialists don’t mess around in practice. They work. I think the amount of reps had a lot to do (with Levengood’s proficiency). All the stars were lined up for him to build up his confidence."
The change was a long time coming and its unfortunate that it took the kicking game's inefficency costing UMass a game for it to be made, but hopefully as the season winds to a close we will see UMass stay a bit more competitive, three points at a time.
Woodley Shines in Spotlight
Lorenzo Woodley is by far the most hyped recruit of the Minutemen's 2013 class and until this week he had played a very minor role in the offense. Stacey Bedell was solid before going down with an injury, then Jamal Wilson took advantage of a hobbled Woodley to jump up into the starting role for a few games. With those two banged up this week, Woodley got a shot to show everyone what he was made of.
The freshman from Florida carried the ball 38 times for 163 yards and a tocuhdown against Northern Illinois and gave fans their first extended look at the prized recruit. While 38 times is a lot of times to touch the ball, with Wilson out and Bedell limited, it was really the only option Molnar had. After 16 carries, 58 yards and a touchdown last week, getting the bulk of the carries was the next step towards Woodley's emergence as a feature back. (MassLive.com)
"I was just trying to build off last week's performance. I felt like, if I can lead the team on that drive, why can't I lead the team the whole game?" Woodley said. "And that's what I was basically trying to do throughout the week; have a great week of practice and come out and execute against NIU.
"Unfortunately we lost, but I was just trying to play my game. I was just trying to do my part so I won't have any regrets coming off the game. I know that I didn't let me team down and that I played to the best of my ability and gave it all I got."
UMass gets two weeks off to get healthy before facing Akron in a game that most believe the Minutemen can win. The Zips have been better this season than last and just won their second MAC contest against Kent State on Saturday.