It took me three days to recover from the loss to BC. It looked like the Massachusetts Minutemen were on the same path that they were the past two seasons; bad offense, bad defense, unwatchable games. It's telling that I'm able to write about the Minutemen the day after. This team was night and day different from last year's squad, and even the team we saw last week. Let's start with the good and move on from there.
1) Welcome to the team Jean Sifrin. Despite being on only 5 days of practice, which showed as he was missing from many snaps, he made his presence known. At 6-feet 7-inches, Sifrin was a huge redzone target, hauling in two touchdowns on the day, and almost had a third. With more practice time, Sifrin will become an integral part of the UMass offense.
2) Last week I worried about Blake Frohnapfel's deep accuracy, as I wondered if he needed more time with his receivers or if he just couldn't throw an accurate deep ball. Well, one week later I'm of the belief that it's the further. Frohnapfel still missed a few deep throws, but on the whole he seemed to have a better feel for where his receivers would be and had the ball on their hands.
3) Well, before the game I asked the run defense to give the pass defense a chance to show what it's made of. Be careful what you wish for folks. Sefo Liufau had a field day, and the Minutemen secondary had no answers. The main culprit here was bubble screens and bad tackling, as the Buffalo wide receivers did most their damage behind the line of scrimmage, then ran through arm tackle after arm tackle. The lone bright spot was once again Randall Jette, with an interception to start the third quarter which he returned to the one.
4) Whipple called an interesting game. At times he was genius:
After calling two end arounds to Tajae Sharpe during the game, Whipple lined the offense up like it would be a third, only to hand it off to Wilson for a big game.
Blake Frohnapfel would hand the ball off then fake keeping it to the outside, which the Buffaloes failed to bite on repeatedly. Sure enough, after no Buffaloes followed Frohnapfel, Whipple called the same play only had Frohnapfel keep it. The result? A 17 yard gain, a 15 yard facemasking penalty, and a few plays later a UMass touchdown.
Of course, at other times the play calling was suspect. The biggest gripe I have was not calling for the onside kick at the end of the game. If Colorado got a first down, the game was over. The defense hadn't been stopping anyone all game. How do you not at least try an onside kick there to improve your odds?
Other thoughts, in short: Fans didn't show up, but the ones that were there had some energy. After UMass went up 14-13, the whole crowd started loudly cheering for defense. I felt an electricity shoot through the crowd that I hadn't felt since the 2006 FCS semi-final game. Here's the thing, after two years of horrible FBS play, and mediocre showings in the FCS before that, the fans seemed to have given up on this program. For the first time in forever, though, when I hear people talk about hope for the future, they're talking about future weeks, not future years. Vanderbilt is on the ropes, if the Minutemen can recreate their offensive showing for this week's game, and the defense can step up, we're looking at the first of multiple wins this season.