On Sept. 14, 2013 I forgot what year it was. I can watch last week's episode of Master Chef or a 2006 episode of South Park on Hulu Plus. I can listen to Lil' Wayne's new album before it releases to the public. But somehow, in this day and age, it was impossible to find video of the UMass Minutemen/Kansas State Wildcats football game in the state of Massachusetts.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, life's events kept me from watching the game live anyway. But when I wanted to go back and watch the game I found that I was out of luck. So in a space that is typically full of insight and detailed observations, I will be providing you loyal readers with my thoughts on a game I did not see live or on replay.
This should be fun, so please stay with me.
First of all, the A.J. Doyle experiment seems as though it got off to an encouraging start. The UMass-sponsored highlight tape features a nice run and several well-placed throws to Tajae Sharpe during a first quarter that saw the Minutemen actually emerge with a lead. Of course, that run was offset by an interception that was taken 38 yards in the opposite direction and gave K-State their first score of the game.
He came back strong though! Doyle led a 16-play, 77-yard drive the next time out that included three third-down conversions. Doyle finished the drive -- which ended with a blocked 23-yard field goal -- 5-for-5 through the air for 39 yards spread between Sharpe, Bernard Davis and Derek Beck.
The next time out, Doyle completed both of his throws for 35 yards with 27 of them coming on a long connection with Sharpe that set up Stacey Bedell's first touchdown of the season and gave UMass a 7-6 lead. For those of you scoring at home, that's 7-for-7 for 74 yards and what should have been 10 points. Not a bad first quarter.
That was where the good stuff ended however. Kansas State scored 21 points in the second quarter while UMass touched the ball just twice, totaling 12 plays, 47 yards and just 4:55 seconds of possession. Kansas State's dual-quarterback attack of Jake Waters and Daniel Sams worked perfectly both through the air (7-for-12, 127 yards, 2 touchdowns, interception) and on the ground (20 carries, 155 yards, touchdown).
Joe Colton and Ed Saint-Vil had another nice day on defense but reinforced the fact that the defensive line simply is not making enough plays. Saint-Vil is a defensive-back-turned-linebacker and Colton is a former walk-on at safety. The third-leading tackler was another defensive back, Devin Brown, with a defensive lineman finally making an appearance at fifth in the person of Kevin Byrne.
Its hard to pick nits on the defense, though. So far they have only played one team that is remotely close to what they are capable of competing with and Kansas State was not that team. Bigger, faster teams are going to impose their will on the Minutemen and the fact that they kept K-State's offense off the board in the first quarter is a moral victory and one they should be able to build off moving forward.
On the whole, the box score likely tells the entire story. UMass did some things well, Kansas State did everything they wanted to do and as the game went on the better team pulled away from the pack. Charley Molnar and Co. will look at the film and pick out where they need to continue building and the Minutemen will come back just a bit better next week than they were this week.
Other things of note
- A.J. Doyle helped Tajae Sharpe continue his run of looking like a legitimate No. 1 receiver. Sharpe caught nine balls for 98 yards on 11 targets, stepping up for two long catches on third-down as well. A go-to receiver will only help the offense and Sharpe looks like he is that guy.
- If you follow me on Twitter (and you should, are you crazy?) you saw me go on a run of reading a bunch of stuff from the box score of last week's game and rail against the play selection, particularly on first down where I felt they threw the ball too much. This week? 18 runs on first down vs. 10 passes. That speaks to a more balanced approach and, of course , more first downs! A positive step in this regard.
- Stacey Bedell got 24 touches and gained 98 yards with a touchdown this week, furthering my belief that he is the Minutemen's most talented offensive player. 23-27 touches per game is where he should live and this game was right in that wheelhouse.
- Brendon Levengood is an asset to this team as the kickoff guy and he reminded us of that again this week. Two kickoffs, two touchbacks. This week's "Go Special Teams!" note.
- The defense got a combined three tackles for loss and one sack from its secondary this week and just one tackle for loss from the rest of the team. That's not a good look. The front seven needs to be getting more of a push and from there everything else will fall into place.