Boston Colleges: UMass

UMass notes: Plenty of growing pains

September, 8, 2012
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When you're making the kind of transition that UMass is, going from the FCS to the FBS, there are sure to be growing pains.

Those pains were on display in the opener against UConn, when the Minutemen managed just 59 yards of total offense and failed to get on the scoreboard in a 37-0 loss.

The pains were visible again Saturday. The Minutemen managed to put points on the scoreboard when signal-caller Mike Wegzyn scrambled 16 yards for a touchdown to cut the Indiana lead to 7-6, but Blake Lucas' point-after attempt went wide left.

In the third quarter, Wegzyn and the offense moved the chains with a succession of quick passes and got the offense into position for a 36-yard field goal attempt. That kick was also wide left.

UMass finished with 289 yards of total offense, 16 first downs and those six points. Since it finished with 59, three and zero in the first game, that counts as a small step forward.

After going just 9-for-22 for 56 yards and an interception in his first start for the Minutemen, Wegzyn was 18-for-26 for 161 yards and had seven rushes for 37 yards and a touchdown in his second start.

"I felt more prepared coming out," Wegzyn said after the game. "I think as a team we felt more prepared. We've been looking a lot better in practice, but obviously we didn't have the game we were expecting or hoped to have."

UMass coach Charley Molnar said he thought his quarterback showed some progress.

"He took a step forward, but you have to remember he was starting at ground zero," the coach said.

At the end of the day, the offense still produced only six points. But the redshirt freshman was optimistic.

"We're moving forward. We're taking strides," Wegzyn said. "So we just have to polish up and hopefully next week, I think personally, we'll be there."

Down and out

Tre Roberson was riding high. The Hoosiers quarterback had rushed for two long scores -- one from 50 yards, the other from 39 -- and thrown for a short score -- a five-yard pass to Shane Wynn -- in the first quarter.

And he had his offense on the doorstep again early in the second quarter.

But after he kept the ball on third-and-goal from the 5-yard line, Roberson did not get up after a three-yard rush. Trainers rushed out to attend to him, working on his left leg and quickly signaling for a waiting ambulance.

Roberson was lifted onto a stretcher, loaded into the ambulance and driven off the field.

The sophomore finished the day with four rushes for 114 yards and the two touchdowns and was 6-for-13 passing for 81 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

"He just took advantage of what our defense was giving. That's the bottom line," Molnar said of Roberson.

No defending the defense

After holding UConn to a respectable 372 yards of total offense -- two of the Huskies' scores came on defense or special teams -- the UMass D was the highlight, if there was one, of the opener.

Not so in the home opener.

The Minutemen allowed the Hoosiers 452 yards of total offense … in the first half.

Indiana finished with 611 yards of total offense in its 45-6 win.

Molnar said he didn't think the problems were schematic, saying it was more fundamental than that.

"It was just our tackling was atrocious," the coach said. "I saw more missed tackles today than I ever expected to see."

The Minutemen will need to correct that problem in a hurry, if they hope to stay in games. The offense as currently constituted is not capable of bringing the team back from a deficit.

Penalties aplenty

UMass outdid Indiana in one category -- and it was one Molnar & Co. wouldn't have minded losing.

The Minutemen were flagged nine times for 80 yards on the day, outstripping the Hoosiers' six flags for 81 yards.

"Penalties are a big problem, because we're really not good enough to overcome them," Molnar said. "I don't know what teams are, but we're really not good enough to overcome penalties. We shoot ourselves in the foot early in the series offensively, and it's almost a guaranteed punt."

The film will have more to say on the issue, but some of the flags will no doubt sit better than others with the coaching staff.

"Some of them were just aggressive football errors or just mistakes," Molnar said, "and some were stupid penalties."

Jack McCluskey is an editor for and a frequent contributor to Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.

UMass isn't equipped for FBS combat

September, 8, 2012

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- As the final chords of the national anthem echoed through the stadium, the plane approached. It was a C-5 Galaxy, an impressive piece of military engineering.

The big-bodied aircraft soared over Gillette Stadium, its noise following hard behind.

The fans cheered. The kickoff was close, the first home game against a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent in the long history of the UMass program just about under way.

While the choice of equipment for the pregame flyover was probably not foremost on the minds of many, as the game went on it became clear just how appropriate it was.

You see, the C-5 Galaxy is a transport aircraft. It is not equipped for combat.

Neither are the Minutemen.

The UMass offense went three-and-out on its first series of the game, gaining a grand total of zero yards on three plays (one run, two passes). Then the punt by Colter Johnson sailed out of bounds, giving Indiana the ball at the 50.

[+] EnlargeTre Roberson
AP Photo Eric CanhaBefore breaking his leg early in the second quarter, Indiana QB Tre Roberson (5) accounted for almost 200 yards and three TDs.
One play later, the game was no longer scoreless. Hoosiers QB Tre Roberson ran a keeper, breaking an arm tackle at the line of scrimmage, juking two Minutemen defenders in the second level and sprinting to the end zone to put IU up 7-0.

The Hoosiers wouldn't need to score again -- but they did, jumping out to a 21-6 lead at the end of the first and coasting to a 45-6 win.

"We need to bring our A-game every single week," UMass coach Charley Molnar said after the game. "There's not going to be many games where the talent level is going to be even on that field. It's just not going to be. So for us to win the game -- for us to stay in the game -- we've got to bring our A-game.

"And if we brought our A-game, it quickly dissolved into a B-game or less for some guys."

There was a hint of progress on offense. It came right after Indiana's first touchdown, and if you weren't paying close attention, you might have missed it.

Using a 56-yard gain on a trick play -- running back Michael Cox took a handoff from quarterback Mike Wegzyn, who ran out to the left and caught a pass back from Cox and then chucked it long down the left sideline to Marken Michel -- and a 16-yard scamper from Wegzyn, the Minutemen scored the first touchdown in their FBS history. But Blake Lucas' point-after attempt sailed wide left, and Indiana kept the lead at 7-6.

That was as close as the Hoosiers would let the hosts get.

"I'm disappointed in the way we performed today," Molnar said. "I was expecting better."

Meanwhile, the Minutemen defense struggled to stop the Hoosiers. Before he left with a left leg injury, Roberson accounted for almost 200 yards of offense and three touchdowns.

He was injured early in the second quarter.

"He's a very good athlete, a very good running quarterback," Molnar said, "but you're exactly right -- the lanes or the holes were so big that even a less-skilled or less-gifted runner at the quarterback position would've had some chunks of yardage."

Indiana, which doubled its win total last season, finished with 611 yards of total offense (343 rushing, 268 passing).

The immediate future doesn't provide much hope for the Minutemen. Next weekend they travel to Ann Arbor, Mich., to take on the No. 19 Wolverines.

Though the announced attendance of 16,304 would have been a good crowd for UMass' McGuirk Stadium, which holds 17,000, it left Gillette, capacity 68,756, looking practically empty. When the skies opened up in the second half and the few fans there headed for cover, the effect was doubled.

Maybe it's unreasonable to expect the Minutemen to compete immediately with the likes of Indiana, a bottom-of-the-barrel Big Ten team but still a Big Ten team. Maybe it's unreasonable to ask UMass to draw more than 16,000 fans, especially considering the circumstances (an opponent with no ties to the area and a mixed forecast).

Maybe. Yet here we are, and that's what they're being asked to do.

Like a C-5 Galaxy being asked to maneuver like a fighter jet and take on the enemy directly, the Minutemen just aren't equipped for this level of engagement.

Jack McCluskey is an editor for and a frequent contributor to Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.

Rapid Reaction: Indiana 45, UMass 6

September, 8, 2012
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- In its first home game as a Division I-A team, UMass was completely outclassed by visiting Indiana 45-6 on Saturday at Gillette Stadium.

How it happened: Things did not start well for the UMass offense. After a dismal debut on the FBS level against UConn, scoring no points and totaling just 59 yards of offense, the Minutemen desperately needed a better beginning to their first home game as a Division I-A team.

They didn't get it.

After the defense forced Indiana to punt on the first series of the game, the offense got the ball on its own 18-yard line. The first play was a handoff to Michael Cox, who tried to take it around the left end and was stopped for no gain. The second play was a pass to Cox in the backfield, with QB Mike Wegzyn getting the short throw off under heavy pressure, and the back barely got back to the line of scrimmage before being stacked up.

The third play was a pass, and Wegzyn almost completed it ... to Indiana's Mark Murphy.

On fourth down, Colter Johnson's punt sailed out of bounds at the 50, giving the Hoosiers the ball at midfield.

It wouldn't take them long to capitalize. Tre Roberson kept the ball, broke an arm tackle at the line of scrimmage, juked two UMass defenders at the second level of the defense and was off to the races.

The 50-yard TD run put Indiana up 7-0.

For the Minutemen's offense, that would prove to be too much to overcome.

What it means: There is a long way to go for coach Charley Molnar's program.

That was to be expected, with the move up to Football Bowl Subdivision play. But this far? It's unlikely even the most pessimistic Minutemen fan saw this coming in the first two games.

What's next? UMass will head to Michigan for its second straight game versus a Big Ten team. The 3:30 p.m. kickoff will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.

Jack McCluskey is an editor for and a frequent contributor to Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.

UMass set for home opener vs. Indiana

September, 7, 2012
Suffice it to say things did not go according to plan for coach Charley Molnar and UMass in the opener against UConn.

The Minutemen lost 37-0 to the Huskies. They had a grand total of three first downs, 3 net yards rushing and 56 net yards passing.

"I don't feel good about our team's performance," Molnar said after practice Wednesday. "Obviously, after you lose and never give yourself a chance to compete, as a coach you can't feel good about it."

Then Molnar noted what he did feel good about.

"Our team fought hard through four quarters, the guys never quit," he said. "It was disappointing but we've already moved past that, we're really focused now on Indiana."

Molnar hopes that his young team will benefit from the experience -- and from getting out the jitters of the first game on the new stage.

"Part of it is when you're playing with so many freshmen, true freshmen and redshirt freshmen, the only way you can improve is just to get experience," he said. "We've worked hard each day we've been out there. I think some of these players are better players than they were when we played Thursday night.

"Obviously their skill sets are just starting to develop. That alone will make us a better football team."

UMass was scheduled to practice last Friday, the day after the opener, regardless of the outcome. Molnar said his message to the team was simple.

"Don't let UConn beat you twice. They already beat you once," he said. "I think after we got through Friday's practice, as the afternoon went along the guys' intensity and spirit picked up."

Next up is the home opener, the first game UMass will play as an FBS team in its new home venue, Gillette Stadium. Indiana comes to Foxborough for the occasion, having already matched its win total from last season with a 24-17 win over Indiana State.

And while Indiana is far from the cream of the Big Ten crop, it is still a Big Ten team. The offensive line has typical Big Ten size, with no lineman lighter than 268 pounds or shorter than 6-foot-2.

"That in itself will be a challenge for our football team," Molnar said of IU's size. "The game will be won in the trenches."

It will also be won -- or lost -- by the performances of the skill position players.

Redshirt freshman Mike Wegzyn struggled in the opener, going 9-for-22 for 56 yards and getting picked off twice. He'll need to make strides for UMass to improve. And it would be good if those strides came sooner rather than later, as the Minutemen ask their fans to follow them to Division I-A.

"I'm optimistic that we've made strides," Molnar said. "I'm optimistic that we've got the right guys in the right places and they've worked hard so we'll see what happens on Saturday afternoon."

Jack McCluskey is an editor for and a frequent contributor to Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.

Molnar: UMass getting better every day

August, 23, 2012
With a little less than two weeks to go before his team’s first game of the season, and first game at the Football Bowl Subdivision (Division I-A) level, University of Massachusetts coach Charley Molnar was asked a simple question: If you had to play tomorrow, how would you feel about your team’s chances?

“There’s one or two situations that I don’t think we’re quite ready for if we had the game tomorrow,” he said. “If you told me we were playing in 72 hours, I would feel a lot better because I would cover those situations one more time. But I would say that we’re closer to being a competitive football team than we were a week ago.

“And what I mean by that is we’ve continued to make strides during summer camp. We haven’t plateaued. Guys continue to grow and learn each and every day. Eventually you’ll hit a point when you get diminishing returns but we haven’t hit that yet.”

For a team transitioning to a new system, a new conference and a whole new level of competition, that’s important.

[+] EnlargeCharley Molnar
AP Photo/Elise AmendolaNew UMass coach Charley Molnar isn't sure his team is physically ready for the FBS level yet, but he's encouraged by what he's seen.
Molnar, who spent the past two seasons at Notre Dame as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, likes to run a no-huddle, spread offense and wants to develop a high-pressure, multiple-look defense.

But fans of the Minutemen might have to wait a while to see those ideas in games.

“We’re not going to be a slave to a system. We’ll do what’s best for our football team and if that means running the ball a little bit more, a little bit more balance, then that’ll be the direction that we’ll go,” Molnar said. “Not only this year, [but] every year going forward until we get the personnel in place that can run the system that ideally I would like to have.”

To that end, Molnar said the new Minutemen staff has made progress.

“Recruiting has been upgraded tremendously since we’ve arrived,” the Morristown, N.J., native said.

UMass has 12 commitments for the Class of 2013, including a trio of three-star prospects. Todd Stafford, a pocket passer from Greenwich, Conn., is one of those recruits. He committed to UMass early -- even though he was getting interest from Boston College, UConn and Duke -- pledging to attend in March, just four months after Molnar was named the first head coach in the Minutemen’s FBS history.

The early commitment suggests that the move to the Mid-American Conference, in which UMass will be a football-only member, and FBS will be a draw for the school.

It certainly was a thrill for the players already on the roster.

“The transition from I-AA to I-A has been great for them,” Molnar said. “It’s like waking up and when you didn’t expect it, it’s Christmas. They had heard rumors that UMass wanted to move up to I-A football, but basically they’re I-AA football players and the next day they’re I-A players.”

Now all they have to do is work on being physically ready to play at this level.

“Like many things in our program, that’s a work in progress,” Molnar said of the team’s physical preparedness. “We’re getting into better shape than we’ve ever been. Are we able to just go, go, go for 60 minutes? I would say right now the jury’s out on that.

“We have moments where our guys really play a really fast tempo, run the play, get up, line up and we go again. Other times there’s a lot of delay because guys are slower getting up, they don’t line up as fast, they don’t come off the ball as fast and things don’t look as I would like them to look.”

The fact of the matter is the team may not look the way Molnar wants it to look for a while. Presumptive starting quarterback Kellen Pagel, a redshirt junior, is out indefinitely with continuing post-concussion symptoms. That means that redshirt freshman Mike Wegzyn will call the signals in the opener at UConn (Aug. 30, 7:30 p.m., ESPN3).

True freshman A.J. Doyle, a Lakeville, Mass., native and Catholic Memorial grad, is in line to be the backup.

“He’ll be missed,” Molnar said of Pagel, the one significant injury for UMass entering the season, “but we keep going forward. I think Mike and A.J. are going to be very, very capable replacements for him. I think we’ll be fine with the guys that we have.”

And as the clock ticks down ‘til opening day, you can be sure of this: Molnar’s using that time to cover things one more time, to give his team the best chance to compete in this game and this season of firsts.

Jack McCluskey is an editor for and a frequent contributor to Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.

UMass football tickets on sale Monday

July, 12, 2012
Individual game tickets for UMass' five home games at Gillette Stadium will go on sale Monday, July 16 at 10 a.m. ET. UMass will kick-off its inaugural season as a member of the FBS and as a new member of the Mid-American Conference this season. The first home game will be against Indiana on Sept. 8 at 3:30 p.m. ET.

Tickets can be ordered online at, by calling 866-UMASS-TIX (866-862-7784), or by visiting the Mullins Center Ticket Office at UMass.

UMass hockey coach Cahoon steps down

June, 20, 2012
UMass men's hockey coach Don "Toot" Cahoon stepped down Tuesday, the school’s AD, John McCutcheon announced.

"Through the course of our recent conversations, coach Cahoon and I mutually agreed that it would be in the program's best interest for him to take this action at this time," McCutcheon said. "I want to thank coach Cahoon for his many contributions to UMass and the community. He has positioned the program well for future success, both on and off the ice, and we are excited to continue to build on the foundation that he has put in place."

"It's been an honor to coach and work with so many fine student-athletes over the last 12 years here at UMass," Cahoon said. "Their efforts and the efforts of the faculty, staff and community members will be fond memories of my time here at Massachusetts. I look forward to the continued growth and development of this program so that it will sustain itself at the most elite level within Hockey East. The privilege has been all mine."

Cahoon was 166-225-42 in 12 seasons at UMass.

UMass lacrosse will have chip on shoulder

May, 8, 2012
In previewing the first round of the NCAA men's lacrosse tournament, ESPN's Quint Kessenich expects UMass "will play with a chip on its shoulder as the undefeated No. 6 seed." The Minutemen play Colgate on Saturday (2:30 p.m.) at Amherst in a game on ESPNU and

Here's Kessenich's breakdown of the game:

These two teams are a combined 28-3. UMass (15-0) will play with a chip on its shoulder as the undefeated No. 6 seed. Its 11 seniors get to play a final game on Garber Field and will be flying around with great passion. It's still hard to tell how good this team is. Its wins are over teams rated 16, 17, 19, 20 and 27 in the RPI. It did not play a single team in the tournament field.

That being said, coach Greg Cannella has made a run late into May. The team's stats are really solid. In the Minutemen's past 61 games, they are 58-3 when scoring more than 10 goals. They face off well, and scrap for ground ball and possession dominance (plus-3.9 per game), and goalie Tim McCormack makes saves at a high rate. Can Tom Celentani cover Peter Baum? If Colgate is hesitant to slide, Anthony Biscardi might be the key chess piece. One Achilles' heel would be an affinity for taking penalties, which will hurt against a Raiders EMO group that clicks at 50 percent.

First-year coach Mike Murphy has Colgate (13-3) playing fast. The Raiders score 13.56 goals per game, force lots of turnovers, ride well and are the No. 5-rated ground ball team. Peter Baum leads the nation in points. Freshman Ryan Walsh has hit the net 33 times, and underrated midfielder Jeff Ledwick has 44 points. Defensively, they are slow to slide.

This game will be a street fight, an entertaining slugfest for fans.

For a preview of the rest of the first-round games, click here.

BC bows out of hoop game with UMass

April, 17, 2012
Boston College is pulling the plug on its annual men's basketball game against the University of Massachusetts for the 2012-13 season, according to a report in the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

BC cited its expanded 18-game ACC schedule as the reason for ending the series, which has been played every season since 1995-96, when the schools revived their rivalry amid much fanfare. The game, dubbed "The Commonwealth Classic," was played at the sold-out and recently opened FleetCenter in Boston. The Marcus Camby-led Minutemen won that game, 65-57.

"We are expanding to an 18-game ACC schedule next season and playing UMass just didn’t work this year," BC athletic director Gene DiFilippo told the Gazette. "We will continue to play them some time in the future.”

UMass is coming off a 25-12 season in which it advanced to the NIT semifinals. BC finished the season 9-22. The Minutemen won this season's meeting, 82-46, at Chestnut Hill.

Stafford: UMass 'a perfect fit for me'

March, 19, 2012
The University of Massachusetts football program has never landed a recruit like quarterback Todd Stafford before.

When Stafford told UMass coach Charley Molnar that he wanted to be a Minuteman last Thursday he became the first player to commit to UMass during his junior season in high school.

“I really liked the coaching staff and the more I researched UMass the more I liked it,” Stafford said. “My dad grew up in Massachusetts [Somerset] and he likes it there. I really felt like it was a perfect fit for me.”

Stafford, who plays for the Brunswick School in Greenwich, Conn., received a scholarship offer from UMass after he attended a UMass junior day in February. He also received early interest from Boston College, Duke and Miami, but UMass was his only offer.

Stafford is a pro-style quarterback with good size (6-foot-6, 245 pounds), but suffered season-ending knee injuries during his sophomore and junior seasons. He missed almost all of the 2011 season after being injured during the second quarter of Brunswick's opener against Taft.

“I was planting and got my foot stuck in the turf, then I got hit,” Stafford explained. “The rehab went well. The doctor told me my knees right now are as strong as they've ever been.

“I'm more of a drop-back quarterback. I prefer to throw it more than run it. Their style of offense fits me pretty well.”

Stafford said he first heard from UMass about two months after his junior season. The UMass coaches were watching film of Brunswick wide receiver Donqutae Robinson and saw something from Stafford's sophomore season that they liked.

“I had some solid film from my sophomore year,” Stafford said. “They told me they liked what they saw. They were debating about offering me because of the injuries, but they made the offer at the first junior day. I've been thinking about UMass since then.”

UMass is transitioning from the FCS level (Colonial Athletic Association) to the FBS (Mid-American Conference). The Minutemen will begin play in the MAC this year.

Stafford, who also plays lacrosse for Brunswick, said he would have committed to UMass even if the program wasn't moving to the MAC.

“If they had remained at the I-AA level (FCS) the appeal would have still been there,” he said. “It just seemed like the right place for me.

“I'm glad I made the decision early. Now I don't have to go to all of those one-day camps. I can focus on my team.”

UMass football to play in MAC East

January, 4, 2012
With UMass joining the league, the MAC announced a new divisional alignment in football beginning with the 2012 season. UMass will compete in the East Division, with Bowling Green moving to the MAC West Division.

MAC East: Akron, Buffalo, Kent State, UMass, Miami, Ohio and Temple.

MAC West: Ball State, Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois, Toledo and Western Michigan.

“Ever since our announcement of the addition of UMass in football last spring, divisional alignment has been a topic of conversation among our Presidents and Directors of Athletics,” said Dr. Jon Steinbrecher, MAC commissioner. “We considered a number of different paradigms and ultimately we focused on the core principles of geography, travel and rivalries. We now have a true rotational cycle for football and a scheduling model that will extend for future years.”

Each team will play an eight-game conference schedule, with six divisional games and two non-divisional cross-over games.

UMass will begin conference play in 2012 and will be eligible for the conference football championship game and a bowl game beginning in the 2013 football season.

McCluskey's Notebook: UNH 27, UMass 21

October, 22, 2011
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- In the 74th edition of a rivalry that dates back more than a century, the question wasn’t which team won the game. It was: Will these teams ever play again?

UMass and UNH first played a football game in 1897, with the Minutemen winning 10-4.

Much has changed in the game since, and more change is on the horizon: UMass will move to the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2012, meaning the series with Football Championship Subdivision UNH is very much in doubt.

After his team lost 27-21 on Saturday, UMass coach Kevin Morris was in no mood to reminisce.

“I think it’s one of those things where you move up and move on,” he said. “We’ve got a future in the MAC conference and we’ll create some rivalries there. The regional one will be Temple immediately but we’ll certainly get some great games with some of the other teams and form some great rivalries at the top of that league.”

Sean McDonnell, on the other hand, said he’ll miss the Wildcats’ border rivalry with the Minutemen.

“Losing this, it’s sad,” the UNH coach said. “It’s been something special for a long time, and if it goes away that would be very disappointing.”

Trophy talk: Each year the two teams play, the MVP of the game is awarded the Bill Knight Trophy.

After rushing 13 times for 92 yards, including a long run of 48 yards, and two touchdowns, and returning three kicks for 98 yards, with a long of 44, UNH’s Dontra Peters won the honor in 2011.

Asked what it meant to him to win the trophy for potentially the last time, Peters said the win over a rival meant more.

“Personally it’s not even about the trophy,” he said. “This game was huge for us, because like Coach said it might be the last [time] we ever play them. I think it’s much more than a trophy.

“We get all hyped up for [the rivalry game] all week. I’m just satisfied getting the win and putting the last W up on the board.”

Bad hands: With UNH up 27-18 and UMass in the red zone late in the fourth quarter, Wildcats linebacker Matt Evans had a chance to put the game away for good.

On third-and-3 from the 4-yard line, Minutemen quarterback Kellen Pagel was looking to get his team in the end zone. Rather than his intended receiver, however, his pass hit Evans and bounced off his hands, falling harmlessly to the ground.

Asked whether he was thinking about the end zone before he caught the ball, the junior from Hanover, Mass., was blunt.

“That was disgusting,” he said, drawing laughs from reporters. “Not really proud of that.”

“And we have him on the hands team, too,” McDonnell joked.

Return ticket: With three kick returns for 72 yards, including a 48-yarder that set up a touchdown, Jesse Julmiste has 621 return yards on the season. That’s the third-most return yards in a single season in UMass history.

In a rush: Minutemen running back Jonathan Hernandez carried the ball 29 times for 89 yards and a score. The touchdown, which came on a 4-yard run late in the second quarter, was the 25th of Hernandez’s career, tied for fifth most in UMass history.

Catching on: UMass wideout Julian Talley set a career high with 10 catches for 113 yards. The 6-foot-1, 192-pound senior also added a touchdown on the ground, spinning off two would-be tacklers and sprinting in for a 23-yard score on an end around in the second quarter.

Jack McCluskey is an editor for and a frequent contributor to Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.

UMass falls to UNH in Colonial Clash

October, 22, 2011
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Minutemen will be back here again next season. The Wildcats won’t.

But while UMass will begin playing all its home games at Gillette Stadium next season, for the second straight year it was UNH that seemed right at home in Foxboro.

The guests from the Granite State certainly left an impression, winning the second -- and perhaps last -- “Colonial Clash” 27-21 on Saturday.

UNH won the toss, elected to receive and used a long return on the opening kickoff and a no-huddle offense to score on its opening drive. UMass quarterback Kellen Pagel led the Minutemen down the field on their opening drive, looking to answer, but a poor decision (throwing into double coverage in the end zone) resulted in an interception, setting the tone for the afternoon.

“The difference in the game in the end was what happened in the beginning,” UMass coach Kevin Morris said. “They came out strong with a great kick return and were able to punch it in for a score. And we’re playing from behind for the rest of the ballgame and weren’t able to overcome our own mistakes and penalties.

“Certainly looking forward to moving up and moving on after this ballgame.”

[+] EnlargeKevin Morris
AP Photo/Michael DwyerUMass coach Kevin Morris hopes that happier days at Gillette Stadium await the Minutemen.
UMass will begin Football Bowl Subdivision play next season. The Minutemen’s first game as an FBS team comes Aug. 30, 2012, against UConn.

The nonconference schedule will also include games at Michigan and Vanderbilt, and against Indiana at Gillette. UMass will play a full Mid-American Conference slate in 2012, but won’t be eligible for the MAC championship or bowl play until 2013.

Not that the Minutemen figure to be contenders for either right away. At least they won’t be if they play the way they did against the Wildcats.

Trailing 18-12 to begin the third quarter, UMass had the ball and appeared to get the break it needed when tailback Jonathan Hernandez took the ball around the right end and streaked 45 yards into the end zone. Unfortunately for the Minutemen, the play was only possible because wide receiver Jesse Julmiste had held his defender on the edge, allowing Hernandez to tiptoe by.

After the flag, the UMass drive fizzled out. Later in the quarter, UNH used big runs by Dontra Peters and Nico Steriti to get in position for Kevin Decker to throw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Sean Cullen. That stretched the lead to 24-12 and, for all intents and purposes, put the game out of reach.

“Can’t say enough about what it means for our school and our program to have the opportunity to play in a setting like this,” UNH coach Sean McDonnell said. “Having the opportunity to play UMass, and not knowing if we’re ever gonna have another one against them, it meant a lot to us to win this football game.

“I thought we played a pretty clean game. We caused some turnovers, which was good.”

The Minutemen certainly did not play a clean game. In addition to Pagel’s interception, UMass also had two fumbles (losing one) and four penalties for 30 yards.

So though UMass had 399 yards of total offense to UNH’s 335, much of that is due to the fact Pagel had to throw 42 times in an attempt to bring the Minutemen back. He finished with 249 yards passing on 25 completions, and added a rushing touchdown late.

Morris & Co. would’ve preferred to pile up the yardage on the ground with Hernandez, but the UNH defense did a solid job containing the senior. Hernandez carried the ball 29 times but totaled only 89 yards (a 3.08 yard average) and a score.

“That was a huge emphasis this entire week,” UNH linebacker Matt Evans said. “No. 1 priority is to stop the run. I don’t know what the statistics were, but I think we did pretty well. We played very hard, played disciplined and kept the ball in front of us.”

And so the Wildcats headed home with another victory over UMass, their traditional Colonial Athletic Association rival, satisfied with the experience and the result. There were no such feelings among the UMass contingent.

Asked what it will mean for the program to play its home games in Gillette going forward, Morris was disappointed about Saturday's loss but seemed excited for the future.

“They’re gonna work in the locker room in there now, they’re gonna put some UMass stuff down in there and make it a true home locker room for us,” he said. “I think that’ll be great for our guys, make it truly feel like our home field as we come down from Amherst to play our home games for the next few years here. There’s no better venue in the country to play NFL football in, obviously college football. We are very excited that it will be our home field.”

Jack McCluskey is an editor for and a frequent contributor to Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.

Video: Breaking down BC's win over UMass

September, 24, 2011

In the video above, Dave Weekley and Rene Ingoglia break down the Eagles' 45-17 victory over the Minutemen.

UMass expected to announce move to MAC in football

April, 19, 2011
UMass will make a “major announcement” about its football program Wednesday.

The school is expected to say at the Gillette Stadium news conference (3:30 p.m.) that the Minutemen will be joining the Mid-American Conference for football.

UMass didn’t reveal the content of the announcement, but sources told the Boston Globe as far back as December that UMass would join Temple in making the move. Both schools will remain in the Atlantic 10 for other sports.

The move can't be made official until September when a moratorium is lifted for Championship Subdivision schools to jump to the Bowl Subdivision. UMass then would have to go through a two-year transition period before becoming a full MAC member in 2013.