On Saturday afternoon the FBS era begins at
home when the Minutemen take on the Indiana HoosiersBasics:
After a one-sided thumping at the hands of the Connecticut Huskies, your Massachusetts Minutemen return home for the first time as an FBS football program when they take to Gillette Stadium field at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon (August 8, 2012) against the Indiana Hoosiers. The game will be televised on ESPN3 with Shawn Kenney (play-byplay), John Bunting (color) and John Brickley (sideline) on the scene. If you're not able to get ESPN3, the UMass Broadcast Network is WEEI with the flagship being 105.5 FM in Springfield, 1440 AM in Worcester and 95.9 FM in the Eastern most part of the state. Indiana is coming off a 24-17 victory in Bloomington over the Indiana State Sycamores on Saturday.The Line:
Massachusetts (-14) is a two touchdown underdog.History:
This will be the first meeting all-time between Indiana and Massachusetts on the gridiron, and only the second meeting all-time between the Minutemen and an Indiana based school (Ball State, 1984-85).Sons Spotlight:
For the Minutemen this week the spotlight is going to shine hot on the shoulders of Mike Wegzyn who needs to improve over his performance last Thursday against the Huskies. The bright spot for Wegzyn is that I'm not sure it could get much worse. Against UConn, Wegzyn went 9-22 for 56 yards, 0 TD and 1 (back breaking) INT. Freshman A.J. Doyle saw the field on Thursday night which at least means that the coaching staff isn't interested in redshirting him this year, which you'd have to assume means that if Wegzyn doesn't improve against Indiana, that Doyle is going to see the field. Indiana State is an FCS school and their offense was able to put up 387 yards of offense on the Hoosiers defense, not exactly a statistic that you can draw a lot of conclusions from but you should at least think that we should see a significant improvement from the 59 yards of total offense we saw on Thursday night.
I think we also have to spotlight the Minutemen offensive line which was pretty bad on Thursday night. One of the reasons that Wegzyn's numbers were so bad is due in large part to the fact that he was throwing the ball under duress all night long, he only took 2 sacks, which is amazing when you think about it and speaks to the fact that Wegzyn spent a lot of those 22 throws just getting the ball out of his hands to avoid a negative play. The Minutemen running backs, the one spot where you have legitimate FBS level talent were putrid, gaining 1 total yard of offense and they have to get better. The Hoosiers defense puts pressure on the quarterback and you know they watched UConn spend a ton of time in the backfield so they'll have their ears pinned back on Saturday afternoon.
Indiana QB Tre Robinson will play a major role
On the Hoosiers side of the field you've got to spend some time watching quarterback Tre Robinson. In 2011, Robinson took over as QB1 for the Hoosiers on October 22nd and proceeded to go 0-5, throwing 3 TDs and 5 INTs over that stretch. Hoosiers fans feel that they saw a transformed version of Robinson on Saturday in Bloomington. Robinson protected the ball, threw for 280 yards and a touchdown but more importantly didn't throw a pick. Indiana's running game isn't nearly as good as UConn's and the UMass defense did a reasonably good job of containing the Huskies, I expect them to do the same this week. If Robinson is the 2011 version of himself, this UMass defense will have a chance to make some big plays, but if Robinson plays like he did against Indiana State than it could be another long day for the Minutemen.Break It Down:
Indiana is bad.
Not bad compared to other Big 10 teams, bad compared to all football programs in the country. A week ago Indiana beat an FCS opponent by a touchdown, and that FCS opponent had the ball in Indiana territory three times in the fourth quarter. Also that FCS opponent ran the ball for almost 200 yards, admittedly Shakir Bell of ISU is probably the best FCS player in the country, but the Nebraska line from the mid-1990s wasn't blocking for him. The Hoosiers gave up 387 yards on defense to an FCS team, the question becomes -- is this Minutemen team better than Indiana State?
I don't see the Minutemen winning this game, lets get that out of the way right now. However, I do expect them to show a significant improvement from last week (and growth is all we're looking for this season). I think that the crowd will be small (10,000 tickets sold thus far), but they will be fired up and I think the team is going to be very excited. If I had to guess (and I do because Coach Molnar isn't saying) I think the team is going to debut the all-black uniforms and I think they're going to be flying around the field in the early portion of the game.
I think Chris Burns is going to be a focal point of the offense because I still am not sure Coach Molnar has trust in Mike Wegzyn to run the hurry up. Indiana had a ton of trouble stopping Shakir Bell last week and I'd love to see some good gains by Burns and the running attack this week.
The determining factor in this game will be the line play, specifically the Massachusetts offensive line versus the Indiana defensive unit. Indiana had 5 sacks against Indiana State and if they're deep in the back field and eating up the Minutemen lineman then it'll be another brutal day of Mike Wegzyn. However, if the line can hold their blocks and let QB1 set his feet and make some throws I think we'll see the Minutemen stretch the field and get the ball into scoring territory, what they do from there is anyone's guess.
The defense also can't be called upon to spend 70+ minutes on the field, no matter how good they are capable of playing, when you're the only unit on the field you're going to wear out and when the defensive players wear out, the Hoosiers offense will strike. Indiana won 1 game last year, and they haven't beaten an FBS team since the end of the season in 2010, so you know they're going to be hungry for the opportunity to win back to back games this afternoon, and I think they'll do it.
I'm not looking for a victory, what I'm looking for is growth. If the offense puts up more than 3 first downs, if we get to see some offensive plays run on the Indiana side of the 50, maybe we see a touchdown this week -- those would all be positive signs of growth. I think Indiana is the most beatable (probably the only beatable) non-conference team that UMass plays this season so if they're going to get a Non-Con win it's going to have to be this week. I just don't see it happening.Prediction:
Massachusetts 14Closing Thoughts:
We're going to learn a lot about the team this week. I don't think you can overstate how poorly they looked last week, even as an FCS team against UConn they should've performed better and they simply came out flat and got humiliated. I don't think they're going to let that happen again, and if there is any pride in that locker room they will make sure that they aren't shut out or wiped off the field on Saturday.
I'm looking forward to the all-black jersey, I am looking forward to the tailgate, I am looking forward to being in the stands and I'm looking forward to seeing the progression of this team coming off a tough loss in their FBS debut. If you're going to be in Gillette Stadium on Saturday afternoon let me know and we'll take a "first home game" picture for my scrap book.