Image courtesy of @UMassFootball
By Sydney Ciano
AMHERST – The next time UMass fans will see the Minutemen on a field after Saturday will be training camp.
After about two months of work, UMass finally got to put their practices to use with the spring game at McGuirk. In fitting Don Brown fashion, it was the defense who won 18-17.
The defense showed up each spring practice powerful, energetic, and ready to play. Throughout the spring, that side of the ball continued to put up a blockade for running backs heading down the middle. Keeping momentum on their side, the defense did not hold back as you’d expect. The Minutemen flew around breaking up passes, sacking quarterbacks, put a stop to drives, blocked field goal attempts, and picked or tipped the ball mid-air. Many times on Saturday, the defense forced the quarterback to make last minute, urgent decisions. As seen regularly in practices, the quarterbacks were often forced to run the ball themselves or change the play to avoid disaster.
“We wanted to see how much man coverage we could play… that’s got to be partly who we are. You’ve got to be able to have no free access and make your opponents feel you and feel the pressure,” Brown said postgame. “I thought we competed pretty well on defense.”
Brown also discussed how the defense has made a positive leap for many of the second year players who can better manage the pressure of D1 football.
The offense struggled in the bubble to break through the strong front, though they started to put some pieces together. On Saturday, the struggle was brought to light again. Despite a few good runs, gaining yards to move downfield as much as possible, the only notable running back was Kay’Ron Adams who was heavily relied on. After recovering his own fumble, he ran the ball in for a touchdown in the third quarter.
In the final practices of the season, the offense knew their strength rested in the run game, whether that be quarterbacks carrying the ball themselves or handing it off to the men in the backfield. Though they still struggled to get through the defensive linemen, they gained most momentum relying on the run game.
Mixing up the play calls and throwing the ball did not often lead to completed passes. Having a good vision was something each quarterback struggled with, especially in the first half of the game. Similar to the momentum in practices, the offense needed time warming up before they started to put points up on the board.
Quarterback turned tight end Gino Campiotti and wide receiver Isaac Ross were also impressive on Saturday. Paired with the progression of Adams throughout the spring season, the offense is building what Brown likes to call “complimentary football”. Rather than being completely dependent on his defense, these key players and plays have given the offense a solid game plan, it’s just a matter of stringing things together now.
“We’re now in a position where both sides of the ball give us a chance to play complimentary football, and that’s really what it’s all about,” Brown added.
Overall, the Minutemen’s spring season can be described as competitive. With the quarterbacks still fighting for a starting spot, the offense trying to gain strength against a now powerful defense, and the defense growing as a force, Brown sees this team heading in an upwards direction. But, UMass fans won’t be happy until it all comes together in September.