Nov. 19 MVP: MassVarsity Pre-and-Post


If you did not attend a UMass game this year, then you missed out on something special.


No, we are not talking about the won-loss record or any of that, as the Minutemen finished 4-8.


We are talking about Andy Isabella, how he is one of the best wide receivers in college football, and destined to be picked in the 2019 draft.


We knew UMass was not going to go down to Athens and beat Georgia, a top 5 team with very realistic ambitions of making it into the College Football Playoff. What few anticipated was Isabella catching 15 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns in the 66-27 loss.


It is no secret that Isabella is the team's most dangerous weapon. After Saturday's game, Isabella had a nation's best 102 receptions. He also led the country in receptions per game (8.5), receiving yards (1,698), and was tied for second in receiving touchdowns (13).


For Isabella to go down to SEC country to face one of the best defenses in college football and still put up big numbers tells you all you need to know about this player. He's a special talent, and one that has produced whenever he has touched the field this season, regardless of the opponent.


You heard on the broadcast of the Georgia game that some scouts project Isabella with a second- or third-round grade. Given his size, most will also peg him as a slot receiver at the next level.


However, Isabella might end up out-performing those picked ahead of him, and his skills allow him to play on the outside, too.


It comes down to this: Isabella is gifted physically, can run the entire route tree, and has zero off-the-field issues. That's someone NFL general managers will covet highly.


Whichever one decides to scoop him up will not regret it.


A step back


Even in defeat, Boston College earned some respect by hanging with second-ranked Clemson for most if its 27-7 loss a little over a week ago.


The Eagles were still nationally ranked, and in position to earn the program's elusive eighth win, a total it has not hit since 2009.


But BC was dealt a crusher of a defeat Saturday, giving up a late touchdown in a 22-21 loss at Florida State.


This one hurts on a number of levels. For starters, this is a bad Florida State team, one that is still in jeopardy of missing its first bowl game since 1981.


Second, eight wins is a huge benchmark for BC right now. As has been brought up ad nauseam, Steve Addazio has been at The Heights in now six seasons, five of which have been better than .500, but all topped out at seven victories. The Eagles were in position to clear that hurdle in Tallahassee, but didn't.


Finally, the optics are not good. When the team gets some national recognition and a visit from ESPN's College GameDay, there is a certain level of cache that comes with it, win or lose. But when the team loses its next game to a lesser opponent, that light dwindles a bit, and it can be hard to recover.


That said, BC has a chance to beat a ranked Syracuse team this week, get that eighth win, and position itself for a ninth during bowl season. That would be a first since 2008.


So there are a lot of goals still ahead of this BC team. That does not take the sting out of the Florida State loss, but the sooner the Eagles can forget it and move on, the better.


It's all in how you finish


That's the big takeaway from the final games of the season for both Harvard and Holy Cross.


For the Crimson, their line play dominated a good Yale squad in the second half in a resounding, 45-27 win. For Holy Cross, the Crusaders completed a miraculous comeback after trailing by 26 points in a 32-31 thriller over Georgetown.


And then you look at this from a more macro scale, and that's what these teams did over the last month of the season. Harvard went 3-0 in November to finish 6-4, also with dominant wins over Columbia and Penn. Holy Cross (5-6) finished the season with a four-game winning streak, its longest since 2009.


That's heady stuff for two teams that had major slumps in the middle of the fall. That type of positive momentum is something each can continue over the course of the offseason.


Pride on the line


All three Massachusetts entries — Framingham State, MIT, and Western New England — were defeated in the Division 3 playoffs, and Endicott lost its New England Bowl game to Merchant Marine. However, all of those squads had seasons worth remembering and can look back on them with pride.


The two teams from the Commonwealth that did emerge victorious from their bowl games — Springfield College and Bridgewater State — will get the benefit of finishing their seasons on a high note.


Springfield and Bridgewater State can also take comfort in the fact that not much separated them from the teams that made the tournament, and that taking that next step in 2019 is not far-fetched.


How the West was won


It has been a steady, at times slow, ascension to the top of the Western Mass. heap for Springfield Central, but the roadblock in the playoffs always came in the form of a defeat to a Central Mass. power.


Consider that hurdle now cleared, as the Golden Eagles dominated St. John's of Shrewsbury this Saturday to book a trip to the state final against Tewksbury.


For Central, this means more than just a chance to win a state title. It means a chance to earn the program, and an entire region, the type of respect it has not enjoyed in a very long time.


For years, Central has been considered the big fish in a small pond. A good team, yes, but only "Western Mass. good," not at the point where it can really hang with the Eastern Mass. titans.


Well, a win over Tewksbury would silence those doubters. For many, just getting to this point, the Golden Eagles already have.

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