Coming off a loss to Georgia Southern, UMass is heading for its third straight road game, this time down at Florida International Saturday night. MassVarsity spoke briefly with UMass coach Mark Whipple Wednesday night about the season thus far and what's ahead.
Here is an edited version of that conversation.
MV: Just, generally, how has practice been this week? I know Georgia Southern was a tough loss, but you've got another tough opponent. What's it been like this week? Has the tempo been good, that sort of thing?
MW: Yeah, it's been really good. It's been our best week. It's been very good. We've got guys that understand that wasn't what our team's about last week. We move on, and we've had a good week of practice, a really good week. So we'll clean up tomorrow, and then get on a flight Friday and play the next game.
MV: I don't know exactly what the path of the hurricane is like, or if that is going to affect you guys at all. Is that not an issue?
MW: No, it's not a factor. We'll fly around it or fly over it. It shouldn't be any problem. And then we've been discussing that during the week. That shouldn't be any problem. We don't play until 7:30 on Saturday night, so they say there's no issues as of this afternoon.
MV: I know the life of college football and football in general involved road trips, but you go all the way down to Georgia, and then you go all the way down to Florida. How do you, as a coach, help manage that for the rest of the team, and what's it like having veterans on the team who have been through that before?
MW: We started with a tough opponent in (Boston College), so we've been on the road three weeks. We really don't talk about it. Kind of just set the schedule. I think we have some young guys, it's the first time they've been on a plane. . . . But our guys showed some leadership. It's really kind of the same itinerary, just an hour and a half later. You get back late. You don't get back until 4:30 in the morning, but that's just part of what happens when you travel. You're playing across the country, you're down South. It will be a little later. That should help with the weather. But other than that, there's really nothing that we talk about. Any time you play on the road, you see if your defense can travel, and you've got to be more mentally tough. That's what I hope we learned last week.
MV: What were some of the positives in terms of either during the Georgia Southern game — I know you lost — but either during the game or this week in practice? Is there anyone that has sort of stuck out to you?
MW: I think all the seniors have really stuck out this week in practice. They know it wasn't what it was about. We had a meeting on Monday about it. Those guys have responded and been really good. Our guys have been good. We have a good team. I know that. I've been doing this a long time. You can't let one loss turn into two. You just move forward, and credit the opponent. And that's what we've done, get ready for the next one, and that's Florida International. Once you see the tape of them, you know that they've got quality athletes, some big-time players, and it's going to be a tough, tough game for us. You've just got to find a way, get into the fourth quarter, and find a way to win.
MV: Lastly, I know you guys play a lot of teams from down there, a lot of teams with big-time speed. And you've played, these last two games especially, some teams that can really run. Do you feel like that's prepared you for a team like Florida International?
MW: I thought BC probably prepared us, but we didn't tackle very well again last week. And Florida International has two good runners, real good runners. They've got some guys on the outside, and their secondary can run. But we've played those kind of guys, and we played them last year in the last game (a 63-45 FIU win). Certainly, they exposed us in some spots, and that's been pointed out this week. Our guys, they know what the score was last year. They know that they've got some good athletes. We're on the road on a long trip. We've just got to perform and get better. And I know you get better by practicing hard, and we have practiced well, and hopefully that will show up on Saturday.