There was a little Friday night football for UMass in a trip to face Florida Atlantic in Boca Raton, Fla. And unlike the first two games for UMass where the Minutemen were on the business end of blowouts to Georgia Southern and Marshall, this was a close game, as FAU finally pulled away in the second half with a 24-2 win. The loss drops UMass to 0-3 on the season, while FAU improved to 5-1. Here are some quick takeaways from the game:
— The Minutemen played their best defense of the short season. There has not been much in the way of positivity to point to for UMass this year, but the Minutemen came up with a defensive performance to be proud of Friday night. Whether it was defending the run or pass, UMass allowed very little in the way of positive momentum from Florida Atlantic. The Minutemen were stout at the point of attack, and active in the back end. This was a strong, disciplined unit that kept UMass in the game much longer than it has been used to. If this young group can continue on this trajectory, UMass just might have something going forward. Florida Atlantic came into this game as a 4-1 team with an imposing run game, and UMass effectively held it in check.
— The UMass offense is still searching for an identity. It is hard to say what, exactly, this offense does well right now. There were fits and starts where the Minutemen ran the ball well, but they could not get anything consistent going. True freshman quarterback Will Koch is still not an accurate thrower of the football. Too often Koch was bottled up when he tried to run, as well. UMass should be better on the ground than it is, and there is just not an identity on that side of the ball. On a night when the defense really took a step forward, you would have liked to see the same from the offense. That never materialized, though.
— Another game, another step forward. OK, so maybe these are still baby steps, but it feels like UMass is moving in the right direction. No, it's not by leaps and bounds, but it's something. The Minutemen were competitive in this game, more so than any contest they've had this season. It has been hard to find positives for UMass lately, but this was a game where the Minutemen found themselves in it for all four quarters. That has not been the case in a while. Even after the team fell down, 21-0, the team made positive momentum on a Tanner Davis blocked punt that resulted in a safety. Coach Walt Bell has to like how his team battled. It bodes well for the future.