Sept. 10 MVP: MassVarsity Pre-and-Post


We could lead off this column with the positives in the college game. Boston College did what it needed to do in dispatching Holy Cross, and even the defeated Crusaders brought a nice crowd and still feels like will be on the upswing under new coach Bob Chesney.

Then there's UMass. Oh, UMass.

The Minutemen were not supposed to beat Boston College two Saturdays ago, and they lost, 55-21. And while they were underdogs against Georgia Southern, it was certainly a winnable game.

But when the ball was actually kicked off, the game was far from their grasp, as Georgia Southern did anything it wanted on offense. The host Eagles rushed for 334 yards and threw for another 154 on just nine attempts.

Through three games, UMass is 115th in the nation in rushing defense. Maybe that statistic is a little skewed after playing powerful BC and a team like Georgia Southern that stays on the ground almost exclusively, but the numbers speak for themselves. Even against Duquesne, the Minutemen held such a huge early lead that their opponent's running game was never a factor.

There was plenty of optimism after that opener, and for good reason. The offense still has plenty of speed, but with this program, ever since joining the FBS in 2012, it feels like one step forward has always been met with two steps back.

The manner in which UMass lost had its fans in an uproar on Twitter and other social media platforms, and many were calling for coach Mark Whipple's head.

That's a bit much, but right now the high hopes from the beginning of the season have dwindled significantly.

This was a schedule that seemed primed for a bowl season for the Minutemen. That doesn't look like a slam dunk now.

All is not lost. This is still a team talented enough to reach all its goals. But if you are going off momentum, it's going the wrong way for the Minutemen, and they have to turn it around fast.

Thursday night lights

OK, the dominant wins over in-state foes UMass and Holy Cross were nice, but now it is time to really see something out of BC as the Eagles travel to Wake Forest Thursday night for their Atlantic Coast Conference opener.

There are nothing but positive vibes around the Eagles right now. They're healthy, and have played flawlessly in two easy wins. Now comes the tough part.

BC has the more talented roster, but Wake dominated last year's game, and playing on the road on a Thursday night is always a huge advantage for the other team.

The big key for the Eagles will be — unlike last year — protecting the ball, and keeping Wake wide receiver Greg Dortch in check. Through two games, the super sophomore has caught 19 passes for 243 yards and a touchdown.

Oh, and Wake's defense has yet to allow a rushing touchdown this season. We're going to go out on a limb and say that doesn't hold up for long.

Front and center

A few weeks ago, Harvard coach Tim Murphy spoke highly of San Diego's size up front, while also emphasizing that the Crimson's season will be decided by how well its lines perform on both sides of the ball.

So, heading into Saturday afternoon's game, we know what Murphy is looking for.

In our estimation, the return of Larry Allen III, along with the senior-dominated depth charts on both lines of scrimmage, give the Crimson a great chance to knock off the 1-1 Toreros.

Let's keep playing

The craziest game of the weekend on any level may have been Stonehill's 57-54 win over Saint Anselm in triple overtime.

The Skyhawks clinched it with a 3-yard touchdown by Brian Kearns Jr., capping a 318-yard rushing day for Stonehill. Kearns led the way with 180 yards on a school-record 44 attempts.

Stonehill also had some nice contributions from Massachusetts natives, as quarterback James Lam from Quincy threw for 199 yards and a touchdown, and wide receiver Andrew Jamiel from Yarmouth caught five passes for 68 yards and a score.

Solid showing

WPI held its own in a 25-14 loss to No. 24 RPI up at Troy, N.Y.

The Engineers actually outgained RPI by a 330-283 margin, but were done in by four interceptions.

It was a 19-14 game late in the third quarter, so there is a lot to build on for WPI.

Elsewhere in Division 3, Springfield College has moved into the top 25, a nice early honor for the Pride.

Lots to unpack

A huge weekend in MIAA football saw a lot of standout performances. Some things we saw coming, others we didn't. Let's do a quick rundown:

— We were not at the Everett-Xaverian game, but we saw the Crimson Tide in the preseason. It's no secret that Isaac Seide coming over from Melrose was the biggest transfer of the offseason, and he made his presence felt in his first game in an Everett uniform. One longtime Tide observer said Seide is the best Everett running back since another Isaac was in the backfield in 2007. Isaac Johnson had a tremendous career with the Tide, and if Seide keeps it up, he will keep first-year head coach Theluxon Pierre smiling.

— The amount of star power for Mansfield in the sophomore and junior classes is notable, and the Hornets have some pretty good seniors, too. Their win over BC High sets a nice tone heading into the monster showdown with Everett this Friday night.

— We knew Duxbury was going to be good this season, but the Dragons looked exceptional in taking apart Bridgewater-Raynham. Our rankings, which will come out Tuesday, will reflect that.

— Lincoln-Sudbury just wears you down. Not sure how many teams can hold up against those lines for four quarters.

— We are slaves to speed here at MassVarsity, and when we see as much as Catholic Memorial showed off against St. John's of Shrewsbury, we take notice. The Knights can really run, and will be hard to keep up with.

— Big win for North Attleboro over King Philip to end the 25-game winning streak. The Red Rocketeers know a thing or two about winning streaks, as they had a lengthy one that ended in 2000. North will again be one of the best teams in a loaded Div. 3 South.

— One team we had positive things to say about leading up to the season was Attleboro. We picked against them against Milford, but the Blue Bombardiers made us wish we didn't go back on our confidence in them. If they get past Dartmouth next week, they have a very interesting game with King Philip after that.

— How about Barnstable? The Ross Jaktola era is off to a great start with an upset win over Dennis-Yarmouth.

— Needham and Brockton are two teams we had outside our initial top 25 that looked terrific in the first week. We'll learn even more about both teams when, respectively, the Rockets play Hopkinton and the Boxers face Natick this week.

— We are not sure how good Haverhill is, but any way you slice it, St. John's Prep's dominant win over the Hillies had to catch your eye.

— We were not surprised that Shrewsbury beat Shepherd Hill, but the 21-point margin was a bit of a shock.

— Maybe we gave up a little early on Melrose because of the Seide transfer. Again, we'll know much more after this week's game with Lincoln-Sudbury.

— We picked Medfield to beat Dedham, and the Marauders proved us wrong, pretty convincingly, too. This could be a special team.

— We had a feeling West Boylston would be pretty decent this season, but we did not see a win over Littleton in Week 1.

— That was a nice win for Mashpee over a Nantucket team that is better than a lot of people realize.

— Wahconah may be Div. 7, but that might be the second or third-best team in Western Mass. Keep an eye on that team.

— Georgetown came away with a one-point win over Tech Boston, and we still feel good about both teams' chances this season.

— Oxford running back Niko Murray can play for anyone in this state. That's a fact.

— St. Bernard's showed a little something with a big win over Fitchburg. That's a team to keep an eye on in Div. 8.

— We definitely did not take the under in Lynn Tech's 6-2 win over Nashoba Valley Tech, but the Tigers will take the win either way.

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