Sept. 23 MVP: MassVarsity Pre-and-Post

Finally got a chance to see UMass in person Saturday. It wasn't pretty. Of course, it's not going to be for a while, and fans of the team have a right to be frustrated. It's a seemingly never-ending cycle of misery on the field right now.

A few things, though.

People clamoring for Michael Curtis at quarterback are missing the point. We haven't watched any practices, and we don't know if he's actually the best option, but even if he was Tom Brady, UMass isn't going to suddenly start winning every game if coach Walt Bell puts him in there.

The Minutemen simply do not have the talent on defense to make stops. We watched Holy Cross and New Hampshire a few weeks ago. This is meant as no disrespect to the Minutemen players, but from a talent standpoint, UMass is not head-and-shoulders above those teams whatsoever.

When you have true freshmen and walk-ons playing on the defensive line nearly the entire game, you're not beating anyone in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

This is not going to be easy. Everyone involved with the UMass program wants to see progress on the field. Like we said in our story Saturday, you're not going to see that right now.

UMass has been back at college football's highest level for eight years now. The Minutemen have won 18 games over that span, so we can sympathize with UMass fans who are sick of being asked to wait.

But you look over the rest of the schedule, and you're probably looking at a winless season. It would be nice to get something going, but we don't see it right now.

Wake-ing up

Although the win over Rutgers was a nice step in that direction, Boston College has a chance to really put that Kansas loss for a couple weeks ago behind it if the Eagles beat Wake Forest.

The Demon Deacons are ranked in the Coaches Poll, and in some people's eyes the second-best team to Clemson in the Atlantic Coast Conference's Atlantic Division.

Would a win this week at Alumni Stadium throw the Eagles into the top 25? Probably not, but it's not out of the realm of possibility.

What counts more is the fact that it would have BC 2-0 in league play, and the Eagles would be in a better position to go into that Clemson game in late October with real momentum.

Still, that's a ways off. Beating Wake Forest won't be easy, and the Eagles can make some real headway with a victory there.

Lost start

When we were looking ahead to the Harvard opener against San Diego, we did not realize that running back Aaron Shampklin was no longer with the team.

That's a tough loss, as the speedster could have been a factor in the 31-23 loss out in Southern California.

On the bright side, Harvard quarterback Jake Smith completed 22-of-39 passes for a career-best 325 yards and three touchdowns.

A year ago, the passing attack was not exactly lethal for the Crimson, so some improvement there will serve Harvard well when Ivy League play gets going next week against Brown.

Finding 'O'

It has been a difficult season offensively for Holy Cross, as the Crusaders have simply not been able to move the ball easily so far.

That was the case again in the 23-10 loss to Yale, as the Crusaders managed just 237 yards of total offense.

The defense has been doing its job of bending but not breaking, and can only accomplish so much when the offense is not moving the ball.

It won't get easier when Holy Cross goes to Syracuse this week. The Crusaders can only hope to stay healthy and ready for Patriot League play, which starts the week after at Bucknell.

High and tight

Merrimack did what it was supposed to do in a 76-7 blowout win over Mayville State, an NAIA team from North Dakota that was outgunned from the beginning.

The Warriors now face an uphill climb again with a trip to Lehigh this coming weekend.

This is a game where Merrimack will be the underdog, but it's a chance to see if it can keep pace with an established Patriot League program for four quarters.

In other words, the Warriors have nothing to lose here and will be playing with house money. If they can even make a game out of it, coach Dan Curran and Co. can build off of that.

Running it up

No, that is not in reference to a score getting out of hand, but a back who is putting his team in a position to contend in the Northeast 10.

Assumption's Doug Santos, who starred at Peabody High, rushed for 190 yards on 20 carries in his team's 19-7 win over Southern Connecticut Saturday.

Right now, it's tough to say which Massachusetts team will emerge as the main contender in that league. American International, Bentley, and Stonehill have all shown flashes. Assumption is off to a good enough start to throw its hat in the mix there.

Statement loss?

Coaches don't like to count moral victories, but we can give Endicott a big one in going toe-to-toe with No. 15 Wesley in a 20-17 loss Saturday.

This, more than any result we've seen so far, shows that the Gulls are for real, and very much capable of having a breakout season in Division 3.

Former Braintree High star Kevin O'Brien had a big hand in keeping Wesley to a low number Saturday, as he notched a game-high and single-game career-high 13 tackles, with four solo and a tackle for loss.

It will be hard not to look ahead to that November 2 showdown with Western New England, which could be a game between the two best Div. 3 teams in Massachusetts.

Central concerns

Right now, you have a dogfight to see which teams are going to make the playoffs in the MIAA Division 3 Central bracket.

St. John's of Shrewsbury, Wachusett, Shrewsbury, Doherty, Leominster, and Shepherd Hill are all going to be fighting down to the wire there for four spots.

That makes Doherty's 14-13 win at Leominster even more important. Leominster is clearly improved, and the Blue Devils have found a playmaker in running back Voshon Dixon. However, a loss like that could clearly put this team on the outside looking in when the postseason comes along.

It is exciting that all these games really mean something, but the setup in Central Mass. is going to keep a very good team out of the running.

Big dogs

From what we see and hear, Nobles will have a fair shot to beat the ISL-6 teams on its schedule, and is in the other division in name only.

The Bulldogs face St. Sebastian's, BB&N, Governor's, and Milton Academy from the ISL-6. Out of those four teams, we would have Nobles favored against every one but BB&N.

This is a Nobles team that is very good up front, and has a strength and conditioning program as good as any in the league.

Don't be surprised to see this team taking a shot at a bigger NEPSAC bowl if the season plays out well for it.

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