Sept. 30 MVP: MassVarsity Pre-and-Post

We were wrong, dead wrong, about a lot of things when it came to UMass.

First and foremost, we thought after watching the Minutemen lose to Coastal Carolina, that this was a winless team no matter what. We believed it would not make a difference if third-stringer Michael Curtis would be inserted at quarterback.

Way off on both accounts.

Not only did UMass beat Akron, 31-17, with Curtis starting this past weekend, but the Minutemen did so with six suspended players, as initially reported by the Daily Hampshrie Gazette's Josh Walfish, including Randall West, who would have been the signal-caller without the sanction from coach Walt Bell.

It was important that Curtis led the team to victory. It was also important to earn a win, period. However, it was most important that it was done without Bell bending his own rules.

With the mounting pressure from fans frustrated over an 0-4 start, it would have been easy for Bell to not go through with the suspensions. It is not always a popular choice to enforce discipline.

However, when Bell has given as much lip service to instilling the right culture under his watch, he has to see it through. He did the right thing, knowing that it could potentially lead to another deflating setback.

When the team then goes out and triumphs under those conditions, it reinforces what Bell is trying to get from his players. Now, those who maybe were not on board will be. It's an overused term sometimes, but getting players to "buy in" isn't the easiest thing to do. This was 100 percent a "buy-in victory" for both the Minutemen and Bell.

Here is the scene after the game. Bell deflects the praise and credit, as he should. He does deserve plenty, though, for the way he handled this whole situation.

UMass probably won't win a ton of games this year, but it's important to get that first one out of the way. The way Bell and Co. did made it even more meaningful.

Stuck in the middle

So, as the "seven-game win watch" continues for Steve Addazio and Boston College, this setback to Wake Forest Saturday makes you wonder how realistic it is for the Eagles to hit eight for the first time in Addazio's now seventh year with the team.

It should have happened last season, then weather stepped in with the bowl that wasn't against Boise State.

Make no mistake, Wake Forest is a good team. After seeing them in person Saturday, the Demon Deacons have way more talent than they are given credit for. Their quarterback, Jamie Newman, will be collecting an NFL paycheck someday, and Wake had huge size advantages on the perimeter with their receivers.

But this is still a game BC could have won with better game management. Addazio took responsibility for the awful delay-of-game penalty that negated a potential game-tying field goal.

Addazio was right to shoulder the blame, but the mishap was indicative of why BC loses these 50-50 games year after year.

The Eagles sit at 3-2 (1-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) heading into this week's trip to Louisville. Clemson and Notre Dame remain on the schedule, two top-10 teams that will be heavily favored. Florida State is starting to play much better, but that's in Chestnut Hill, and another game the Eagles are capable of winning.

Then you add Pittsburgh, Syracuse, and NC State into the mix. If BC wins against the Cardinals, an eight-win regular season and bowl win to get to nine is right there for the taking. However, that would mean winning every game the Eagles should, plus the ones that could go either way.

Realistically, you can't be entirely confident in that. It's just a frustrating middle ground the Eagles continue to be in.

Passing colors

Harvard can throw the ball this fall, folks.

The Crimson were too inconsistent in that area last year, but through two games, quarterback Jake Smith has been accurate and effective. He completed 22-of-29 passes for 299 yards, four touchdowns, and an interception in Harvard's 42-7 win over Brown Friday night.

A year ago, if the running game wasn't there, the Harvard offense wasn't moving. That's not the case right now, and even in an Ivy League where there is some terrific competition up and down the league, the Crimson are very much going to be a part of the title chase.

As for the rest of the Football Championship Subdivision teams, Holy Cross lost an expected 41-3 blowout at the hands of Syracuse. Merrimack battled hard in a 10-3 defeat at Lehigh, but that's a much closer game than we would have expected.

Bentley bounces back

Bentley suffered a tough setback to American International a little over two weeks ago, but recovered nicely in its 31-14 win over New Haven Friday night.

That New Haven team beat AIC convincingly the previous week, so we expected the Chargers to do the same to the Falcons.

That didn't happen, and Bentley is now 1-0 in Northeast-10 play, because its game with AIC was a non-conference matchup (the teams play again on Nov. 16 in their league game).

What this means is the Northeast-10 is going to be a little more up for grabs than we initially thought, and Bentley will be squarely in the mix for that crown.

Playing Darts

We felt at the beginning of the year that UMass-Dartmouth would be a program on the rise in Division 3.

We feel even better about that now, after the Corsairs beat previously-unbeaten Plymouth State, 21-14, over the weekend.

The MASCAC is a tough, deep league, and we still feel a team like Framingham State might be the favorite there. The Rams are extremely talented, and freshman running back Devaun Ford of Mashpee is a touchdown waiting to happen every time he touches the ball.

Still, UMass-Dartmouth bears watching, and we're interested to see how they fare in Framingham next weekend.

Five alive out West

We became convinced about Amherst's legitimacy as an MIAA Div. 5 state title contender toward the end of the summer after seeing what coach Chris Ehorn has done with the program and watching the Hurricanes match Springfield Central play for play in 7-on-7.

However, this race is getting tougher and tougher to gauge the longer the season plays out.

West Springfield has been extremely impressive with wins over Chicopee Comp and Longmeadow, and we fully expect the latter, Northampton, and East Longmeadow to be in it for the long run, as well.

West Side visits Minnechaug this weekend, and if the Terriers win there, look out, because the hosts are possibly the biggest challenger to Springfield Central in Div. 3.

Governor's rule

How about Governor's Academy in its 22-21 upset win over BB&N Saturday?

That's another result we simply didn't expect. Did anyone? It's impressive to knock off a team as talented, well-coached, and experienced as the Knights, but you simply can never doubt Govs coach Jim O'Leary and Co. in a big game.

This win basically takes everything we expected from the Independent School League before the season and tosses it in the air. With Belmont Hill, Governor's, Milton Academy, Nobles, and Thayer as the only undefeated squads left in either division, you're looking at a lot of potential chaos down the line.

It is just hard to see anyone in the ISL running the table.

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