Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Reactions to the UMASS Game

In last week's reaction to the season opener against the Howard Bison, I stated that: "...virtually nothing went wrong against the Howard Bison." Against the University of Massachusetts Minutemen, almost everything DID go wrong. Granted, UMASS' size, speed, athleticism, and most of all, sheer talent/skill, greatly contributed to this, but the Crusaders did shoot themselves in the foot on several occasions that contributed to the lopsided result.

In my 3+ years at HC, I have rarely seen the Crusaders not "in a game." Going into the 4th quarter, although losing, Holy Cross always seemed to at least be in a game with a reasonable shot at winning. The last game I can recall where the men in purple were outclassed in seemingly every aspect of the game was in 2007 on Family Weekend against Yale (HC lost 38-17). The feeling of defeat in such convincing fashion is not something to which the purple faithful have become accustomed. Knowing the resiliency of the coaching staff and the team, I am sure they will all come out with something to prove this Saturday in Cambridge. How hard they played in the second half (HC actually outscored UMASS 7-0) is something to take away from the game. Now, let's look at what went right against the Minutemen: 

  • Don Lemieux had probably the most impressive performance of any Crusader on Saturday as he booted 6 punts for an average of 47 yards. 4 of these 6 punts were inside the 20 yard line as well.
  • Anthony DiMichele and CJ Martin were both stellar on defense as they both compiled 18 total tackles each. DiMichele, who returned to the starting defensive team at safety after missing the Howard game due to a concussion suffered in preseason camp, should not be making 18 tackles, however. It is NEVER good when a team's safety has that many tackles.
  • The play of Roman SanDoval impressed me the most on Saturday. Seeing his first extended time on the field at linebacker, SanDoval made the right reads on defense when defending the run and the pass. Also, his pursuit to the ball on running plays was exceptional. I would not be surprised if he saw more playing time going forward.
  • Special teams continues to be a strong suit for this 2010 Crusader team. The blocking of two punts, the first of which led to our only score of the game, was great to see. 
  • There were not many bright spots on the offensive end, but it is worth noting that freshman receiver Mike Fess and sophomore tight end Josh Hauser both corralled their first career reception. Fess may be used more in the rotation of wide receivers.
  • Loved the passion and effort displayed by the team. Midway through the 3rd quarter, it became clear that the Crusaders would not be victorious on this night, but the guys kept competing. The energy on the sidelines made it seem like it was a one possession game in the final quarter. This effort and passion will pay off in future contests.
When analyzing what did not go particularly well, it is hard to pin many of the things onto individual players. So much of what we failed at against UMASS was done collectively. Nevertheless, here is what did not go right:
  • Time of Possession. In my opinion, this has been the most concerning statistic so far this year. We held onto the ball for just 20:47, and only 8:26 in the first half. In 2010, Holy Cross has been possessing the ball for a paltry 22:16. If this number does not become more balanced, the defense will become continually worn down as the game progresses, and more points will inevitably come for our opponent.
  • Taking care of the ball. We fumbled the ball twice, and lost it once, threw one interception (although it should be known that this was off of a deflection and cannot be solely attributed to the throw from Ryan Taggart), and allowed an onside kick. Fumbles and interceptions happen, so I cannot fault the offense for that, but the onside kick was nothing more than a mental mistake. Clearly, UMASS saw on film the tendencies of our kickoff team, and exploited them. The front line began to drift back before the ball was kicked down field, thus allowing UMASS to recover the onside kick fairly easily. 
    • This relates back to my point about the TOP; right after UMASS scored we gave the ball back to them. Just plays later they scored to make it 21-0. If we do not allow UMASS to recover the kick, we have an opportunity to make it 14-7...an entirely different ballgame.
  • Moving the chains...converting on 3rd down. We were just 3/12 on 3rd down, and had just 12 first downs for the game. Extending drives, even if it does not culminate in points, will help control the clock and field position.
  • Running the ball more effectively. Although, considering UMASS' size up front, many teams would be hard pressed to find success on the ground. One of the best running backs in the nation, Jonathan Grimes of William and Mary, rushed for only 67 yards on 18 carries.
  • The offense stalled at times; there were only 4 drives that lasted longer than 4 plays. Finding that rhythm on offense is so critical to offensive success and production. Coach Pedone constantly preaches in practice of "setting a tempo." This tempo was not there on Saturday.
The drubbing against UMASS is a game that will soon be forgotten. Many teams, throughout their season, have a "hiccup" game, and while I firmly believe that UMASS was the better team, the margin of their victory should not have been 24 points. Give credit to our opposition, however, they showed up and took it to us on Saturday evening; we did not have the necessary response. The bad taste that was left in the team's mouth could certainly be tasted by all during practice today, and I expect the frustrations that were felt last Saturday will be relinquished this coming Saturday against the Harvard Crimson. 

1-1 and now onto the Johnnies. Go Cross Go!

Kevin Doyle '11


  1. KD,

    Very balanced and insightful review. Thanks again for the effort and the perspectives from 'inside the lines.'

  2. brilliant once again, young doyle...the question is, when are you doing your homework?