I'd do just about anything for my blog buddy Marie, and she's asked, so never mind that this is right up my alley and I might have done it anyway....here's a Yankee's eye view on the Minutemen,with a big thank you to my husband the talking sports encyclopedia.
Disclaimer: I have no rooting interest here, and if pressed to pick one, I'd be leaning Mountaineers all the way. I have had the misfortune of watching UMass beat UNH (my husband's team) twice and Montana once. So I know a bit more about them than I know about the Mountaineers:
- UMass has lost only one game. To Navy. By one point in a game that they easily could have won. That officially served notice that they were GOOD.
- The UMass Minutemen are FAST. Quicker than a fart in a skillet, now that I think about it. They have the best defense in the strongest league in the 1-AA division (that's not an opinion according to the TSE, that's a fact. The league is brutal and getting out of it undefeated is a huge accomplishment--which they did).
- They have speed at every position and have overwhelmed their first three play-off opponents with that speed both offensively and defensively.
- They blitz 75-80% of the time on defense, often bringing the house, so the receiver needs to get open quickly and the quarterback needs to check off to the open man faster than that goalpost ended up in up in the duck pond.
- The defense was successful in limiting UNH's David Ball (you know, the guy who broke Jerry Rice's all time 1-AA receiving record earlier in the season) to 54 yards in their quarterfinal game. They held UNH's offense to only 17 points.
- They wreaked havoc on Ricky Santos--not insignificant considering that he entered that playoff game ranked in the top 10 nationally in completions (22.7 pg, fourth), total offense (278.7 ypg., sixth) and passing yards (2,681, seventh). His 23 TDs through the air topped the Atlantic 10 and his 12 rushing TDs was No. 1 in the conference. Santos also had four 300-yard passing performances.
- Quarterback Liam Coen is smart and accurate. He's the 1-AA leader in pass efficiency.
- Tailback Steve Baylark dropped weight this year and gained speed and has rushed for 1,000 yards in all four years at UMass. He's bruising when he needs to be, quick when he needs to be, and always tough (he gained 169 yards against Montana after suffering bruised ribs. He gained 198 yards against UNH).
- UMass is hungry and wants this win badly. They are focused and driven. They've been counted out of most games this year and that motivates them tremendously.
- They won, on the road in Montana, in a stadium that has traditionally been a graveyard for traveling teams.
- UMass only scored 24 points against a horrific UNH defense. Seriously, my grandmother could score 38 points against UNH's defense this year.
- Coen isn't Armanti Edwards. Edwards is a game changer and he seems to be the kind of game changer that defies an answer.
- The Mountaineers appear to be every bit as fast as UMass and maybe a step quicker.
- The Mountaineers have way better uniforms, and way, way better fans.
university of massachusetts