UMass football focuses on ‘trying to get a win’

November 19, 2016

AMHERST — UMass is rested and ready for its fabulous football odyssey.

The Minutemen (2-8) are coming off a bye week and will close out the season with junkets to Provo, Utah, and Oahu, Hawaii.

The Minutemen are banking on a strong finish to their long and difficult season as an big-time independent when they take on Brigham Young (6-3) today (2 p.m.) at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah. UMass will depart Utah and traverse the Pacific to close out the campaign against the Rainbow Warriors of Hawaii at Aloha Stadium on Nov. 26.

“It’s been a really good week,” UMass coach Mark Whipple said of his team. “They needed the bye week because they were really tired.

“The guys are excited and energized and a lot of fun to be around. With the time off their legs are so much better, and the toll from the 10 (previous) games was more than they expected.”

BYU has been competing as a football Independent for 12 seasons and is in the home stretch of the seventh-toughest FBS schedule. The Cougars have competed in six games against opponents from four of the power five conferences.

UMass’ long-shot quest to obtain bowl eligibility was derailed long ago, with the latest dent being a 51-32 loss at Troy on Nov.?5. The Minutemen’s new priority is to win out with their sights secured on the 2017 season.

“Right now, we are just focused on trying to get a win,” said UMass quarterback Andrew Ford, a Virginia Tech transfer who will make his eighth start.

“We are looking at it one game at a time, but there are definitely a couple of things we want to do to close the season on the right note. We want to build for the future with all these young guys, and being successful in the last two games will help them out and help with recruiting as well.”

Whipple doubles as offensive coordinator and he’s made good use of the weapons at his disposal. The Minutemen average 348.7 totals yards, 245.0 passing yards and 103 rushing yards per game. Sophomore tailback Marquis Young is the Minutemen’s featured ball carrier, with 168 carries for 741 yards with three touchdowns in 10 starts.

The Cougars have the No.?26-ranked scoring defense allowing 21.5 points per game, a very good number considering the quality offenses they have contained this year. Led by linebackers Fred Warner (67 tackles) and Butch Pau’u (64 tackles), the Cougars have allowed 116.4 rushing yards per game.

“They are a very aggressive defense, very experienced and very disciplined,” said Young. “They are smart and they know how to play the game, and we are really going to have to focus on the smart details and we have to stick together.”

The BYU offense is led by senior quarterback Tayson Hill, who spreads the ball to three wideouts — Colby Pearson, Mitchell Juergens and Nick Kuntz — who each have 30 or more catches.