Well, at first I was pretty disappointed. As evidenced by this Blog I pretty much bleed Maroon & White. However, after a day’s reflection, I have to be thankful for a great 2007 season. We won the CAA in its first ever season. Since 1998, UMass has won the league championship four times (99, 03, 06 and 07). Four championships in nine years. That’s pretty damm good. One flaw in the playoff system is that 15 of the top 16 teams in the nation end their season with loss. Undefeated McNeese State and Montana didn’t even make it out of the first round. The Pundits favorite team UNI, barely escaped New Hampshire ----- a team we dominated. Delaware put an end to them in next round. We are still one of the top eight teams in the nation and we went down swinging.
The roots of the SIU loss are complex. It just was not as easy this year. Different team, different players with different skills and personalities. Different coaches. While I believe this team was very talented, it just did not all fit together easily as it did in 2006. This year, it was a struggle.
One reason for the loss and the struggle was we were playing a pro schedule with a FCS team. If coach Brown was a pro coach he would have placed a number of players on the IR and the team would have been picking up players from the waver wire. Even in training camp, the O-line struggled with injuries. We rarely kept the same line intact for more than a game or two. We had injuries at TE with Brad Listorti essentially out for the season and both Matt Silver and Ian Jorgensen battled injuries. So did fullback E.J. Barthel.
I think Liam Coen’s knee was considerably more than “tweaked”. He did not look comfortable most of the season.
Losing Tony Nelson and Chris Zardas in the Fordham game really hurt. In the close SIU game, they could have made a difference. By December 1st , we were running out of bodies.
I thought the defense looked gassed. Remember they had just come off three big efforts against Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Hofstra. To me, it looked like they just went to the well and it was dry. The proof of the effort they made was the hitting. The SIU game was one of the most physical games I’ve seen. We needed some turnovers and except for Sean Small’s interception, we did not get any.
The offense’s trouble was more complex. Despite the personal losses, we were more than competitive. Our wide receivers Rasheed Rancher, J.J. Moore, Mike Omar and Jeremy Horne romped.
However, despite the 25 first downs, 7.5 yards/play and the record setting passing day, I doubt that the O-line were very happy with their play. We are a blitzing team and we struggled with SIU’s blitzes. When Liam had time, he was effective. I also doubt that despite his numbers, he was happy with the three interceptions.
I feel that despite the UMass manta of taking it one game at a time, we sometimes felt that all that talent was going to prevail no matter what. It felt as if we lost concentration sometimes. The first half of Colgate, the first 40 minutes of William & Mary, the first quarter of SIU. The whole season it seemed as if we felt we could step on the gas and pull away from anyone. But against Rhody and SIU the spurt never came.
And we made some mistakes. That holding call in the first quarter that stopped a drive and we had to settle for a field goal. Liam’s interception in the end zone that cost us at least three points. That’s seven points and an overtime game right there.
To bring this to a full circle, it’s a pretty good year when we go 10-3, win the CAA Championship, advance to the quarterfinals, lose by seven points on the road and feel dissatisfied with the ending...
IMHO UMass still has tons of talent. I look forward to Coach Brown crafting a new team for 2008 and I can’t wait to see all our players play in the new year. I'm still proud of them. Wanna bet that we’ll have some terrific recruits on Feb 8th? When is the Spring Game this year? I’m ready..... :)