Updated: Friday, 18 Sep 2009, 1:29 AM EDT
Published : Friday, 18 Sep 2009, 1:29 AM EDT
AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) - UMass Opens CAA Play Vs. Rhode Island On Comcast
After a dominating performance on both offense and defense, the #17 UMass football team opens conference play on Saturday as Rhode Island comes to McGuirk Alumni Stadium for a 3:30 p.m. match-up. The game will be televised up and down the East Coast on Comcast SportsNet with Gary Tanguay and Andy Gresh calling the action. The Minutemen (1-1) come off a 44-7 throttling of Albany last Saturday in their home opener. UMass forced five turnovers (three interceptions) and the offense piled up 473 yards of total offense with quarterback Kyle Havens throwing for 284 yards. Victor Cruz caught two Havens touchdowns and hauled in 121 receiving yards. The Rams come off a bye week and stand a 1-0 after a 41-28 win to open the season against Fordham on Sept. 5.
UMass' defense has been stout all season. The Minutemen have not allowed a point in the first, third or fourth quarters (51-0). They have pitched a shutout in the second half, outscoring foes 38-0. Dating to last season, UMass has not allowed a point in the second half for a span of 97:46, spanning four games. With the great success on defense, UMass has forced eight turnovers, tied for fourth-most in the NCAA FCS.
The Minutemen have racked up 15 tackles for a loss this season in two games with senior defensive end Michael Hanson leading the way with 3.5. New cornerback Ke'Mon Bailey has 3.0 TFLs in his first action on the defensive side of the ball. True sophomore linebacker Tyler Holmes leads all tacklers with 20 stops to rank fourth in the CAA with 10.0 per game. Holmes also has two interceptions this season and has one pick-off in each of the last three games dating to last season. Senior captain Jeromy Miles has 15 tackles.
On offense, Walter Payton Award candidate Tony Nelson has rushed for 184 yards in two games including 107 at FBS Kansas State (9/5). Victor Cruz is second in the CAA with 165 receiving yards. Kyle Havens has hit 10 different receivers in two games this year.
UMass-Rhode Island Series History
UMass holds a 46-35-2 lead in the all-time series which began in 1903. The teams have played every season since 1946 after the series was interrupted by World War II.
The Minutemen have won 18 of the last 23 meetings between the two schools, including 10 of the last 12 games. UMass has won the last eight games in Amherst, winning 41-16 on Oct. 21, 2006 and 14-6 and three years ago on Sept. 24, 2005.
The teams have played at Rhode Island in each of the last two years after two years at UMass. The Minutemen pounded the Rams, 49-0 last season after suffering a 12-6 loss in 2007. The win last year ended a two-game win streak for the Rams at Meade Stadium. They also won 27-24 in 2004.
The series with Rhode Island is the most played one in UMass history as the teams have met 83 times. Next on the list is UConn, as the Minutemen and Huskies played 71 times from 1897-1999.
UMass' 46 wins are the most against any team as well. The second most wins are against, New Hampshire, as UMass is 42-26-3 against the Wildcats.
At McGuirk Stadium, UMass is 16-6 vs. the Rams. Overall in Amherst, the Minutemen (and Redmen) are 24-18-2 in the series. UMass has won eight straight games vs. Rhode Island at McGuirk, last falling in 1991, 17-14 . At Meade Stadium, UMass is 20-17 overall and 22-17 in games played at Rhode Island. Prior to that Rhode Island win in 2004, UMass won three in a row in Kingston.
This game pits head coaches in their first conference game as Kevin Morris and his Minutemen take on the Rams led by Joe Trainer.
Connections Of Note Between UMass/Rhode Island
Rhode Island athletic director Thorr Bjorn took over the Rams staff in the summer of 2007 after working at UMass for 13 years in a variety of roles. Most recently, he was the Senior Associate Athletic Director at UMass. Bjorn was a star football player for the Minutemen from 1987-89.
For the first time in five years, one of the greatest football players out of the state of Rhode Island will not be in uniform for UMass. All-time passing leader Liam Coen, a native of Newport, R.I., graduated in 2008 after setting every career passing record in UMass history. He was one of the most prolific quarterbacks in the Ocean State's history passing for 5,335 yards and 66 touchdowns in his prep career playing for his father Tim at LaSalle Academy.
Rhode Island receiver and punter Shawn Leonard is the brother of 2007 UMass grad Jason Leonard, who was a defensive tackle and long snapper.
UMass centers and guards coach Guido Falbo is in his sixth season with the Minutemen after two years as Rhode Island's wide receivers coach (2002-03).
UMass has been tough to beat in the friendly confines of McGuirk Alumni Stadium. The Minutemen have won 19 of their last 21 at home. The Maroon & White opened the 2009 season with a convincing 44-7 win over Albany (9/12). UMass went undefeated at home in 2006 (8-0) and 2007 (6-0) before a 4-2 mark last season. Before losing at home to Richmond (10/18/08), UMass' 16-game home winning streak was the second-longest in FCS as only San Diego (28) had a longer one. In all of Division I football, it was tied for the third-longest streak, also behind Oklahoma (21).
Since the start of the 1998 season, the Minutemen have gone 54-13 (.806) at home over the last 11 years, improving their all-time record at McGuirk to 162-74-2 (.686). UMass went 6-0 at home in 2007 after going a perfect 8-0 at home in 2006, setting the school-record for best record at home. They were also undefeated at home in 2003.
Since 1992, UMass has had a losing record at home only once,
while posting a home mark of 73-25 (.744) during that span. UMass
has won 23 of its last 26 games at home and is 29-5 dating to 2003.