Offsides with The Massachusetts Daily Collegian’s assistant sports editor

McClain Baxley

The student newspaper at Massachusetts, The Massachusetts Daily Collegian, weighed in this week on their team coming into the football game Saturday at Paulson Stadium. Thomas Johnston, their assistant sports editor, answered some questions ahead of the game.

What’s the mentality in the Minutemen after two very different performances and opponents?

As Coach Whipple said after the BC loss, “We weren’t as good as everyone thought we were last week, and we aren’t as bad as everyone thinks we are after today.” I think they realize that they handled their business against Duquesne, and that BC is a very talented ACC team who will give opponents problems on a week-to-week basis. Their focus is putting the loss in the rear-view mirror and moving forward to Georgia Southern.

How have the Minutemen been able to control the third quarter, allowing no points from Boston College or Duquesne?

Both games were pretty in hand at the half, with UMass holding a 35-9 lead over Duquesne and trailing BC 41-7 at the midway point. Against Duquesne, I’m sure the coaching staff was happy to see the defense keep their foot on the pedal and not allow the Dukes to get back in the game. BC was different, with the Eagles pulling most of their starters and allowing their younger players to get some live action.

Why has Andrew Ford started both games over Ross Comis when both have put up similar numbers?

That’s a very interesting question. Both games this year Comis has come in on the second drive and led the Minutemen down for a touchdown. I asked Comis after the BC game if he was frustrated by not getting back into the game in the first half, and he kept saying that he wasn’t and Andrew is their guy. Both players have talent and experience in the system, but I think Ford would have to play very poorly the next few weeks before Ross got a chance to start.

Will last year’s victory for UMASS in Amherst be a factor in this week’s game?

I don’t think so. Last year, UMass started its season 0-6, a few of those losses against opponents they should have beat. They know they have to focus each week to earn a win, so I can’t imagine Coach Whipple allowing his players to take any opponent lightly, no matter what happened a season ago.

How has the move from FCS impacted the fans and program overall?

It has certainly brought more interest to the program and has drawn in a much larger following. It took a little for the talent to improve, but they now have a fully recruited Division I roster. With games against SEC opponents the last few seasons, the national interest has definitely gone up, but until they are able to consistently win games they won’t be a huge draw nationally.

What are your predictions for the game Saturday?

I say UMass comes out on top, but not in blowout fashion like a season ago. 35-31 Minutemen.

McClain Baxley, The George-Anne Sports Editor,