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FCS East Wrapup: UMass Needs A Big Win, And Gets It

(Photo Credit: The UMass Daily Collegian)

Elsewhere in the world of FCS, the big thriller of the weekend came at McGuirk Stadium in Amherst, MA where the Minutemen - fresh off a 43-27 loss on the road at Delaware - desperately needed a win to stay relevant in the FCS playoff hunt.

A win over undefeated New Hampshire wasn't only needed. It was crucial, with the defending national champions Richmond on the horizon. And in thrilling fashion, UMass freshman DB Kumar Davis' end-zone interception of UNH senior QB R.J. Toman with seconds left formalized the Minuteman 23-17 victory.

It didn't come easy, either. Both senior RB Tony Nelson and senior FS Jeromy Miles went down with injuries in the first half, sophomore RB Jonathan Hernandez picked up his game to the tune of 166 yards and a TD, and senior LB Eric Dickson also stepping in with 18 tackles as well. Hernandez' TD came after the Wildcats had shut down the Minuteman running game in the first half, but his 42 yard run down the left side gave UMass the lead they would never relinquish.

“It was a very exciting game, maybe a little too exciting with three seconds left,” UMass head football coach Kevin Morris said in the post-game press conference. “When push came to shove, though, we did more of the shoving. That was our focus all week, to bring up our level of play after the Delaware game.” The Minuteman M.O. is to play physical and wear down opponents in the 4th quarter: they've only given up 13 points in the final stanza all year.

The Minutemen won't have much time to celebrate, though: they head to the defending national champion Richmond Spiders, who overcame a 21-10 deficit to beat Maine in Orono 38-21. Meanwhile, New Hampshire will try to avoid James Madison's fate by traveling to Hempstead, NY and doing what the Dukes were unable to do: beat the Pride.

Other big games in the East this past weekend:

  • The other big winner was Villanova, who virtually knocked James Madison out of the playoff race with a shutout 27-0 win over the Dukes. "They took a ring from us last year, a CAA championship ring. So that was big motivation for us coming in here," said senior QB Chris Whitney. "We wanted our revenge from losing in the last four seconds [in the regular season] and coming down here and losing in the playoffs." And enact revenge they did, coasting to a 20-0 halftime lead and never breaking a sweat in the second half. Junior DB John Dempsey forced two fumbles in a defensive effort which saw the Wildcats only allowing the Dukes to cross mifdfield twice the entire game. Villanova welcomes Rhode Island to Villanova stadium this weekend, before their bye week - and a huge game at Richmond on November 9th.

  • Lafayette hadn't beaten Harvard since 1996, and hadn't ever beaten four Ivy League teams in one season. But head coach Frank Tavani and the Leopards didn't let history stand in their way as they made mincemeat of the Crimson 35-18. (For good measure, Lafayette's recap of the game called Lafayette "Ivy League Champions" with their wins over Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Penn.) Junior LB Michael Schmidlein got 10 tackles and one interception - one of three Harvard turnovers that resulted in Leopard touchdowns. At 5-1, and their only loss coming to nationally ranked Liberty (who throttled their Big South rival Coastal Carolina this weekend 58-13), Lafyette is brimming with confidence as they await Fordham this weekend at Fisher Field.
  • The Rams, after some bad early-season struggles, have actually turned things around, especially on offense. Playing at Cornell's Schoellkopf Field - historically a tough place to win football games - Fordham won a track meet in Ithaca 39-27. Senior QB John Skelton, by any measure, was Patriot League Offensive Player of the Week this week with a 20-for-27 passing, 420 yard, 5 touchdown, record-breaking performance. Four of Skelton's TD tosses went to senior WR Jason Caldwell, who is emerging as Skelton's go-to wideout, and for good measure his 98 yard strike to senior WR Asa Lucas was Fordham's logest touchdown play in their history. Having said that, it wasn't a complete effort: the Ram defense gave up 552 yards of total offense to the Big Red, which has to be a concern as the face a do-or-die game in Easton this weekend.
  • “We were really fired up and excited to play football and forget about that [34-31] loss [to Brown],” Holy Cross senior QB Dominic Randolph said after their 34-14 victory over Dartmouth. “We responded the way we needed to and it was a good win.” As expected, the Crusaders cruised over the hapless (and winless) Big Green, coasting to a 27-0 lead and only giving up a couple of late, meaningless TDs. Randolph "only" had a 26-for-36 day with 3 TDs and one interception - something that seems to almost be expected every week from the Crusader senior. If he can do it next weekend - that's the big question.
  • That's because Holy Cross will face off next weekend against 7-0 Colgate, who survived an early scare at Georgetown to beat the Hoyas 31-14. After struggling against the winless Hoyas, senior WR Pat Simonds hauled in a 6 yard TD pass to give the Raiders their first lead against Georgetown with just under 5 minutes to play in the third quarter, and Colgate never looked back. Simonds, who (like Randolph and Skelton) is starting to get looks from NFL scouts, talked in the post-game press conference. "The last couple of games we haven't played too hot," he said. "We need to kind of pick it up, prepare better during the week and it's a big week for us. I don't think anybody's going to be stagnant at practice. I think everybody's going to be ready to go." They'd better be, in a game that by any measure will loom huge in the Patriot League title race.


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