My rants and insight into Colgate athletics and Patriot League sports

Thursday, September 08, 2005

UMass Scouting Report

The University of Massachuesetts Minutemen come back to Andy Kerr Stadium this Saturday ranked No. 13 in the AGS poll and with a healthy number of players that were present back on that cold day in 2003. The weather forecast looks much better this weekend at 73 and sunny so there should be no claims of weather or bus incidents to mar this contest. Nay, it will be a great day to play some ball.

But my dear Colgate fans, we have our work cut out for us, much more so than the previous two contests. Last week the Minutemen downed the Spiders of Richmond at Richmond 19-6. Second year coach Don Brown has not taken very long at all to have this team positioned to make a run at the I-AA National Championship.

UMass brings a lot of weapons to the table on offense. Senior starting quarterback #10 Tim Day can put up some very respectable numbers and more importantly, he is very capable and appears to be quite comfortable running this offense. He's got a year under his belt as the signal caller and should only grow more as the season progresses. He's also got some good receivers to throw the ball to, particularly #81 Brandon London who will be trying to replace the loss of Jason Peebler.

The largest threat on this side of the ball exists with Payton Award candidate #5 Steve Baylark. Besides looking flat out tough in his headshot, this junior led the A-10 in rushing last season and judging by his 124 yard performance against Richmond, is destined to move up from fifth on the all time UMass rushing yardage list. He runs behind a talented offensive line that has some new faces on it. There are two veterans here in #62 Alex Miller and #73 David Thompson, however if there is any offensive weakness to exploit it would be in the ability of the three new faces to gel with the rest of the offense. They're not exactly 18 year old freshman, as one is even a transfer from Syracuse, but it will be only their second game working together as a unit. Raider fans shouldn't get too excited though, as Baylark is good enough on his own to be a threat no matter what line he is running behind.

The defense for the Minutemen is just as impressive. Led by Buchanan Award candidate #6 Shannon James at free safety, this 2004 first team All American is a black hole for opposing quarterbacks. He leads all of I-AA in career interceptions and grabbed another one last weekend. The news just gets worse for Colgate, as even though every other member of last year's defense returns, the defense is bolstered further by the return of a 2003 All-American at cornerback, #2 Steve Costello, who was out last season with an injury, and by #55 John Hatchell, a nose tackle transfer from Lehigh of all places! What is even more impressive is that I have yet to mention the leading tackler from last year's team, #51 Serge Tikum will once again be roaming the inside at his linebacker position or the sole UMass scorer from the 2003 contest, #7 James Ihedigbo is poised to do more damage from his strong safety position.

As bad as Colgate looked at times last weekend, they will have to count on more than just improved play to win this one. On offense, Sacarceno cannot give UMass two much less five intereceptions because this team will not be held to 3 points off of turnovers. We also will need to find some balance to our offense in the form of a running game because our best asset in our receiving corps will be held in check all day by one of the best secondary's in I-AA. Unless we can keep this defense honest with smart playcalling, near flawless execution and spirited play from new faces, scoring will be quite difficult without the help of a few funny bounces and turnovers.

On the defensive side of the ball, our key to success will be controlling the line of scrimmage. While our run defense was a significant strength last weekend, Baylark is extremely talented. If he gets on a roll or we start allowing 4-5 yard (or more) first down runs, Tim Day will pick us apart on second or third and short. Our defensive backfield has the talent to be up to the task of shutting down the deep threat, we just can't have mental lapses like against CCSU. Their receivers won't be brought down from behind.

All in all, this is one of if not the toughest test on the schedule this year. UMass is much like Lehigh or Lafayette in that they return plenty of potent weapons and experience to make a deep run at league and I-AA championships. Colgate's not incapable of pulling this one out; it will just require a different team, particularly on offense, to show up than last week.

As a reminder, the start to this game is 12:00 p.m. to accomodate T.V. coverage. If you can't make it to the game it will be on Time Warner Sports in central New York and CN-8 elsewhere.

As always, LET'S GO 'GATE!


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