August 30, 2012; East Hartford, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies linebacker Yawin Smallwood (33) sacks Massachusetts Minuteman quarterback Mike Wegzyn (11) during the first quarter at Rentschler Field. Mandatory Credit: Michael Ivins-US Presswire
IU seeks its first FBS win since November 2010 when the Hoosiers travel to Foxborough, Massachusetts to play UMass at Gillette Stadium, the home of the New England Patriots. This will be the Hoosiers' first game in Massachusetts since a loss to Boston College in 1938. If my research is complete, IU has played four football games in Massachusetts (one against BC, two against Harvard, and one against Tufts) and has lost all four). So, there's that. IU's last trip to New England was quite forgettable, a 34-10 loss to Connecticut in 2003 in the first game played at UConn's Rentschler Field.
As AJ discussed yesterday, the Minutemen were brutal on offense in their FBS debut last week at UConn. The Huskies gained only 59 yards on offense. They had 24 rushing attempts for a total of 3 yards net. Even if two quarterback sacks for 16 yards are removed from the rushing totals, that's still 22 attempts for 19 yards, less than a yard per carry. Things weren't much better throwing the ball, where UMass competed 9 of 23 passes for 53 yards with one interception, which was returned for a touchdown. UMass's first six drives were three-and-outs, and their final drive of the second quarter, a 5 play, 21-yard effort that ended when time expired, was the only time UMass entered UConn territory. The Minutemen are playing without their expected starting quarterback, Kellen Pagel, who is suffering from post-concussion syndrome. True freshman Mike Wegzyn had a very rough start, obviously. When I looked at this game a couple of months ago, it appeared that UMass was fairly green at both running back and WR, and obviously the numbers don't tell us much more about these guys than we knew before.
On defense, the Minutemen were pretty respectable, holding UMass to 5.3 yards per play. On one hand, the Minutemen were victimized by one defensive score and one special teams score (on a blocked punt). So the UMass defense is responsible only for 23 of those points. UMass also forced three turnovers (two picks and a fumble recovery). UConn had only one scoring drive of more than 51 yards, so obviously poor field position plagued the defense as well. The UConn defense is currently first in FBS in total defense, which means that UMass is last in total offense. The UConn defense was decent last year, ranking #51 in total defense, but not a powerhouse by any stretch.
In short, this game is an important test for this defense. A strong performance doesn't necessarily foretell great improvement in the Big Ten, but a strong offensive performance by UMass would be an extremely bad sign . The UMass defense was solid against UConn, so it will be interesting to see how IU fares after a pretty good showing against ISU in that regard, particularly in the passing game. One important note for the Hoosiers is that Kofi Hughes, Lawrence Barnett, and Forisse Hardin will be returning from their one-game suspensions, so there will be some additional talent and depth in the WR corps and in the secondary.
I'll admit to a fairly good feeling about this game, which often is a bad sign. I think that the Hoosier defense still will frustrate, but that we will have a sufficient talent advantage on both sides of the ball to pull away. Indiana 34, UMass 17.