The UMass Minutemen may start their season a week earlier than most teams this year, but we’re still a long way away from college football season. However, the season seemed a little closer yesterday as UMass had its annual spring game.
It was a day filled with explosive plays and celebrity guest coaches, and also (thankfully) a day without serious injuries. As head coach Mark Whipple looked on, Chris Berman and new UMass basketball coach Matt McCall manned the sidelines. McCall coached the Maroon team and Berman said “You’re with me, white”. Whipple and Berman are old friends, going back to their college days together at Brown.
The game started with a bang, as junior Andy Isabella ran back the opening kick for a touchdown that was called back. Junior quarterback Andrew Ford played a series with each team, and delivered promising returns. He went 4-6 for 80 yards.
Perhaps most promisingly, two of those completions, including a touchdown, went to redshirt freshman Brennon Dingle, for gains of 48 and 22 yards. Dingle has had a great spring so far, and his performance in the Spring game reflected that, as he finished with eight catches for 109 yards and the aforementioned touchdown.
Sophomore cornerback Isaiah Rodgers returned an interception for a touchdown later in the game as well, and junior running back Marquis Young ran for 93 yards and a score. In the end, McCall’s Maroon team bested the White team, 17-13.
After the spring game, there’s a few reasons for hope that this UMass squad can be better than last year’s. The most obvious one is that “win more than 2 games” isn’t a super high bar to clear. The Minutemen have that going for them at least. UMass also returns a lot of their production from last season, as Ford, Isabella, Young, and star tight end Adam Breneman all are back. When you throw in Dingle, you’re looking at an offense with a lot of explosive playmakers. If Ford continues to make strides at quarterback, and can get the ball in the hands of his playmakers, the Minutemen offense will give defenses trouble.
The addition of defensive coordinator Ed Pinkham should help shore up the other side of the ball. Pinkham helmed PJ Fleck’s defenses at Western Michigan as WMU became one of the best teams in the country. While it’s foolish to expect massive improvement, between Pinkham, and returning players like linebackers Steve Casali and Da’Sean Downey, as well as Rodgers, it stands to reason that the defense will be at least somewhat improved.
Here are a few highlights from the spring game!